The Alabama Senate passed a package of welfare reform legislation on Wednesday, including a bill requiring drug testing of welfare applicants who have a drug possession or distribution conviction in the past five years. If the bill ultimately becomes law, individuals would be cut off from receiving benefits after three failed drug tests, but others in the household could continue receiving them.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said the bill ensures that taxpayer-funded benefits are not enabling a reckless lifestyle.
“Drug addiction is a serious, often life-threatening problem,” Pittman said. “By implementing this check in the welfare application process, it will serve as an incentive for those who have a drug problem and are also in need of assistance to get help, and it protects hard-earned taxpayer dollars from enabling a dangerous habit.”
Democrats vocally opposed the bill, especially Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who summed up his colleagues’ opposition by saying, “All of these are about hitting poor people on public assistance.”
The Senate also passed four other welfare reform bills on Wednesday, including:
• SB87, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, which requires able-bodied adult food stamp recipients without dependents to participate in at least 20 hours of work, job training or community service a week within three months of obtaining benefits.
• SB114, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which makes it a crime to defraud many state and federal government-funded assistance programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance and public housing.
• SB115, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would require welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits
• SB116, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would prohibit welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities.
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