drugtesting

Here we go. A candidate for Montana governor is proposing drug testing people receiving public assistance.

Cuz you know, when someone is down it makes sense to kick 'em.

Not only is gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller's proposal, brought to light by Montana Watchdog, an insult to those who need state aid, it's unconstitutional and would almost certainly cost the state more money than it would save.

That's definitely been the experience in Florida.

Last year Florida became the first state to require all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to be tested for drugs. To make things worse, Florida required these applicants (people already strapped for money) to pay for the testing themselves, but would reimburse them if the tests came back negative.

Well, Florida's done an awful lot of paying people back.

After just four months of the new program, of 4,086 TANF applicants, only 108 tested positive.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sold the program to lawmakers by arguing that welfare recipients use drugs more than the general population, but just 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs - a rate far lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs.

Bill for Florida so far: $45,000 in the hole.

Idaho lawmakers also thought a welfare drug testing program would be a good idea, but the state's Department of Health and Welfare did a study that found such a program would not be cost-effective.

Money aside, mandatory testing of welfare recipients is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment's requirement that the government have individualized suspicion before it forces someone to take a drug test. A federal court blocked Florida's law just four months in for this reason.

Montana lawmakers and candidates, let's please focus on creating law that is constitutional and fiscally prudent.

Let's not make 2013 a repeat of 2011's legislative insanity.

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