Liz McCormick Published

House Rejects Four Amendments to TANF Drug Testing Bill


The House of Delegates will vote on a bill Wednesday that would require drug testing for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Senate Bill 6 requires the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to apply for permission from the federal government to begin a drug screening and testing program.

In that program, applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF benefits could be tested if there’s “reasonable suspicion” those applicants are using drugs or if they’ve been convicted of a drug crime in the past three years.

The bill creates a three strike system within the program. After one failed drug test, the TANF recipient does not lose any benefits, but must enter a rehabilitative or workforce training program. After the second failed test, the recipient loses benefits for one year or until completion of the workforce or rehabilitative program. After a third failed test, he or she loses benefits for life.

In any step in the process, the benefits given to children in the home will not be taken away. The DHHR is required to find another adult to distribute the benefits to, just like they do in other programs.

Delegates considered four amendments to the bill during a floor session Tuesday night. All four amendments were proposed by Democrats.

1. The first amendment would have removed marijuana from the list of drugs that could cause an applicant to lose his or her benefits. This bill was rejected.

The second and third amendments were ruled not relevant to the bill —

2. The second amendment would have required state lawmakers to be drug tested. If a legislator would have failed that test, he or she would have been required to enter a drug treatment program and would lose their pay.

3. The third amendment would have expanded the drug testing program beyond just those who are applying for TANF benefits to any person who is applying for funding from the state, including the officers of private companies.

But both amendments were ruled not relevant by House Speaker Tim Armstead.

4. The final amendment considered would have required the DHHR to obtain a warrant for the drug test from a judge. However, this amendment was also rejected.

Senate Bill 6 will be up for a vote in the House Wednesday.

A recent poll of likely West Virginia voters found 77 percent supported drug testing welfare recipients.