Texas Governor Rick Perry this week called for drug tests for residents seeking welfare or unemployment benefits, the Associated Press reports.
Perry and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst want to expand a bill that will come before the state legislature next year that would mandate drug testing for “high-risk” welfare applicants, and would ban them from using public funds to purchase alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets. Perry and Dewhurst want the rules to also include those applying for unemployment benefits.
“Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse. Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine,” Governor Perry said in a news release. “Being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse and poverty.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas opposes the measure. Executive Director Terri Burke said in a news release, “How sad that our state’s highest elected officials have embraced this mean-spirited measure that would punish innocent children for their parents’ conduct. This proposal is a costly, ineffective, inhumane and punitive effort by state government based on stereotypes about our state’s neediest Texans.”
A Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing was halted last year after the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state to stop it. About 2.5 percent of the 4,000 adults tested before the program was stopped tested positive for drugs. Almost 2,500 people refused to take the drug test.