Lawmakers split on drug testing for aid recipients
by Jon Gillooly
January 19, 2012 11:57 PM | 4407 views | 15 15 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) answers questions as State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) listens at an event hosted by the Marietta-Cobb League of Women Voters, Cobb branch of the American Association of University Women and Rho Zeta Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority on  Thursday. Morgan characterized a bill that would require drug testing of people who get temporary state benefits as a disrespectful invasion of privacy.<br>Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) answers questions as State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) listens at an event hosted by the Marietta-Cobb League of Women Voters, Cobb branch of the American Association of University Women and Rho Zeta Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority on Thursday. Morgan characterized a bill that would require drug testing of people who get temporary state benefits as a disrespectful invasion of privacy.
Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
MARIETTA — State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) characterized a bill that would require drug testing of people who get temporary state benefits as a disrespectful invasion of privacy, while co-sponsors of the bill such as Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) came to its defense during a town hall meeting on Thursday.

In arguing against the bill, Morgan cited her daughter’s godfather, who went from making six figures, to being laid off, to making a salary of about $20,000 because it was all he could find.

“But during the six month period that he was unemployed, to have to subject him to drug testing because there’s someone who thinks that he may be sitting at home using drugs with the state’s money, I have a problem with that,” Morgan said.

Morgan brought up the point about Republicans being the party of limited government.

“And I also ask the question, particularly of those who are in the Republican Party, who believe in less government, how that does not infringe on someone’s privacy, how that does not represent really the invasion of government,” she said.

Morgan referenced the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

“There’s this perception that people have of what a TANF recipient looks like perhaps, and I think we have to move away from that, and it makes me wonder, lastly, what if we drug tested corporations who received federal dollars, those who we bailed out, what if those who received government contracts of any sort would have to subject themselves to drug testing, and what would that be like, and how do we make sure people have the dignity and not subject them to drug testing, so I absolutely oppose it,” she said.

Morgan said while she hoped the legislature wouldn’t debate the bill, because high ranking officials had signed onto it, she expects there will be a debate.

“But I hope we don’t subject my fellow Georgians to that kind of invasion of privacy and disrespect,” she said.

The other two Democrats at the forum, state Reps. David Wilkerson of Austell and Stacey Evans of Smyrna, also criticized the bill. Wilkerson said before people applying for unemployment benefits are forced to be drug tested, the members of the General Assembly should first have to go through the procedure.

Evans said one reason she opposes the bill is the impact it would have on children.

“People who need public assistance are already down on their luck,” Evans said. “Something has happened in their life to cause them to have to go and ask the government for money. Nobody wants to do that. And if we take money away from families we’re taking food out of the mouths of our children.”

Evans moreover said she agrees with Wilkerson about lawmakers being drug tested.

“If we’re going to do it, we need to be consistent,” she said. “Anybody who is getting money from the state, any single tax payer dollar going to anybody whether it’s those on public assistance, whether it’s us as legislators, whether it’s government contractors, whether it’s the many business sectors that enjoy tax breaks, which is essentially our tax dollars, which is our tax dollars, we got to be consistent, we can’t pick and choose, especially we can’t pick a population that has been proven to use drugs less than the general population, I don’t know why we would ever start there.”

Rogers addressed Morgan’s invasion of privacy argument by saying no one is forcing applicants to apply for taxpayer dollars.

“If you’re predisposed to use illegal narcotics, you don’t have to apply to get the benefits,” Rogers said. “Nobody is forcing you to do that. But if you’re going to take somebody else’s money, by definition it is money somebody else had to pay in the system, it’s not uncommon for us to have requirements to do so.”

Rogers said the policy has already been implemented in Florida and is “to some degree a success” there.

Not true, Evans replied.

“They’ve actually spent more on tests than they’ve saved on benefits because what they found out through their experiment is that the percentage of drug use among those on public assistance is actually less than the drug use among the general public,” Evans said. “So it’s just simply not true to say we have a reason to suspect that this population is using drugs, and so we need to put these tests in place so we can stop people from getting money who are spending it on drugs. That’s just a myth, and Florida has proved that, so I don’t see in these economic times why Georgia would want to dole out more money for tests that are going to cost them more than they’re going to be saving in benefits.”

The fifth lawmaker in attendance Thursday, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), said he has signed on in support of the bill.

“My first reaction is I am in favor of it,” Tippins said. “I want to see some absolute cost data. I want to see what it would cost, but I think people who are receiving public assistance ought to meet a certain level of personal responsibility. Certainly there are some things in their lives that they do not have control over, but there are some that they do, and I think personal behavior is one of them.”

The lawmakers addressed a number of other topics during the forum, from taxes and charter schools to transportation and prison reform. Thursday’s event, which was held in the county commission’s chamber, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women and Rho Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 25, 2012
--What the!? said on January 22, 2012 said "Individuals do not pay into an unemployment fund."--

Gullible you are. Thats money that otherwise would go to the employee...and the employer is dang sure counting it as a cost to employ the worker.

No employee. No income to pay the employment tax. No payment by the employer.

Wake up.
January 24, 2012
If I have to test to make the money that is paid into the system then the recipients should test as well. Why should I have to and they don't. I have witnessed many who could work and choose not to. I think it should go for recipients on welfare too and BTW let em earn some of that money by doing a certain ammount of hours of community service. Maybe then they'll try a little harder.
January 22, 2012
For people who have been working...they have been paying all their working years into the unemployment fund. What in the world makes sense about telling someone who is now unemployed (because of the disastrous policies and spending habits of our government) that they must undergo a DRUG test before they can receive unemployment benefits that they have already paid for over the course of their work years?

Do Lindsey Tippins and Chip Rogers really believe that people who have a documented work history and who are now applying for unemployment are really doing so because they have decided it is in their best interests to just hang out and stay high/drunk? This is just stupid Republican "logic" that does not make a lick of sense to this conservative. I am afraid this is just a sign of deeply these guys are in denial of just how BAD the economy/work opportunities are today (yes, even if Obama does tell us unemployment is only %8.5).

I would encourage Mr. Tippins, Mr. Rogers and the other of the Republican legislative contingent to go talk to the folks at MUST ministries and ask them about the profile of the clientele that they have been serving since 2009...even at the Elizabeth Inn homeless shelter. Find out how that profile compares to the years before TARP. It is an eye opener folks...a lot closer to YOUR home than you realize.

BTW, the thinking espoused by Tippins and Rogers on this point makes me think that there is far better reason for THEM to be subjected to drug testing (regularly) than the previously employed who are now unemployed.

That said, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Tippins and Chip Rogers, as well. I hope they will come down off the mountain long enough to engage the tools of logic (and investigation )and re-think their position on this knee jerk "drug test" requirement for people who have lost their jobs thru no fault of their own.
What the!?
January 22, 2012
Individuals do not pay into an unemployment fund.
Bob Bummer
January 22, 2012
When this passes I want own the business with million dollar contract with the state to provide the drug testing clinics or the drug testing kits which ever way they plan to do the testing. I am the brother-in-law after all.
January 21, 2012
YES! YES! Those who have jobs and pay taxes to support those who receive aid must be tested so WHY shouldn't those who receive aid also be tested? If it is an invasion of the TAKERS privacy why is is not an invasion of the WORKERS privacy. If you're worried about passing the test then forfeit the aid. However...a better test than urine sample is needed because real good druggies know how to cleanse and pass that one.I've heard you can buy the cleanser at convenience stores. Maybe a hair test...more expensive but much more accurate.
Shouldn't mind
January 20, 2012
Those receiving assistance should be more than happy to submit to drug testing. Work places require this and she does make a good point. I would love the lawmakers to submit to drug testing. That would probably rid of half of her colleagues and I have no problem with that. GET REAL MORGAN! She will not vote for this because most of the people in her district are on pulbic assistance and she wants the votes!
January 20, 2012
What do you expect from Morgan - her constituents are takers. They survive off the taxes of others and believe they are entitled. To hamper their welfare state of existence with responsibility goes against the culture. We all know the truth, but that doesn't win votes.
January 20, 2012
I have to take a drug test as a condition of employment. I see no reason recipients of my tax money should not have to do the same.
January 20, 2012
So - let me get this straight. To keep my job, I am required to have random drug tests. But, it's an invasion of privacy to require a person benefiting from my taxes to do the same? More than likely, the person who was referenced who lost his job was having drug screenings at his previous employer - so, why not now?
January 20, 2012
Let's Drug Test These Democrats who are wearing the

demise of a Republican.

D.G. in Clarkdale
January 20, 2012
Morgan doesn't live in the real world, which is typical of her ilk. Truth is that we can no longer afford to support the dregs of society, monetarily or otherwise.
January 20, 2012
Drug test the legislators first. Line them up in the capital hallways and go through the whole routine. Check them for std's as well. Why not?
seen more of life
January 20, 2012
Ms. Evans must be both very young and very naive. I'd wager she's never worked in the system to see who is getting federal aid. Granted there are (especially now) people who have lost jobs and found themselves needing help who never have before but as anyone who has worked for DFCS, etc. can tell you most recipients of aid have been raised on it. Not only, do they want to get the aid but they demand they get it & feel they deserve it. That aside, if someone isn't doing drugs then what's the problem?
January 20, 2012
What a waste from Chip and others who support this when benefits are tight and they want too start another expensive program against the poor and make him and others rich in the doing. Spend more GOV money on try to catch one in a thousand that is probably on a prescription medication and claim the program works. The money could better be used for retraining persons and or paint more benefits to those in need.
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