CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Berkeley County State Senator Craig Blair (R-15) said he is hearing from many people who want him to again introduce legislation, during the 2014 Regular Legislative Session, that would require all welfare recipients to submit to random drug tests.
“I don’t believe all people who are on welfare are drug addicts, by no means,” said Blair.
However, he said he does think there are some drug users among the thousands of people who receive state benefits. “It’s that fraction that actually is stealing money from those that are truly in need and that is the concern.”
In Minnesota, county officials will soon start randomly drug testing welfare recipients who have been convicted of drug felonies as part of a new state law there.
The compromise testing requirement, for some but not all welfare recipients, was added as an amendment to a Minnesota bill last year and passed without any large scale debate.
By contrast, Blair’s proposal in West Virginia, one he’s proposed in recent years and plans bring up again when the 60-day session begins next week, has been extensively debated at the State House and on MetroNews “Talkline.”
On the show Monday, he said the drug testing requirement would protect taxpayers and steer people who need them into drug abuse treatment programs.
Blair said it’s already illegal in West Virginia for convicted drug felons to receive state benefits.
“The fly in the ointment on this one is the fact that, in West Virginia, I don’t even know whether it’s enforced, whether they go out and actually check to find out whether you’re a convicted felon or not,” he said. “You might just check it off on the paperwork you fill out and that’s as far as it goes.”
More than half a dozen states, so far, have passed legislation addressing drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients. Some of those requirements apply to all applicants, while others are more specific.
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session in West Virginia begins on Jan. 8.