Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2013
Source: News & Advance, The (Lynchburg, VA)
Copyright: 2013 Media General
Author: Ray Reed


RICHMOND - A bill requiring drug screening for people in Virginia's
welfare-to-work program won subcommittee approval Thursday, with
support from Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County.

The measure, which failed to win approval in the General Assembly last
year, could potentially affect about 15,000 people, many of them
mothers who are receiving financial assistance while trying to qualify
for a job.

Del. Rob Bell, sponsor of HB1789 and a candidate for attorney general,
said the measure was needed because the program provides cash to
recipients, not just food stamps or housing support.

Cline, who represents part of Amherst County, sponsored a similar
bill. It was combined with that of Bell, R-Albemarle County, in the
House of Delegates' Health, Welfare and Institutions

Cline said he sees criminals in drug-related cases where he works as a
prosecutor in Rockingham County, and many of them ask for a public
defender because "they are on public assistance."

Taxpayers are demanding "that we be good stewards of taxpayer dollars
and make sure they are used appropriately," Cline said.

Representatives of several social-service agencies said there's no
evidence that benefit recipients abuse drugs any more than people who
receive government assistance such as college tuition grants.

Representatives of the ACLU and Virginia Organizing Project said the
screening unfairly singled out a group of people and might be
questionable under the 4th Amendment's unreasonable-searches protection.

The bill would require drug screening through a written questionnaire.
If an applicant's answers create suspicion of drug use, an actual drug
test would be required.

Anyone failing the test would lose benefits for at least six

The subcommittee approved the bill 5-2 and sent it to the House
Appropriations Committee, which will evaluate it for the $1.5 million
impact the cost of screening could have on the state budget, according
to last year's estimate.

Lynchburg officials last year estimated its potential impact on the
city at $82,000. 
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