Senate Scales Back Drug Testing Bill

Feb 19, 2014

Indiana Sen. Michael Young and Rep. Jud McMillin testify before a Senate committee Wednesday.
Credit Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

A Senate committee Wednesday dramatically scaled back the scope of a bill creating a drug testing program for welfare recipients.

Brookville Republican Representative Jud McMillin’s bill originally required all welfare recipients to take a written pre-screening test meant to determine a likelihood of addiction.  Recipients who showed that likelihood were then eligible to be randomly drug-tested – with their welfare benefits potentially at risk after several failed tests. 

But the Senate Health Committee approved an amendment that only makes welfare recipients with previous drug convictions eligible for drug tests. 

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Indianapolis Republican Michael Young, says the legislation is simply trying to ensure that people getting money from the government aren’t using drugs.

“We’re just trying to help people with this bill and not trying to harm anybody,” Young said. “Representative McMillin has, in place, several steps you have to go through before you can lose your benefits.”

If a recipient fails a drug test, they must seek treatment to retain their benefits and have two consecutive clean drug tests within a four month period.  If they don’t seek treatment or fail to produce the two clean tests, they lose their benefits for three months.  They can then reapply by passing a drug test. 

Children of welfare recipients who lose their benefits would still receive welfare dollars through a third party. 

McMillin says, with the changes approved by the Senate committee, the program may be too minimal to have a meaningful impact.