A bill that passed the North Carolina Senate Monday night would impose mandatory drug testing on all welfare applicants, in spite of federal court rulings blocking similar state provisions as likely unconstitutional. North Carolina’s proposal goes even farther than Florida’s court-invalidated provision, requiring all applicants to a program for the indigent to pay for the mandatory test out of their own pockets. Only if they pass the test will they later be reimbursed by the state for the tests, which average $100. The Senate measure passed along party lines – without a proposed amendment to also subject lawmakers to the invasive tests. Raw Story explains:
At the same time, senators rejected an amendment offered by Democratic state Sen. Gladys Robinson that would have drug tested lawmakers, the governor and cabinet secretaries.
“We receive state funds, we represent the law, we institute policy,” Robinson told senators on Monday night. “So, it should not be above any of us to submit to drug screening.”
Republican State Sen. Jim Davis said that he did not mind being tested, but insisted that he would vote against the amendment because it had no mechanism to provide him with a reimbursement for the $100 test.
Instead of voting on Robinson’s amendment, state Senator Tom Apodaca (R) used a substitute amendment as a parliamentary maneuver to kill the proposal.
“The substitute amendment is offered to have the effect of killing the other amendment,” Democratic state Sen. Martin Nesbitt explained in a floor speech. “You need to know that before you vote because you’ll be killing the one that requires a drug test of the leaders of this state since we want to require it for the followers of this state.”
“And we seem to be getting into a situation where where we’re kind above the people,” he added.
At least eight other states have laws that test public benefit recipients or applicants, and at least 29 introduced new proposals this year, following on the ALEC and Big Pharma-backed movement to pass drug-testing provisions. But like the Florida law struck down by a federal appeals court in February, North Carolina’s law is particularly onerous and constitutionally suspect, because it contains a blanket provision requiring all applicants to be drug-tested. A drug test is considered a search under the Fourth Amendment, and “there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a ‘concrete danger’ that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use” to justify the warrantless search, that court held.
In addition to imposing a potentially unconstitutional requirement on applicants, North Carolina’s bill imposes what would for many constitute an impassable barrier to entry. Those indigent enough to qualify for Temporary Assistance For Need Families likely do not have $100 to pay for a drug test up front – whether or not they are later reimbursed.