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W.Va. bill proposes welfare drug tests

| Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, 8:33 p.m.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Republican lawmakers are pushing to require some drug testing of welfare recipients, while tailoring efforts to be less all-encompassing than the program struck down as unconstitutional in Florida.

A Senate panel Tuesday cleared a bill to start a one-year, three-county drug-testing pilot program, without specifying which counties. The state ranks abysmally in many drug-abuse categories.

Beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program would take the tests at their own expense of about $57 if officials had reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use. The money would be taken out of their first check and reimbursed if they passed.

Missed appointments at a local county office, personal demeanor, drug-related police records, denial of a job application or termination from a job because of illegal drug use, or other screening records indicating illegal drug use are among the criteria that could trigger a test. The Department of Health and Human Resources could determine other flags that would spur a screening.

If a parent fails a drug test, the Senate bill allows another person to receive welfare on behalf of that parent's child to avoid a lapse in aid.

At least 12 states have passed laws requiring drug testing for public assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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