Wisconsin to Begin Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients

Wisconsin to Begin Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients
A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would, if passed, allow for drug testing of food stamp recipients going forward.

The state of Wisconsin is moving forward with the initiative to drug test food stamp recipients making it the first state in the U.S. to clamp down on drug users on government assistance. The move, backed by Governor Scott Walker, has been blocked by the federal government in the past when other states attempted to do the same. According to the federal government, the intrusive measure was unconstitutional.

The plan, approved by the Republican-controlled legislature more than two years ago, initially stalled because of the federal government’s position on the subject. The federal guidelines prohibited states from imposing additional eligibility criteria on food stamp recipients.

Wisconsin to Begin Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients
Governor Scott Walker & President Donald Trump

Governor Walker asked Donald Trump in 2016 to greenlight the drug screening measure but no action has been taken by the Trump administration. Instead of waiting even longer for a response, Walker moved forward with the plan. On Monday, Walker forwarded an approved rule change to the Legislature for review. Tom Evenson, the governor’s spokesman, said the governor was under the assumption that he had the power and authority to implement the new measure.

The drug testing won’t begin automatically fortunately. Although Walker has already signed off on the drug screening, the resolution must make it’s way through the Legislature. The governing body has up to four months to make a decision and even if approved, it would take up to a year to put into place. Walker and other supporters of the bill are expecting lawsuits to come in droves once the resolution has been implemented.

Wisconsin’s food stamp program, called FoodShare, would provide state-funded rehabilitation treatment for inviduals who fail a drug test and are unable to pay for rehabilitative services.

Walker believes that the screening would allow the state to put more drug-free workers into the workplace. Skeptics of the measure are crying foul however claiming that the state has better alternatives at their disposal.

Wisconsin to Begin Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients
A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would, if passed, allow for drug testing of food stamp recipients going forward.

“The state could do far more to expand the workforce by investing in broader access to effective drug treatment programs, rather than spending scarce state resources on the administration of drug screening and testing requirements,” said Jon Peacock, research director for Kids Forward, which advocates for children and families in Wisconsin.

Peacock, like the supporters of the bill, is expecting lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of the bill. One of the main arguments that dissenters are latching on to is that federal law as it stands is against the practice.

Walker is not stopping there with his drug screening agenda however. He is looking to expand the practice to cover all public benefits. The governor has already signed a budget earlier this year allocating resources to conduct the screenings for all able-bodied, childless adults applying for state Medicaid BadgerCare health benefits. The budget also looks to mandate the drug screening for parents of children ages 6 to 18 receiving FoodShare benefits. Walker joins 11 other governors seeking to legalize the practice and make it a mainstay.

Should all public assistance recipients be drug tested as part of their eligibility? Should politicians be subject to the same rules as they continue to posture as the bastion of integrity? What do you say?

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