Michigan Proposal Requires Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients
by Judy Kent
"Drug Testing as a Condition of Receiving Tax-Funded Benefits Absolutely is Constitutional,” Says Legal Expert Horace Cooper
Saginaw, MI/Washington, DC - Stacy Swimp and Horace Cooper of the black leadership group Project 21 are applauding the Michigan House of Representatives for voting Thursday to require Michigan welfare recipients over age 18 to pass a drug test as a condition of receiving benefits.
"The reality is that substance abuse is a prominent barrier preventing people from making the necessary transition from governmental dependence to self-reliance. Testing those needing welfare is not a matter of punishing them or their children. It is a way of liberating them," said Project 21's Stacy Swimp, a Michigan activist. "Once someone is found to have a substance abuse problem, the proper steps can be taken for treatment and recovery. This is a win for the recipient, their children and taxpayers. There is nothing unfair or inhuman about it."
In an overwhelming 71-to-37 vote, the Michigan House approved legislation June 7 to create a program in which the state's Department of Human Services would screen certain Family Independence Program applicants and recipients for substance abuse problems. The pilot program, to be instituted by 2015, would apply only to those over 18 years old already suspected of having a substance abuse problem.
To become law, the bill must now be passed by the Michigan Senate and signed into law by Governor Richard Snyder.
Michigan ran a short-lived drug-testing program in 1999, but it was halted after a legal challenge by the ACLU, which questioned its constitutionality.
"Drug testing as a condition of receiving tax-funded benefits absolutely is constitutional," said Horace Cooper, an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and author of the paper, "Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients is Sound, Sensible and Constitutional." The paper was released in November 2011 after a federal court, following another ACLU challenge, questioned the constitutionality of a similar drug-test provision in Florida. "What's more,” added Cooper, “drug-testing for welfare benefits is sound public policy and beneficial to children."
"States such as Michigan are to be commended for recognizing the importance of protecting taxpayers and children alike from the ill-effects of illegal drug use at home," Cooper continued. "Taxpayers should never be forced to subsidize illegal drug use, nor should the state sit idly by and let children be exposed to the drug abuse lifestyle."
In "Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients in Sound, Sensible and Constitutional," Cooper notes that the 1996 federal welfare reform law, signed by President Bill Clinton, gives states more flexibility in administering welfare benefits while scaling back the ability of courts to challenge such rule changes. Cooper wrote that there is no entitlement or legal claim to welfare benefits that cannot be denied.
Cooper added: "It should be beyond dispute that the taxpayers of Michigan can ensure that public welfare dollars are used by the recipients for their intended purposes -- buying milk and eggs at the corner store, for example -- and not dime bags from a corner pusher."
"This is needed reform that will protect taxpayers as well help impoverished citizens who are in trouble," added Swimp. "Some opposed to this proposal say it will take money from dependent children. Sadly, the parent who is addicted to drugs likely shares very little money with their dependents while certainly adding risk to their relationship. I absolutely support drug testing as a requirement for welfare entitlements."
Project 21's Swimp, the president of the Frederick Douglass Society in Michigan, is the host of the "Contagious Transformation" talk radio show on BlogTalkRadio and a frequent Tea Party speaker at events across the country.
Horace Cooper is an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a member of the African-American leadership group Project 21, and a legal commentator. He taught constitutional law at George Mason University in Virginia and was a senior counsel to U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey when the U.S. House of Representatives overhauled the national Aid to Families with Dependent Children welfare entitlement program with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. The National Center is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters. In 2011 it received over 350,000 individual donations. Two percent of its revenue comes from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.