In a party line vote of 20-19, the state Senate rejected the bill proposed by Senator Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) that would require those applying for public assistance to undergo a preliminary screening for drug use. Recipients suspected of drug use would then be required to take a drug test. If an individual tested positive, they would lose state benefits for a year unless they attended a rehabilitation program. Senator Larry Blevins (R) did not vote.
While supporters of the bill argued that the intent was to prevent taxpayer money from being used to sustain drug habits, opponents argued that it was an attack on low-income families based on stereotypes. Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said “Drug tests for welfare recipients are demeaning…Why are poor people singled out for testing? Why not legislators?…Why is it assumed the poor and only the poor are using drugs?” In a press release, Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said “These are unfair and punitive measures that single out struggling Virginians simply because they are poor. In fact, studies show that welfare recipients have a lower percentage of illegal drug use than the general population. As a taxpayer, I believe money should not be spent on a problem that does not exist.”
Media Resources: Office of Senator Favola Press Release 2/5/2013; Washington Examiner 2/4/2013; Washington Post 2/4/2013
Black postal stamp with welfare written on it from Shutterstock