Minnesota state representative and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) made man Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) may like to kvetch about public spending, but he's not above slipping an expensive ALEC bill through if it gives him a chance to humiliate poor people.
Star Tribune staff writer Chris Serres reports in Drug tests of welfare recipients prove costly:
Like a recent wave of drug-testing laws passed in other states, Minnesota’s legislation was touted as a way to encourage greater responsibility among welfare recipients while saving taxpayers money.
But many county officials and advocacy groups say the reality is quite different: The law contains a bevy of costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply to just a tiny fraction of the 167,000 Minnesotans receiving welfare and other cash benefits.
What's more, the Department of Human Services has determined that those receiving aid are less likely to use illegal drugs than the general population:
Critics also say the policy is based on the false perception that large numbers of welfare recipients are using illegal drugs. . . .
But DHS data suggest that only a small fraction of people receiving state benefits actually have felony drug convictions in the past 10 years and could be subject to the random drug tests.
Just 0.4 percent of participants in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s main cash welfare program, have felony drug convictions, DHS records show. That compares with 1.2 percent of the state’s adult population as a whole.
Charles Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, called the law “mean-spirited.” He said the civil rights group is monitoring its implementation.
Draz insists his last minute amendment was gossip-based legislation:
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, the Republican who sponsored the legislation, said he was motivated by reports that people in his hometown of Mazeppa (population 842) were using state welfare benefits to buy drugs.
Serres reports, however, that there another source for the idea:
In 2013 alone, at least 30 states proposed bills related to drug screening and testing, with some even extending it to federal benefits such as unemployment insurance, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. The laws have been supported by the influential American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that crafts model bills on hundreds of issues for its network of state legislators.
Drug testing industry pushes products for rich and poor
And there's more pissiness from ALEC and its corporate sponsors. Drug testing may explain from the workplace and welfare office to the school nurse's office as the drug testing industry searches for new revenue streams.
Last spring, the Nation's Isabel MacDonald reported in The GOP’s Drug-Testing Dragnet:
. . . Today, drug testing is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. DATIA represents more than 1,200 companies and employs a DC-based lobbying firm, Washington Policy Associates. Hoffmann-La Roche’s former consultant, David Evans, now runs his own lobbying firm and has ghostwritten several state laws to expand drug testing. Most significant, in the 1990s Evans crafted the Workplace Drug Testing Act for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which Hoffmann-La Roche was a paying member. Laying out protocols for workplace drug testing, the bill—which has been enacted into law in several states—upheld the rights of employers to fire employees who do not comply with their companies’ drug-free workplace program.
Over the past decade, lobbyists like Evans have focused on what a DATIA newsletter recently dubbed “the next frontier”—schoolchildren. In 2002, a representative from the influential drug-testing management firm Besinger, DuPont & Associates heralded schools as “potentially a much bigger market than the workplace.” That year, the Supreme Court upheld the right of schools to drug-test any student involved in extracurricular activities, from the football team to the chess club. (Many in the drug-testing industry advocate testing all school kids ages 12 and up, but they have failed thus far to convince the courts.)
. . . several Republican lawmakers in Congress have pushed hard for the mandatory drug testing of anyone, anywhere, applying for welfare. Leading the charge in the Senate is Orrin Hatch, longtime conservative stalwart from Utah, who received a $8,000 campaign contribution in 2012 from the political action committee of Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp), a behemoth in the drug-testing industry and a Hoffmann-La Roche spinoff. Hatch has also received $3,000 from another political action committee to which LabCorp contributes—the American Clinical Laboratory Association PAC—as well as $4,000 in campaign contributions from the PAC of another company with major interests in drug testing, Abbott Laboratories. GOP Congressman Charles Boustany is among those pushing welfare drug testing in the House. In the 2012 campaign cycle, he received $15,000 from Abbott Laboratories’ PAC.
A misguided war on drugs or just corporations and ALEC seeking business opportunities? We've heard of frittering away taxpayers' funds, but hadn't realized just how flush these firms had grown in supplying the ammo.
Photo: Steve Drazkowski.
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