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< Buckling up? | Main | House passes study - Health Care reform bill up next >

Drug tests for MFIP?

Posted at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2008 by Michael Marchio

A bill introduced today by Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) would require them. HF4182 would require anyone applying for Minnesota Family Investment Program, or the state's welfare program, to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. At least one similar bill, SF2652, sponsored by Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), was introduced on the first day of session, but hasn't gone anywhere.

The possibility for this goes back to the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, which authorized but did not require states to do drug tests on welfare applicants. Some groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have already weighed in on this topic.

Michigan passed a law similar to this one in 1999, the first state to do so, but it was later ruled unconstitutional by a district court, because it was an unwarranted search and seizure and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

While the Commish will leave the arguments about constitutionality to his betters, it does seem an interesting question why private employers, depending on the state, are allowed to require drug screenings for prospective employees, but the state is not. Private employers are on safe ground legally - but ethically, isn't the violation of privacy the same? While the percentage of employers that do drug testing has dropped from 13.6% in 1988 to 4.1% in 2005, it's still a thorny issue.

Between yesterday's medical marijuana post and this one, its time to put the "drug laws" to rest. I doubt this bill will go anywhere, but it is interesting to think about.

Right now the House is having a really heated argument about the Rep. Rukavina's U of M study on Iron Range mesothelioma cases. Click here to watch. I wrote about it here. The governor said he won't support it because the $4.9 million comes out of the workers compensation fund. He wants it to come out of the "Taconite Area Environmental Protection Fund," that comes from local property taxes on the Range. Majority Leader Sertich just gave a rousing speech - I'll post the time when the session is archived at the end of the day so you can take a look - about why this needs to be funded at the state level.

"I have friends who have worked in the mines for 30, and they come home with a cough, and they don't know what its from....If the mines are responsible for this, they're going to pay. You're damn right they're going to pay. There are people with a death sentence right now. They know they're dying."

While all the members said they support the study, and many of them said they have friends and loved ones suffering from mesothelioma, an amendment to have the Range property taxes pay for the study instead of the state's workers compensation fund was shot down on mostly party lines.

Sen. Tomassoni's version in the Senate has worked its way to the floor too, so expect it to be taken up sometime next week. I'll update you when the House takes a vote today, so check back.