Proposal To Drug Test Welfare Recipients Met With Opposition

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Welfare recipients would be tested for drugs and those found positive would lose their benefits under a proposal that is encountering strong opposition in Kentucky.

State Rep. Melvin Henley, R-Murray, said he filed legislation to require the drug tests in response to concerns raised by working-class constituents in his western Kentucky district.

"It makes sense to a person who has to work for a living and has to undergo drug testing and who sees people on welfare who don't have to abide by any rules," Henley said.

Critics contend the legislation is unconstitutional and that it would have unintended victims - children.

"Welfare is for the children, and so if you're doing such a thing you're punishing the children," said John Rosenberg, former head of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Prestonsburg. "I don't think that's what we really want to do."

Michigan briefly required drug tests for welfare recipients in 1999, but was ordered by a federal judge to stop just weeks into the program then the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit.

After a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled the law unconstitutional in 2003, Michigan officials reached an out-of-court settlement with the ACLU, agreeing to stop the drug-testing program.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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