Earlier this week, this page wrote about a federal judge who struck down a Florida law that required parents to undergo drug testing when they applied for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Amid claims that residents of the state were subsidizing their drug use by giving assistance to drug users, Florida legislators and the governor tried to stop it.
The judge, however, looked at the facts and found nothing to support the belief that being impoverished was connected to drug use, while other facts suggest that there are more drug users not applying for assistance.
Instead, the judge ruled that the law constituted an “unreasonable search,” which violated the applicants’ Fourth Amendment rights. The judge struck down the law.
Here in Alabama, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, is setting out to make the “unreasonable” reasonable.
He has pre-filed a bill (similar to the one he proposed last year) that would be different from the Florida law because it would not test all applicants — just those who have had a drug conviction in the last five years. Applicants would be required to reveal such convictions on their application.
If that is not reasonable enough, Pittman’s plan will apply only to the parent. Children could continue to receive benefits through a third party.
On the first failed drug test, the parent would receive a warning. The second failure would make the parent ineligible for benefits for a year. On the third failure the parent is banned from the program.
Initially, the state’s taxpayers will pay for the tests, as well as the litigation that is sure to follow.
However, Pittman claims to be looking at the bigger picture. He wants to force drug users to quit. “What’s the cost of the person who doesn’t straighten out his life?” he told al.com.
That is a good question. Here’s another: What sort of success has similar tough-love programs had in reducing drug use?
It should be a shock to see legislators who claim that the government is too involved in the private lives of residents advocating involvement to this degree. It will also be interesting to see how Alabama will fare when facing a judge with a copy of the U.S. Constitution in their hand.
The search is still unreasonable, no matter how reasonable you try to make it.