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Hawaii the Next Domino in Line

For the past year, stories have been cropping up all over the United States regarding whether welfare recipients should be tested for drugs or not, and denied benefits if they test positive.

One after another, state lawmakers have introduced such bills, and also examined the progress in other state. Especially, people have been looking at the state of Florida because the issue was passed there, and then blocked by the U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven who considered it a violation of the Fourth Amendment which prevents unreasonable searches. Currently, Governor Rick Scott is appealing the judge’s ruling.

But in the meantime, a number of other states are in various stages with this issue, and now it is our turn to discuss the matter. Rep. John Mizuno, who is on the Human Services Committee, has introduced two bills along these lines.

"I don't think any taxpayer in our state would say they're okay with funding a person's illegal drug use,” Mizuno said. “As taxpayers we need to save all we can, we don't need to raise people's taxes.”

If enacted into law, anyone who applies for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) would have to submit to a drug test at their own cost, about $40. If the test came back negative, then the state would reimburse the cost of the test. If it came back positive, then not only would they be out the $40 or so test cost, but they would be denied TANF benefits until they complete a 6 months state certified drug rehab program. According to HB1711, “The costs associated with any drug testing and substance abuse treatment program required under this section shall be the responsibility of the individual being tested or receiving substance abuse treatment.”

So, a person who is applying for welfare because he or she does not have enough money to live on must come up with $40 for a drug screening test, and then must pay the high cost of a substance abuse program prior to being eligible to receive TANF funds. Does anyone see a flaw in this system?

Mizuno calls it “…a benevolent bill” adding that “we want our people who are illegally using drugs to get tested and get the help they need and become self sufficient.”

The debate will be heated as those who have undergone drug testing for their employment state that it’s not a big deal for those who want welfare to have the same standards. And others will respond that poor people with problems need food and shelter and should not be denied due to their problem.

As the United States hopefully moves away from the “War on drugs” tactics and hopefully into the “treatment for all in need” path to ridding us of the drug epidemic, perhaps a more workable solution for applicants to welfare can be devised.

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