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Senate Passes Bill Requiring Welfare Recipients To Be Drug Tested

Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio
TPR News

On a unanimous vote, a bill authored by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to require all welfare recipients to take a drug test passed the Texas Senate. 

The bill requires every Texas Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipient go through a drug-screen, which could include a one-on-one interview or questionnaire.

Nelson said her bill also provides $300 million towards rehab.

"Our goal, first of all, is to make sure that the state’s money that we are giving individuals to take care of their children isn’t going to be used to buy drugs. That’s not our only goal - we need to make sure we help those people get off those drugs," Nelson said.

The bill stipulates that if a person tests positive they would lose their TANF benefits for six months, but that loss of benefits would not affect the children of that family.

In the event that someone tests positive, the benefits would transfer to an outside guardian to oversee and provide for the children.

"We don’t want to hurt the children - that is not our goal - and we have established the program that mentions at the beginning of your questioning - the protective pay program - that will designate a person who will be a guardian of those children and make sure they are taken of," Nelson said.

The bill gives a TANF recipient three chances to pass a drug test and undergo treatment before indefinitely terminating their benefits. The state estimates it will cost just over $160,000 to screen and test each person receiving welfare benefits.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.