Texas Legislature
3:03 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

House Democrats Successfully Kill Welfare Drug Testing Bill

House Democrats were able to stall a vote on a bill that would have mandated welfare recipients be drug screened before receiving benefits, an action that ultimately killed the bill entirely.  

The bill would have required anyone applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to be screened for illicit drug use and it immediately struck a chord with House Democrats like Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston.

"For a long time on this House floor I’ve heard people talk about the harms of big government; how big government is so big. I’ve heard in this chamber, and other people talk about how we need to be careful that the arms of big government don't come into our homes, that we need to protect privacy rights. We’ll, I guess the only question I have is: Does it apply to poor people?

"Government can be as big as you want to as long as it applies to poor people. Government can force people to be drug-tested. It’s wrong for everyone else except for poor people. Let me just tell you it’s hell to be poor and it’s certainly hell to be poor in the State of Texas," Turner said.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, had a similar take on the bill, and offered an amendment that would require the welfare caseworker themselves be screened for drugs every six months anytime they recommend a welfare recipient take a drug-test.

"Because of the experience I and my office have had in dealing with some overly controlling, overly aggressive caseworkers at the Department of Family Protective Services," Dukes said. 

The cost of the welfare drug-testing program was estimated at over $1.2 million over a two-year period, but since no vote was taken on the bill before midnight the bill died on the House floor.