Atlanta - It’s the final day for Gov. Nathan Deal to sign or veto legislation passed during this year’s legislative session and one controversial bill he has indicated he will sign is one to require drug testing for some of the state’s poorest citizens.
The bill would require recipients of welfare and food stamps to undergo testing if their case worker feels they had been abusing drugs. They would have to take the test at their own expense.
Gov. Nathan Deal admits it’s a touchy issue.
“You’re trying to balance two competing forces: one is the right of individuals, if they qualify, to be given assistance in terms of food stamps; on the other hand, the right of the taxpayers not to be putting money in the hands of those who are abusing drugs,” he says.
There are 1.7 million Georgians receiving food stamps in contrast to 16,000 on welfare. The children of a parent who fails a drug test would continue to receive the benefits.
Meantime, Deal is proposing a pilot project to also test those receiving unemployment benefits. But instead of the state not paying those benefits, it would continue to do so as long as the recipient enters a state-funded drug treatment program.
“Knowing that will be an impediment to them actually ever getting a job, we should begin a program whereby we devote money to being a treatment program for them so they can get a job and stay off drugs,” Deal tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
The idea, he says, would require approval of state lawmakers as well as the federal government.