The Mississippi House has approved a bill that would require some recipients of federal assistance known as TANF to take a drug test. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports the bill sparked the first lengthy debate of the legislative session.
The bill would have new people applying Temporary Assistance For Needy Families or TANF fill out a survey and, if the survey finds them a high risk for drug use, require that person to take a drug test.
If they fail, the state would pay for drug treatment before pulling the cash support if the person fails again.
House Public Health Committee chairman Sam Mims of McComb says the treatment portion of the bill proves it is about helping poor people improve their lives.
"So ladies and gentlemen, it is not about kicking thousands and thousands of people off TANF. It is about helping these people become better moms and dad and community members. So if we can get them treatment, get them off drugs and help them raise their families better they are going to be productive citizens," Mim said.
Of the roughly 20-thousand TAFN recipients in Mississippi....which is federally funded cash support for the poor....around 5-thousand are adults. A family of three can make no more than 55-hundred dollars a year to receive the benefit which tops out at 170-dollars a month. For four house, Democrats attacked the bill as expensive, unnecessary, and potentially damaging to the children of TAFN recipients.
"This legislation is narrow-minded. Self defeating. Hostile and quite frankly worthless."
"There is no evidence that TANF recipients are involved with drugs. So why are we trying to fix something that is not there?"
That was representatives Steve Holland of Plantersville and Willie Perkins of Greenwood.
In the end, the bill passed 74-46 an outcome the committee chair says shows bi-partisan support for the measure.
Governor Phil Bryant also issued a statement saying the bill will help Mississippians escape what he calls a 'dependency lifestyle'.
The bill now moves to the senate for more work.