Advocacy groups sent Gov. Pat McCrory a letter asking him to veto a bill that calls for drug testing some welfare applicants, and strengthening background checks on all applicants to the Work First and food stamps programs.
McCrory said during a Friday press conference he’s considering vetoing the legislation, House Bill 392.
“Although the concept in general is sound, the way the bill is written does not provide any type of procedure or method of implementation,” he said during the press conference. The drug-testing provision in the bill is not written in a “fair” and “equitable” way, and could present legal issues, he said.
The ACLU of N.C., the N.C. Justice Center and others sent a letter underscoring the privacy and funding issues in the bill. It isn’t right to violate low-income people’s physical privacy because they are seeking assistance, the letter says. The bill would institute an "unreasonable search," and "wastes state resources."
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Arp of Monroe, a Republican, edited the measure several times to address the concerns of county Departments of Social Services and groups like the ACLU of N.C., who opposed the bill. It received support from some Democrats in the House and Senate.
County DSS offices must have “reasonable suspicion” before they can drug test applicants to the Work First program, which gives families temporary cash assistance and job training. Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican, said that adding the reasonable suspicion clause makes the drug testing legal.
In this case, reasonable suspicion would mean that if a criminal record check reveals a conviction, arrest or outstanding warrant related to drugs in the past three years, or a substance abuse professional or physician determines the person is an addict, they could be tested. The bill also allows DSS to use whatever other drug screening methods they see fit.
Applicants who are suspected drug users would have to pay for the testing, and would be reimbursed only if they test negative. Those who test positive would not receive Work First, but would be directed to treatment services.