Back in November, state Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) pre-filed SB 11, which would require drug testing for all those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. Governor Perry threw his support behind the bill — “Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse,” he said, while standing in a glass factory — but then people actually started reading the thing. Turns out it had some pretty dire consequences for the children of the drug-tested: if the parent failed three drug tests, the kids would lose their assistance. For life.
“My intent is absolutely not to hurt the children,” Nelson said, which turned out to be policy everyone could get behind. Nelson was responding to testimony offered by Scott McCown of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, who praised the committee substitute Nelson offered today and said that, with a couple of tweaks, the left-leaning CPPP would even support it.
The new version of SB 11 focuses exclusively on drug-testing welfare applicants who have been identified as potential drug users by some fuzzy, as-yet-undesigned-but-definitely-constitutional screening process.
The revised SB 11 would bar only adults from receiving benefits in the event of a failed drug screen—children would still be eligible for benefits. But it does retain the lifetime ban on entire families in the event of three failed drug screens, which is the main problem McCown still had with it. He proposed a “protective payee” program, by which benefits would be given to a non-drug-taking relative, like a grandmother, on the child’s behalf. McCown also asked if language could be included that would let benefits be restored to a child if that child leaves the drug-user’s custody, so that if the child were placed elsewhere and still eligible for benefits, the lifetime ban wouldn’t follow him or her. Nelson said, “I think we can do that.”
So, still a little crappy for those kids, but maybe less so than before.