Kansas lawmaker proposes drug testing for welfare recipients

TOPEKA — In a legislative session already flush with complex and divisive issues, Kansas lawmakers now want to take on their version of welfare reform: drug testing.

A group of lawmakers, including Rep. Brett Hildabrand of Merriam, are proposing to require a third of all Kansas welfare recipients to undergo random drug screens.

The program would require welfare recipients to pay for the drug screen up front. If their test turns up negative, the state would refund the expense in a "timely manner."

A welfare recipient who tests positive for drugs would have to submit to a drug evaluation and possibly be required to attend an education or treatment program.

A second positive test would require the recipient to attend an education or treatment program. The person would be terminated from the program for a year.

Someone testing positive a third time would be cut from the program entirely.

A household that includes someone who has been banned from the program would have to get their aid from a third party designated by the state

There are about 13,000 households currently on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, state data show.

The drug testing program has been debated in the Legislature before when it was appproved by the House.

The latest bill comes months after the state social services agency enacted several welfare reforms, including a change in food stamp policy that led to hundreds of families with at least one undocumented immigrant being cut from the program.

The state also adopted a number of other measures, including:

-- Calculating the income of a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend in the amount the household gets in welfare assistance.

-- Requiring recipients of child care assistance to work a minimum of 20 hours per week.

-- Requiring welfare recipients to provide proof of school enrollment for all the children in the family.

-- Requiring applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to look for a job. Currently, people are not required to start looking

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