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Mo. House passes welfare drug testing legislation

The chambers of the Missouri House of Representatives.
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
The chambers of the Missouri House of Representatives.

The Missouri House has given final passage to legislation that would require some Missourians on public assistance to undergo drug testing.

Under the bill, work-eligible recipients of the state’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families(TANF) program would lose that assistance for three years if they test positive for drug use or refuse to take a drug test.

It was sponsored by State Representative Ellen Brandom(R, Sikeston).

“As everybody works so hard to pay their bills, they don’t want to see any welfare money used for illegal substances," Brandom said.

Opponents say the bill does nothing to combat drug addiction among recipients, and that the loss of $58 a month will hit many poor families hard.  State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford(D, St. Louis) voted “no."

“Taking a tiny amount of money away from a family that’s already living that poor is apt to do things like cause their electricity to be disconnected, cause them to lose any kind of housing that they have been able to secure," Oxford said.

But several Democrats joined with the Republican majority in voting “yes.”  The vote count was 113 to 34.

The measure would allow those who fail a drug test to receive benefits if they complete a drug treatment program and remain drug-free for six months.  It would also require that electronic benefit cards include a photo of the recipient and be renewed every three years.

The bill has already passed the Missouri Senateand now goes to Governor Jay Nixon(D).

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