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2/2/2017 Senator Morgan proposes drug testing for welfare recipients
STATE HOUSE – Senator Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), has introduced legislation that would allow the Department of Human Services to perform random drug testing on anyone receiving public assistance.

Senate bill (2017-S 179) would amend the state’s Public Assistance Act, which provides cash assistance to struggling Rhode Islanders.  The proposed amendment would revoke the public assistance of anyone who tests positive for controlled substances for a period of up to a year. 

“If working Rhode Islanders’ tax dollars are being used to fund this program, the people who accept this money should be subject to the same random drug testing they might encounter in the workplace,” Senator Morgan said.  “A positive drug test would disqualify them from a state ‘paycheck.’ With the recreational marijuana legalization looming, taxpayer money should not be paying for benefits so people can buy and smoke marijuana.”  Those who have a prescription for medical marijuana would not be penalized by a positive test.

Under Morgan’s legislation, a positive drug test would disqualify someone from receiving assistance for a year, unless that person completes a substance abuse treatment program.  If the person failing the test is a parent, the dependent child’s benefits will not be affected.

“The purpose of this isn’t to punish children who have parents that make bad choices,” Morgan said.  “We specifically created a mechanism in this law that would allow a ‘protective payee’ to receive benefits on behalf of the child.”

The legislation now goes before the Committee on Judiciary for consideration.

For more information, contact:
Katie Haughey Cardoza, Senate Minority Office
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2708