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Texas advances bill to require drug screening for welfare

Texas lawmakers moved forward with a bill Tuesday that would require welfare applicants to be screened for drug use.

The bill authored by State Senator Jane Nelson, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, was approved by the state senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.

It would require applicants to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to undergo screening by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Under Nelson’s bill, applicants who appear to use drug or have been convicted for drug use will be subjected to testing. Applicants who test positive for drugs would be barred from receiving TANF funds for 12 months.

“Drug abuse destroys families, harms children and prevents individuals from living healthy, independent lives,” Nelson said in a press release on Tuesday. “Because TANF is a direct cash assistance program, we have a responsibility to ensure that these funds are not being used to support a person’s drug habit.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have thrown their support behind the bill.

“Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse,” Perry said in a statement in November. “Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine.”

One hundred thousand Texans a year are enrolled in TANF, according to Nelson’s office.

The bill will go to the Texas House of Representatives if it passes a vote in the full Senate.