INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday stripped contentious proposals from a bill
originally intended to screen welfare applicants for drug addiction and keep
recipients of government food assistance from buying junk food.
The bill previously
would have subjected anyone applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families benefits to be screened for the likelihood of addiction. It also
would have required users of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
to buy only foods deemed “nutritional” by the state.
The Senate Health
and Provider Services Committee approved the amended bill 6-3, leaving the
legislation a shell of its original version.
applicants with drug convictions would be drug tested under the new version
of the bill. Those who test positive would initially continue to receive
money if they enter treatment. After four months of failed tests, benefits
would be cut off for three months. To receive benefits again, applicants
would have to test drug-free.
who receive benefits for children could designate another adult to funnel
the money to them.
also would prevent TANF users from buying products currently banned in the
SNAP program, which includes alcohol and tobacco.
“There are people
who are going to continue to oppose this, and that’s fine,” said Rep. Jud
McMillin, R-Brookville, the bill’s author. “This bill does do some things to
try to get people help that need help, and I think that’s an important step
for us to take.”
The legislation has
been watered down numerous times after criticism that it unfairly targets
the poor. Earlier this year, a House committee nixed a photo identification
requirement for SNAP users, which has faced resistance from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
could have implemented the legislation before the recent changes is unclear.
Efforts to restrict SNAP purchases and drug test recipients of the financial
assistance program have faced challenges in other states and have been
rejected by the federal government.
The Indiana chapter
of the American Civil Liberties Union says the bill still is
unconstitutional, even with the changes. Legal Director Ken Falk said
previous convictions aren’t enough to give probable cause for drug testing
and could violate protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
“What was taken out
was outrageously unconstitutional,” Falk said of the previous versions of
the bill. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with what’s left.”
Analysts have not
yet determined how much money the amended bill could cost the state. A
report from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates the state
would have paid at least $1.18 million for the previous legislation.
Sen. Mike Young,
R-Indianapolis, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the price tag for
drug testing recipients at about $3 a person wouldn’t cost the state more
Indianapolis Republican Sen. Patricia Miller cautioned there still could be
a substantial fiscal impact because of other costs associated with the
The bill now heads
to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further review.