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.

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Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley, 15)

“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.

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  • Brian

    Like most people, I don't want to pay taxes to support somebody's drug habit. So, in principle, a I do support drug testing as a condition to all types of public assistance.

    It is a complicated issue, though, that could have some unintended and undesirable consequences. In most cases, taking away benefits would take away from vulnerable children who bear no responsibility for the addictions and/or irresponsibility of their parents or guardians.

    I was glad to see the proposal includes directing positive testers into drug treatment. I would like to see it designed in a way that gives those people a limited amount of time to complete drug treatment before they, and their children, lose benefits, but only if children are in the household. Those people should also be held to a strict out-patient regiment with regular testing and counseling as a condition of continued support upon completion of the initial drug treatment.

    I do not support removal of the children, except in highly abusive and neglectful situations. However, if the addicts cannot or will not stop abusing drugs and comply with the treatment regiment provided to them, they should be cut off after failing to respond positively to the State's loving offer of support for their recovery. The affected children should be removed from their care until they can demonstrate either an ability to adequately provide for them without taxpayer support, or to comply with the drug free stipulation thereof.

    I also 100% endorse Guardian's comment about mandatory job training as a condition of support to able-bodied persons.

    Nobody is entitled to live off the fruits of the labor of others, and nobody should be required to carry the weight of another adult who refuses or fails to support him/herself for a prolonged period of time.

    This is an issue that really tears me up, because I have compassion for people, but at the same time I believe the compassion of our society has weakened the aggregate character thereof. Natural selection is the process by which a species is strengthened when the weak die off and the strong live to reproduce. Welfare is basically a mechanism by which society has blocked the effects of natural selection on our population.

    If we got rid of welfare, most of the recipients would find a way to provide for themselves and survive, and the weakest would sit around until they died off. In the long run, after much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands, we would end up with a much stronger society.

    • Ben

      I fully support mandatory drug screenings for all state assistance recipients. I had to pass a drug screening to obtain my job, and have to submit to random tests to keep my job. This is how I am able to continue working and make a paycheck. I believe it is only fair that a recipient benefitting from my hard labor should have to do the same. Our welfare program has weakened society and allowed for younger generations to devalue the worth of work. I feel that taking away benefits will force those that have the want and will to survive and prosper to become contributing members of society.

    • Frank

      Agree with Hillbilly and would add - I don't think it is the recipients who are parents of young children that this legislation is directed toward. It is the other, mostly single, individuals who have been pulling down food stamps and disability for years and years that are not doing anything to productively contribute to society that need help. In this instance, the help they need is the possibility of real fiscal consequence to their actions. Even young people working for minimum wage who qualify for assistance need the fear of real consequences to keep them on the right path.

      • MaryL

        I know parents of young kids who are using drugs and living on welfare benefits in WVa. I live in Florida, and believe me, when the drug users were told either cut it out, get help, or lose your kids, guess what happened ... just say'n.....

    • Hillbilly

      "taking away benefits would take away from vulnerable children who bear no responsibility for the addictions and/or irresponsibility of their parents or guardians." If parents are spending their money on drugs, how much is going to their kids in the first place???

  • Gary

    Anyone who receives tax payer money, including those who make the laws, should be tested, just look at the Congressman from Florida who voted for Drug Testing and later was caught with drugs. They have an impact on everyone, so law makers should add themselves to the list when they pass the law for testing.

    • Aaron

      What about corporations who receive government subsidies and tax breaks? Should their employees be subjected to drug testing as well?

      • Guardian

        Sure Aaron, why not? My company receives no government subsidies and no tax breaks, but we have a random drug testing policy.

        I cannot imagine why a company that did get things from the government wouldn't have the same type of policy.

        • Aaron

          Employees may be required under various test but I'm talking about top executives and the Board of Directors.

          • Guardian

            I cannot speak to other companies, but in my company the policy extends to the executives. The board basically serves at will and only receive a per diem for expenses - can't hardly do that for what amounts to be volunteers.

      • Brent

        Yes - they probably should. But the corporate employees are showing up for a job and earning their money that they spend on drugs. The legality of the drugs is not the issue....the issue is who is earning the money that is being used to buy the drugs. I dont want my taxes to be used by lazy people to buy drugs.

    • Guardian

      Agreed. You are elected to office, then you should be first tested upon taking your oath of office and randomly tested thereafter.

  • Ronnie

    Absolutely yes

  • cam

    Why should we remove aid from those with serious drug abuse problems? How about, if this program does go forward, don't remove their benefits unless they refuse treatment. The only way for welfare to truly work for these people is to help them get better so that they can get off welfare. Removing all benefits simply makes them worse off, and more of a cost to society.

    • Bill

      "Make them go into a drug treatment program," who's going to pay for that?

    • Frank

      I disagree Cam. If we stop giving endless money to these people for doing nothing we would save millions and millions of dollars. That is not "more of a cost". Have you not seen where the endless extension of unemployment benefits has cost this country $225 billion since 2008? That is real money which you and I are paying in taxes - and that is adding to the debt and increasing our country's interest payments. When is going to stop? What do you propose?

      • cam

        I'd rather give someone money that has a drug habit and is able to use that money to help get their life back on track rather than remove that aid and essentially send them to jail, where we'll pay several thousands of dollars to hold them locked up.
        Who knows how many other crimes they'd commit if they're forced to commit other crimes to survive.

        • Guardian

          The cost of incarceration is quantified - and it is not cheap. $65/day average. That's $455/week or $23,660/year.

          So, if they go to jail - and they should - then here is another place that the inmates (able bodied) should be returning something for the cost of their incarceration - like road gangs, etc. They should just sit there and get three hot meals, a bed, a library, periodic visitation, health care, and classes for those inclined to take classes without some return to the taxpayer.

        • jb

          cam,the problem is that they don't use the money to help better themselves, they use it to get high! There are going to be costs no matter what is done. I am just getting tired of working everyday while the abusers stay at home and don't do anything.

    • Guardian

      At what point is there accountability for your actions? You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that drugs are illegal. So, why did you start in the first place? It was a conscious decision to start - even knowing it was illegal.

      We, the working taxpayers, are funding these programs. Why should we pay for other folks illegal choices? We pay enough to incarcerate them when they're caught. But when they are still out in society and free, we are supposed to excuse them and pay to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs?

      When someone is down and out through no fault of their own, then I fully support programs such as welfare, foodstamps, HUD assistance, and so forth to give them a hand up and a new start.

      But as I said before, if they are able bodied and remain unemployed, then as a condition of receiving benefits, they should be drug free and doing public work projects.

      • cam

        You know driving over the speed limit is illegal, but do you 100% of the time drive under posted speed limits? 100% of the time come to a complete stop at stop signs? Or otherwise comply with the law 100%? I know these aren't quite on the same level, but things happen in people's lives and people go down the wrong path. Why should we punish anyone who's trying to get their life back together whether they're taking drugs or not?

        I'm not trying to say I'm all for handing out money to people who aren't trying to get better, but I'm sick of the few ruining chances for the many. Who are we to suggest legislation that arbitrarily decides that drugs are what determines whether someone is or isn't trying to get their life back together? I'd be willing to bet that more money could be saved by non-drug-abusing people on welfare who aren't actually trying to get their life back together than could be saved by drug-abusing people on welfare.

        • Gigi

          All they have to do is pass their drug tests and they keep receiving the assistance. It is that simple.

          • Guardian

            Not rocket science, is it?

  • Wvu

    Absolutely I work in the mines they will fire me for smoking a joint. They don't care to let my family starve.welfare is free so the least they could do is drug test them.

  • Guardian

    Welfare should be defined as receiving any entitlement program - a monthly welfare check, food stamps, HUD assistance, clothing vouchers, workers compensation, and/or Medicaid.

    The receipent should be drug tested upon application for benefits and randomly drug tested thereafter as a condition of being on these programs.

    Receipents that are not employed and are able bodied should be in certifed job training programs and if job training is completed and no job offer is forthcoming, then these same folks should be performing public work projects as a condition to continuing to receive benefits.

    Those who are not able bodied, should still be randomly drug tested for drugs not prescribed in their treatment program (due to health conditions) even if they may never become able bodied.

  • Joe

    Quite a number of companies have given up accepting applicants from Workforce WV due to their inability to pass a drug test. It is not cheap to administer drug testing programs.

    • Philip

      It isn't cheap to keep paying hundreds of millions in these assistance programs either.

  • Gilbert Gnarley

    Sounds like a great idea--which means it's dead in the water.

    • Frank

      If this is to happen - and in my opinion it should have happened a long time ago - people have to contact their legislators. It is not that hard people - just look up the number, pick up the phone and do it. They are elected to serve all of us, not just their own self-interest.

  • TC

    YES, YES, MY GOD YES, they should have to take drug tests!!!! Welfare has become a way-of-life for too many people! The working class is sick of it all!!!!

    • rose

      Soon there will not be enough people working to support the ones who aren't.

      • Larry

        You're right, and once we get to that point, this country is finished.

      • Gigi

        Rose - I think we have already passed that point. Have you studied your pay stub recently?

      • just saying

        agree 100% it amazes me the way that folks have learn to work the system....random drug tests for all welfare recipients, and if they have children, take them away because if they are stoned on drugs they surely cannot take care of their children...

    • Larry

      I agree, and there are also a lot of people on welfare, and those who are "disabled", who are getting free prescriptions that we are paying for, for ailments they don't really have and selling them for big money, it's disgusting.

  • blugldmn

    Do you test people before collecting income tax, sales tax, property tax,
    Do you test them before they gamble? Voluntary tax?

    Are you going let people starve or suffer because of an addiction?

    I'm not condoning I just think it needs perspective.

    How much money would actually be saved? I bet it's no where as much as the state wastes on an annual basis for frivolous programs.

    How much time and money has Blair wasted over the years on this ?

    West Virginia has much larger problems that need resolved , this isn't one of them.

    Blair's grandstanding on this issue repulsive... This is one conservative who would not vote for him.

  • North Central WV Lady

    Absolutely, there should be drug testing for those who need public assistance. I agree with those who have responded and the reasons they gave for drug testing.Public Assistance is necessary to give a hand up to those in need, not to aid and abet those with drug habits - they either get clean or they don't get it!

  • TheFungoKnows

    Welfare recipients is a very vague and broad term. Define it in law where it states that foodstamps, welfare checks, HUD assistance, school clothing vouchers, and especially Medicaid are termed and defined as welfare benefits. Then maybe it can have an effect. Politicians and the WVDHHR have a vastly different definition of "Welfare". Welfare is generally defined at WVDHHR as the WVWorks program, the welfare check program. Its the other programs that are terribly abused, and abused by the drug abusers. HUD and Foodstamps HAVE to be included!!!!!!

  • Frank

    Why would we not test them? I have to submit to such tests as part of my employment, so if I am paying the taxes that are paying their welfare they need to demonstrate some level of responsibility. And while we are at it, we need to investigate how to help these individuals limit their smoking. Nearly everyone I know on public assistance smokes - where is the $50 per carton coming from?

  • jdietz

    YES! All should be tested. I have worked at jobs where I had to be tested to be hired and then was subject to random tests after that.

    If I have to be tested to get a job to earn a living then people who DO NOT work but are supplied with everything free should have to be tested.

    This is not being hateful, racist, or mean. It is being FAIR.

  • JJ

    How is this just not the law? Seriously this is common sense.

    • jm

      unfortunately there is no common sense in Politics. And politicians are the ones that make the laws.......... They worry to much about P'ing off some person receiving th