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Senator defends proposal to drug test those on public assistance

Senator defends proposal to drug test those on public assistance

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Ohio lawmakers continue to work on a proposal that would see Ohioans on public assistance be screened for drug use.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Tim Schaffer, has come under fire in other states where it has been implemented. The New York Times wrote an article pointing out the flaws in the programs. They found that for the most part they don't work.

"What it doesn't really talk about it the folks who when they knew they were going to have to take a urine drug test didn't come back," said Schaffer, who figures that between 8 and 12 percent of those on public assistance fall into that category.

The Lancaster Republican worries public assistance money is being used to purchase illegal drugs and not going to help buy food and clothing for children. He also says the point of the program is to help families get through tough times and help them find jobs.

"About half of new applicants wash out from hiring on to the companies from drug tests, they fail the drug tests. We have to get a hand on this problem."

The bill is currently in a Senate committee. Schaffer expects it to get three hearings before going to the full Senate for a vote sometime in 2014.

"I do want to make sure we have a good effective piece of legislation that has consensus," he said.

Schaffer believes he has support from fellow lawmakers, but admits he hasn't done a "head count."

He co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, that would also subject lawmakers to the same drug screenings.

Under the legislation, anyone on public assistance would have to fill out a questionnaire asking about any drug use. If they answer that they have had drug issues they are tested. A negative test would be paid for by the state, but a positive test would divert the person to a rehabilitation program.

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

 

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