Michigan is moving to come more in line with other states that require drug testing for welfare recipients.  But unlike, the others, Michigan's version would call for testing only in the event of a "reasonable suspicion".  

MLive.com is reporting today that the legislation would form a pilot program in 3 or more counties that would cut off cash assistance to those refusing to be tested for substance abuse.  They could be reinstated in six months. Those taking but failing the test, would be offered a treatment option to keep their benefits. Repeat offenders, though, could be kicked out of the welfare system.

"I think people want to make sure that we give a hands up to those in need, but they're tired of giving their tax dollars to those who waste it on drugs," Representative Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, told the paper.

Farrington is one of the sponsors of the 2-bill package.   He claims the legislation would simply act as a safety net to make sure those getting the assistance are deserving of the taxpayer-funded help.

"That's no blanket statement, as far as people on welfare being on drugs, but people at least want to see what the numbers are."

The cost of the program is estimated at between $500,000 and $750,000.

Some, though, like Democratic Representative Jon Switalski of Warren is quoted by the article as questioning whether the real motivation for the move is political rather than good policy.

"There is no financial reason to do this.  There's no moral reason to do this," he told MLive.  "It is only to drive a wedge between those who are poor and how the rest of society views those individuals.  It's a shame this Legislature continues to pass bill after bill to do so.  It's terrible."

Amendments to the legislation, like requiring lawmakers to undergo drug testing too, were defeated.

According to statistics from the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 11 states have adopted welfare drug testing since 2001.  Michigan implemented such a law in 1999, according to the report, but it was struck down as unconstitutional as an unreasonable form of search.

Farrington, though, says "suspicion-based" legislation has survived legal challenges and is confident Michigan's law would survive as well.

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