Senators weigh pros and cons of welfare drug testing - - Jackson, MS

Senators weigh pros and cons of welfare drug testing

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -


"Oh, it does have a long way to go and there will be a lot of debate on this side as well," said Senator Dean Kirby (R).

The House passed the bill 74-46. The votes mostly followed party lines. Democratic Senators are now taking up the torch of fighting the bill's passage in their chamber.

"Just because you get assistance that somebody even thinks you need to be drug tested, I don't know where it comes from," explained Senator Kenneth Wayne Jones (D). "But whoever came up with it, those are the people we need to test for drugs."

The Republicans are largely in support of the legislation. Senate Public Health and Welfare committee chairman Dean Kirby believes it's the right thing to do.

"It doesn't cut people off of TANF," said Kirby. "They do a questionnaire. They find out whether or not after reviewing questionnaires, they decide whether or not they maybe should be tested for drugs."

Governor Phil Bryant believes testing could lead to treatment for those who need it. Senator John Horhn (D) believes it's an improper use of resources.

"It's really a useless piece of legislation as far as I'm concerned," Horhn explained. "And it sends the wrong message to folks who are trying to pull themselves up out of poverty and out of a sense of lack."

They don't know yet when it will be brought up in the Senate or which versions they will be voting on. It could be that they vote on the version from the House that was passed and an identical bill that was already filed in the Senate.

The first stop will be in the Public Health and Welfare committee.

"The only advantage to having two bills, one from the house and one from the Senate, is if one dies you've still got another one alive," said Senator Kirby.

House Democrats tried to get multiple amendments to the bill passed. One would've made drug testing required for anyone getting state financial support. All of those amendments failed.


Some welfare dollars could be tied to drug testing if one bill survives a Senate vote. The first hurdle is cleared for drug testing some welfare applicants. But the race to get it passed is far from over.

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