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Mo. House endorses drug testing for welfare recipients

Missouri Capitol
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Capitol

The Missouri House has given first-round approval to legislation that would require drug testing for some welfare recipients.

The bill would require work-eligible recipients and applicants of the state's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to pass drug tests in order to receive assistance.

State RepresentativeMark Parkinson(R, St. Charles) cited a drug raid where police found dozens of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards along with a stash of drugs.

"(The police) believe the people were trading their cards directly for drugs," Parkinson said from the House floor.  "Food stamp cards, Social Security cards and child support cards."

State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford(D, St. Louis) told fellow House members that the bill would financially cripple needy families.

"If I am constantly having my utilities disconnected, or getting an eviction notice...taking $58 away from my check...makes it real likely that my family's gonna become homeless, makes it real likely that my children are actually gonna be taken away from me and put into foster care," Oxford said.

In addition, State Representative Rory Ellinger(D, University City) said that requiring drug tests for TANF recipients would be demeaning.  But 19 Democrats joined with the Republican majority in voting "yes."

The House also added an amendment barring racial and ethnic discrimination when deciding which recipients should be tested for drugs.

The bill needs one more State House vote before moving to the Missouri Senate, which is considering similar legislation.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.