The Denver Post
A bill to require welfare recipients to take drug tests in order to get benefits died in the state House today in the face of apparent bipartisan opposition.
House Bill 1046, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, would have required anyone applying for benefits under the federally funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF, to first pay the $45 cost of taking a drug test.
Those who passed the drug test would have been reimbursed by the state and could get TANF benefits. Those who failed, though, would have been denied reimbursement and any benefits and would not have been able to reapply for TANF again for a year.
"If you have enough money to buy drugs, why do you need public assistance?" asked Sonnenberg.
Most Democrats had argued that the bill would treat the poor like criminals and that it made poverty a presumption of guilt.
Democrats already had added an amendment in committee that required state lawmakers and statewide elected officials to also take drug tests before getting their pay and benefits. But House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, wanted to add another amendment to make politicians who flunk drug tests pay a fine equal to a year's worth of TANF benefits for an average recipient.
That amendment failed because the Republican-led House approved another that said drug testing for politicians would have to occur in October, just before a general election.
Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said losing an election because of a dirty drug test is "the ultimate penalty."
But Republican support for the bill was not rock-solid.
The bill was on its second-reading stage in the House, a step typically marked by a voice vote in the chamber and later followed by a recorded vote on third reading.
That's not what happened.
When the voice vote was held and there were "ayes" from the Republican side and "noes" from the Democratic side, Rep. Brian Delgrosso, R-Loveland, who was in the chair, announced the bill had failed, even though it wasn't obvious that one side outweighed the other.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The Denver Post