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Ohio State Senator Proposes Bill to Require Drug Testing for State Aid Recipients
COLUMBUS (Ken Hines) -- An Ohio lawmaker has submitted a proposal that would require adults in select counties to submit to drug testing in order to receive financial assistance from a state program.
The proposed legislation was announced by State Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), and would create a pilot program in three counties that would require drug testing of adults who apply to the state's Ohio Works First (OWF) program, which provides temporary financial assistance to residents in need.
"The taxpayers of Ohio expect us to use their funds properly, and we can no longer turn a "blind eye" to this problem," Sen. Schaffer said.
Under the terms of the proposal, an adult OWF applicant would submit to a screening process to determine if probable cause exists to require that person to provide a sample for drug testing.
Any applicants who test positive for drug use would be given the opportunity to participate in a treatment program, but would not be eligible for OWF funds. Financial assistance would be provided to the applicant's dependents, including children, through a county-approved payee.
Crawford County officials have already agreed to participate in the pilot program if it is eventually approved by lawmakers.
"The goals of this bill are three-fold: get help to the kids as the Ohio taxpayer intended, get treatment to the drug abuser and protect the taxpayer," Schaffer said.
At least eight states have passed legislation requiring drug testing for some recipients of state financial assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.
Critics of such programs claim evidence fails to back up claims that low income Americans use drugs at a significantly higher rate that more affluent citizens.
The experiences of other states with this policy show that illegal drug use is not rampant among recipients of public assistance, and that the cost of this policy outweighs the benefits," said State Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland). "There are more effective ways to [address drug abuse] than instituting a policy that treats all applicants as potential criminals."
Schaffer claims to have crafted the proposed legislation using input from Ohio law enforcement officers, as well as residents of the state's 31st Senate district.
"I have incorporated many of their ideas, he said. "This legislation is a responsible approach in addressing an ongoing drug abuse problem that hurts families and wastes taxpayers' money in our state."
Sen. Turner believes the proposed requirement unfairly targets low-income Ohioans. She has reiterated her belief that all recipients of the state's tax dollars should be included in programs designed to prevent the distribution of public funds to illegal drug users.
I am weighing my options about whether to re-introduce my bill to ensure that state legislators are not abusing illegal substances," she said. "If we are to subject our poorest citizens to indiscriminate suspicion, why should our lawmakers not be held to that same standard?"