A bill that will make it mandatory for welfare recipients in Louisiana to undergo drug testing has been passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee, amid criticism over moral issues. The committee passed the bill 11-5, sending it on to the full House for debate.

This represents a small victory for those calling for welfare drug testing, as the bill has been rejected at the Louisiana Legislature time and again, and its main sponsor did not win re-election.

This time, the idea of drug testing for welfare recipients was brought up by Rep. Sherman Mack. His bill will call for drug testing for 20 percent of adults receiving aid through the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program. Those who test positive will need to undergo a treatment program in order to continue receiving benefits.

Advocates of drug testing explain that the goal is to ensure that benefits are used towards the needs of the family, as opposed to supporting a drug habit. Mack said: “This is not about benefits being taken away from people. It’s about identifying problems… all you have to do is go to treatment. If you do that, your benefits are not suspended at all.”

To date, almost 5,900 people in Louisiana are on welfare, receiving an average of $192 per month. The state’s Department of Children and Family Services already screens applicants for possible drug use and refers people to treatment programs, but without a mandatory drug test.

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