VIDEO: Measure to require drug testing to receive public assistance passes committee

Thursday, a Colorado House committee passed a bill to require individuals applying for cash assistance to first submit to drug testing. The bill passed out of committee on a party line vote, with Republicans casting the yes votes.

A similar measure has already been passed in Florida, where a judge smacked it down as unconstitutional.

Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who sits on the committee, said the bill was an attack on the poor and would do nothing to get Colorado’s economy moving.

“I don’t think the state can afford to be in the business of drug testing the poorest people in the state,” she told the Colorado Independent.

“The voters sent me here to help the economy, to help the state create jobs. They didn’t send me down there to attack the poorest of the poor.”

House Bill 1046 would require those seeking federal funds from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to pay $45 up front for a drug test. If they fail the test, they would be denied benefits but if they pass, the state would reimburse them.

Fields said only about 2 percent of those applying for the funds are likely to fail the test, based on research the committee looked at.

“This just places an additional burden on the very poor. At a time when they are most at need, when they can’t find work, this is just one more thing to attack their dignity. And, what if they don’t have the $45? I just don’t think we need this in Colorado.”

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who could not be reached for comment. If passed by the full House, the bill would likely die in the Democratic Senate.

The Florida bill has been controversial to say the least, and drew this withering attack from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show:

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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