Rep. Ellen Brandom (R-Sikeston) plans to reintroduce legislation this session that would direct the Department of Social Services to set up a drug-testing program for participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The tests would apply only to people for whom the Department decides there is a "reasonable cause" to investigate. If a person fails, they would be ineligible to receive benefits for one year.
Brandom says the bill she'll pre-file for the 2010 session will be be identical to the perfected version from last session (HB30).
The legislation received bipartisan support last year in the House, passing 109-45 (who wants a campaign ad saying they don't care about illegal drug use?). But this whole idea strikes me as a cruelly-targeted bit of public policy. Using illegal drugs is against the law – and we have police departments and drug task forces and a legal system set up to prosecute people who break the law. So why single out low-income individuals and parents, while ignoring all of the middle- and upper-income individuals who might be the beneficiaries of different government programs, but breaking the same drug laws? And what happens to the children who get caught up in their parents' mistakes?