Drug Tests Could Soon Be Required For Welfare Recipients

Knoxville (WVLT)- In Nashville, two bills are moving through the state legislature that are stirring some controversy in East Tennessee.

Senate Bill 102 implements drug testing for welfare recipients. DHS and TennCare are saying that proposal violates federal law. House Bill 981 makes it impossible for folks receiving government assistance to claim lottery winnings. Volunteer TV set out to see whether or not you support the proposals.

"They should use government-assisted funding for survival needs: home, rent, food, clothing, things of that nature," Benji Clemmer says.

Not lottery tickets, and certainly not drugs...that's what Senator Tim Burchett and Representative Stacey Campfield are saying.

"If you're too poor to pay for food... basic, bare necessities, then you're not eligible to win grand jackpot prizes," Campfield says.

House Bill 981 says any person collecting government assistance is not entitled to collect lottery winnings.

"You shouldn't be spending your money in lottery tickets expecting that to help pay your bills," Campfield continues.

Taxpayers agree...

"If they are getting state assistance, I feel like they should actually have to report it as some sort, and have to pay the money back," Bob Robinson says.

Now, any prize over $600 has to be mailed into the state... under 981, it would be checked against a database of people on government assistance... and if you're on the list, you aren't eligible for the prize. Some say it's not fair.

"Those are the people who need it the most, so if they choose to spend it that way, I think it's ok to do that," Johnny Serana says.

Senate Bill 102 mandates drug tests for welfare recipients. Senator Tim Burchett supports the bill, saying the current law precedents it.

"We test our athletes, our college athletes and they, of course, are using tax dollars. We test them for drugs. If they test positive, they can be removed from the team and possibly school," Burchett says.

"If we get randomly drug tested for employment, why shouldn't they get randomly drug tested for welfare? It's taxpayers who are paying the welfare," Stella Jacobus says.

Burchett says law enforcement agencies tell him a large majority of their drug busts are people on welfare.

"It limits their ambition and they wanna sit home and smoke pot and not get a job and you and I are paying for them do to that," Burchett says.

Burhett's Senate Bill 102 will be heard before the Senate General Welfare Committee Wednesday. Campfield's House Bill 981 is still waiting to come into committee.

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