News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 12, 2013

Drug test mandate heads to Pence, but is it constitutional?

INDIANAPOLIS — Both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly have passed a bill that ties drug testing to welfare benefits, but if signed into law, the next debate may be on the question: Is it constitutional?

The bill’s sponsors say they’ve carefully crafted the language to avoid the kind of legal challenges that have stalled similar drug-testing programs in other states.

But opponents say there’s no getting around the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and predict it’s headed for court.

“I think it’s unconstitutional and going to be challenged,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Indiana. “And we’d certainly be willing to make that challenge.”

In February, a federal appeals court ruled against Florida’s testing of welfare applicants for drug use in a case brought by the ACLU.

The ruling didn’t strike down Florida’s drug-testing requirement directly. But the appeals court held that the state failed to show a direct threat to public safety that would justify drug testing without suspicion of wrongdoing.

Florida’s governor has vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Florida drug-testing program has been on a court-ordered hold since 2011, as the legal fight plays out. At least four other states have adopted laws that allow drug testing of welfare applicants suspected of drug use.

In Indiana, the backers of House Bill 1483 hope to avoid a scenario similar to Florida.  

They argue that the Indiana legislation is different than the Florida law. In Florida, anyone who applies for the federal cash-assistance welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, is eligible to be drug-tested.

The Indiana legislation would require all TANF applicants in Indiana to take a 65-question written test used nationally to screen people for potential drug abuse. Only test-takers who show a high propensity to abuse drugs would be part of a pool randomly required to take a urine drug test. Those who fail would be steered into a drug treatment program.  

“We’re not making everyone subject to drug testing, only those who show a high propensity for substance abuse disorder,” said Republican Sen. Randy Head, a Logansport lawyer who sponsored the bill in the Senate.  

But Falk said the 65-question written test in the Indiana bill is not enough to overcome the hurdlescourts have imposed on mandatory drug testing.

“Failing a (written) screening test isn’t proof of anything,” Falk said. “It’s an invasive search without probable cause.”

Both Head and the bill’s author, Republican Rep. Jud McMillin, a Brookville lawyer, defended the bill during debates on the legislation, assuring lawmakers that it would stand up to a constitutional challenge.

But the Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, an Anderson lawyer, disagreed. “This is a constitutional lawyer’s dream,” Lanane said.

McMillin and Head have argued that the intent of the bill isn’t punitive, because the TANF program is supposed to be only for people who are actively looking for work or going to school to get training to get a job.

“What we’re trying to do is give somebody a hand up instead of a handout,” McMillin said.

TANFs recipient who test positive for drugs would be allowed to keep their benefits but would have to enter a treatment program. The treatment program could be a free program, like Narcotics Anonymous, Head said.

“There are plenty of NA programs in church basements across the state,” Head said.

The Indiana bill also requires those TANF recipients who’ve been steered into a drug treatment program to stay clean or risk losing their benefits.

It requires them to submit to follow-up urine drug tests and cuts off their benefits if they fail repeated drug tests. It also includes a provision that allows them to get their TANF benefits back in the future, once they start to test clean.

In arguing for the bill, Head noted a federal law, the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, that authorized, but didn’t require, states to impose mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving federal welfare assistance administered by the states.

But few states have acted to do so until recently. Michigan was the first to do so, but the state’s mandatory drug testing program was struck down as unconstitutional in 2003 in a challenge brought by the ACLU. A federal appeals court ruled the mandatory drug tests violated welfare recipients’ Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.

Since Florida adopted its drug-testing program in 2011, seven more states have passed similar laws tying drug screening to eligibility for public assistance.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers, the Triubne-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity