North Carolina Legislature Overrides Veto To Drug Test Welfare Applicants


drug testAfter North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature to require drug tests for some applicants to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formally known as welfare, the legislature voted to override him on Wednesday.

Under the bill, if the health department has “reasonable suspicion” that applicants are using drugs, those applicants would have to take a drug test and pay for it themselves.

But as Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post reports, Gov. McCrory will still fight the law. On his website, he announced that no action will be taken on it until “sufficient funds” are allocated to implement it.

When he vetoed the bill, McCrory said it was “not a smart way to combat drug abuse,” adding, “Similar efforts in other states have proved to be expensive for taxpayers and did little to actually help fight drug addiction.” Yet State Rep Dean Arp (R), a sponsor of the bill, said the purpose is to “end a bad practice of supporting active drug abusers with the hard-earned money of law-abiding North Carolinians.”

But McCrory is right about experiences in other states. Utah has spent more than $30,000 to drug test welfare recipients since last year but just 12 people tested positive. Florida became the first state with such a policy in 2011, but while it spent $45,000 on net on the program, just 2 percent of recipients failed the tests, a lower rate than drug use in the state’s general population. The law also almost immediately ran into legal problems and a federal appeals court rejected it in February. Virginia scrapped a similar bill when lawmakers realized it would cost $1.5 million to administer while saving just $229,000.

In total, at least eight states have laws that require drug testing for those who apply for or receive public benefits and at least 29 new proposals to do so have been introduced this year. But they often run into legal problems, as many recent court rulings have blocked them on the grounds that they are likely unconstitutional.

McCrory isn’t leaving welfare recipients alone, however. He has also announced an executive order that would enforce the part of the bill that requires the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to check the criminal histories of welfare and food stamps and possibly share them with law enforcement.