The state Legislature approved sweeping legislation on June 21 that would mandate welfare recipients and others to submit to drug tests. The measure now awaits the signature of Gov. Mike Foster who is a proponent of wide-scale drug testing.
House Bill 2435, introduced by Rep. Heulette “Clo” Fontenot (R-Livingston), requires drug testing for virtually all residents receiving moneys from the state, including welfare recipients and individuals who enter into contracts with the state to provide goods and services. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spokeswoman Martha Kegel, who argued against the bill, said that no other state in the nation has implemented such a program and estimated that the policy could cost Louisiana taxpayers millions of dollars.
The legislation requires individuals in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant Program to undergo mandatory drug testing. Participants who test positive for illicit drugs on one occasion must complete a drug rehabilitation program. Individuals who test positive a second time will no longer be eligible to receive state entitlements.
“This bill … subject[s] … impoverished people to the indignity and gross invasion of privacy of having to urinate in a jar as a condition of getting the assistance that they need,” Kegel said.
The bill also requires random drug testing for “all persons who receive anything of economic value or receive funding from the state.” Individuals who refuse to comply with the policy or who test positive for an illegal drug on more than one occasion shall be subject to “termination, removal, or loss of the contract or loan.”
“There is little evidence indicating that this policy is either necessary or legal,” said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. Stroup noted that the Supreme Court recently struck down a Georgia drug testing statute because the state failed to demonstrate a “special need” substantial enough to override Constitutional protections granted by the Fourth Amendment. Stroup speculated that a similar court challenge could strike down Louisiana’s measure.
Backers of the measure alleged that a “state of emergency” exists in Louisiana because of illicit drug use.
For more information, please contact either attorney William Rittenberg of the NORML Legal Committee at (504) 524-5555 or R. Keith Stroup of NORML at (202) 483-5500.