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Lawmaker rethinks proposal to require welfare drug tests

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Changes made to a bill that would require welfare recipients to take drug tests were voted down Thursday by its author, as the lawmaker who originally proposed the idea reconsiders.

The bill’s author, Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, has filed a motion disagreeing with the last-minute changes made to a measure on the House floor Tuesday, according to a Senate spokeswoman.

Democratic Rep. Terry Goodin of Crothersville proposed the testing requirement, claiming it would help fight a recent HIV outbreak in southern Indiana.

Health officials report that the outbreak is tied to intravenous drug use and more than 100 people who either live in Scott County or have ties to the area have tested positive for HIV.

House members approved the measure Wednesday.

But Goodin told the Indianapolis Star that he is now reconsidering the proposal after learning that its impact on drug use could be minimal.

Only nine adults in Scott County receive payments through the welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. About 60 additional adults receive benefits on behalf of 93 children.

Goodin said he was surprised by these numbers.

“There’s this urban myth that there are all these people taking welfare money and buying drugs with it,” he told the Star. “Maybe there’s not as much fraud as people say there is.”

Indiana lawmakers have considered similar legislation before. A measure passed the House last year but died after a 24-24 tie vote in the Senate.

Goodin said he is now rethinking his position on the measure, which would require recipients of certain welfare programs to take a drug test if they are identified as high risk for drug abuse or have been charged with a drug-related crime.

If recipients fail a drug test, they would have an opportunity to receive counseling, but several failed tests after counseling would make them ineligible for welfare benefits for at least three months. Recipients would also be responsible for the cost of counseling and positive drug tests.

“Since now we found out the drug testing isn’t going to reach many people, maybe there’s a different way to reach these people who are hooked on drugs,” he said.

The bill now goes to a conference committee for consideration.