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House OKs suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Capitol Building, Lansing, MI

The state House has approved a bill that would revoke welfare payments from people who fail drug tests. The state would implement the one-year pilot program in three counties that have not yet been selected.

 The drug testing will be conducted based on “reasonable suspicion,” unlike previous programs in Michigan that made testing mandatory.

Some Democrats say it would unfairly hurt poor children for the actions of their parents.

“It’s important that we don’t punish the children who are already facing a number of challenges for what they have no control over,” said state Rep. Diane Slavens, D-Canton.

Despite those concerns, House Bill 4118 cleared the House easily with bipartisan support. Supporters say taxpayers should not be paying for someone’s drug habit.

“I think it’s ridiculous that people think the extra money that’s not going for anything but drugs anyway being taken away is somehow hurting the kids,” said Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, who introduced the legislation.

“I think the drug use is what’s hurting the kids.”

Farrington says the program could be expanded if the pilot is successful.

“The whole thing will be whether it works out financially: are we spending more money to do it than we are tax dollars saved? That’s where things will be evaluated a year from now.”

The bill was changed earlier this year to exempt people who have medical marijuana cards.

It now goes to the state Senate.