Welfare Recipient Drug Testing Proposed By Oklahoma Legislator

Friday, August 5th 2011, 10:34 pm
By: News 9

Havonnah Johnson, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Taking a cue from Florida lawmakers, Oklahoma representative Guy Liebmann wants mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. He will introduce the bill in the 2012 legislative session.

Applicants who test positive for controlled substances will have to get treatment or give up their benefits for a year.

The controversial proposal is receiving overwhelming support.

DHS estimates 22,000 Oklahomans receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Drug testing may pose a huge burden for an already cash strapped Department of Human Services.

"If somebody is not willing to undergo a drug test, should we be really trying to help them," said Laura Alhers.

Rep. Guy Liebmann says no. He is proposing everyone who accepts government assistance say no to drugs.

DHS would be responsible for the testing.

"We are facing a significant shortfall next year about $32 million and that is significant, so anything like this would result in a significant impact for us," said Guy Beutler, a DHS spokesperson.

Beutler said DHS is willing to work with Liebmann's office to ensure the bill doesn't prevent some 18,000 Oklahoman children from getting benefits.

Some taxpayers say its an invasion of privacy.

"When it comes to the welfare card, a person should present state ID to make sure it belongs to them, but as far as peeing I think that's going a little too far in terms of invasion of privacy," said George Hamilton.

The proposal is getting overwhelming support on news 9's Facebook page and on News9.com.

"If you are going to work full time you have to take a drug test so if you are gonna get the money for free, the same thing should be required. Why should you get an income for free and not take a drug test," said Kristy Ingram.

Single mother Christina Frunk who receives benefits and currently undergoes drug testing, said the invasion of privacy is worth it. " I do it for my kids," said Frunk.

Liebmann's proposal may be redundant since all states already require initial drug testing for TANF recipients.  According to DHS, that program has a 98 percent success rate.

News 9 called Leibmann for comment but he refused a phone interview.  His staff said was on vacation with his family.