PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota measure that would require adult welfare applicants under age 65 to pass drug tests before receiving food stamps or cash assistance failed in a House committee Thursday.
The Health and Human Services committee voted not to send the measure to the House floor. Under the plan, welfare applicants who tested positive would have been barred from receiving such benefits for a year.
Rep. Lynne DiSanto, a Republican from Rapid City who sponsored the bill, said she wanted to create accountability for welfare recipients and that such testing could deter drug users from seeking public assistance or encourage them to get sober.
“If you have a parent that is receiving a subsidy through the state and they’re using it to buy drugs, it’s not getting to the children,” she said. “We need to identify those families.”
The measure would have required applicants to pay to be tested and allowed those who tested positive to contest decisions to deny them benefits.
Department of Social Services Secretary Lynne Valenti, who testified against the measure, said states with such requirements incur considerable expense implementing them yet find relatively few people failing the drug tests.
Valenti said federal law prohibits states from imposing extra conditions such as drug testing on recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which averages about 100,000 South Dakota participants per month.
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard has called the measure “somewhat insulting,” saying that while he doesn’t condone drug use, it would be unfair to require welfare beneficiaries to pass drug tests while not requiring that of people who receive other government benefits.
GOP Rep. Jacqueline Sly cited benefits such as college financial help, farm aid and corporate tax subsidies as other forms of government assistance that don’t require drug testing.
“I feel that this is a very narrow focus, and it’s focused on some of the people who are struggling to get their lives together,” she said.
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