You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Indiana

  • Indiana seeks delay in protecting long-eared bat
     TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Four states in the Upper Midwest want federal officials to delay listing the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species.
  • Mount Baldy dune to remain closed indefinitely
     MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Officials say a popular 126-foot high sand dune at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will remain closed indefinitely while scientists continue trying to determine what caused an Illinois boy
  • New ISTEP glitches raise concern
     INDIANAPOLIS – A spokesman for the ISTEP exam contractor says the company is confident it has adequate system capacity despite worries among some Indiana school officials about a rerun of last year’s
Advertisement

Committee all but guts welfare drug testing bill

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers dramatically scaled back a move to drug test welfare recipients Wednesday.

House Bill 1351 now would affect only Hoosiers with a misdemeanor drug conviction in the last 10 years. They would be drug tested when they apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and annually while on the program.

Those with felony drug convictions are already ineligible for TANF.

It passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee by a vote of 6-3.

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, brought the amendment to the legislation, which largely gutted the bill.

In its original form, everyone on the program would take a written assessment test meant to gauge the likelihood of using illegal drugs. Those identified by that test would then be tested for drug use.

Fiscal analysis showed it could cost the state millions to implement such a drug testing program, with limited savings.

It is unclear now what the fiscal cost to the state would be after the amendment.

In December, about 22,700 Hoosiers received TANF, the majority of who – about 18,500 – are children.

Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, said she still expects a substantial cost and that the bill might have to be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers this year have punted any bills that would open up the state budget by spending money.

Young told the committee those who test positive twice will lose benefits for three months. If that happens, another adult can be designated to receive the benefits on behalf of any children involved.

And he said repeatedly that if the person is in a drug rehab program they can continue to receive the cash benefits.

“People do have problems with drugs. It overwhelms their lives,” Young said. “We let them know where they can get help.”

Under the bill, the state doesn’t assist in paying for the treatment.

“This targets poor people,” said Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington.

He noted other states that have drug tested welfare recipients found a 3 percent positive rate. This compares to 9 percent of the average population using drugs, he said.

“I don’t understand why if we are going to focus on drug testing people who get public assistance, why not look at business incentives too?”

Separate language in the bill that would have limited food stamps to only healthy food was removed.

Instead, the bill now says Hoosiers that receive TANF cash can’t use that money on any food or beverage item that isn’t eligible to be purchased with food stamps. For example, food stamps can’t be used to buy hot foods or alcohol.

Both food stamps and cash welfare are put on an electronic benefits card.

Sen. Greg Taylor, R-Indianapolis, pointed out that people can simply withdraw their TANF cash from an ATM and use it to buy whatever they want.

nkelly@jg.net

Advertisement