Bill to drug test welfare recipients needs changes, amendments offered
LANSING — State Representative Robert L. Kosowski (D-Westland) and other members of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee considered HB 4118 on April 17. The bill would create a one-year pilot program for suspicion-based drug testing of applicants and recipients of benefits under the Family Independence Program (FIP). Democratic members of the committee offered a series of 10 amendments in an effort to resolve a number of shortcomings with the legislative proposal. Kosowski offered three of the 10 amendments to the bill.
“While I am grateful that one of my amendments was adopted, I am disappointed that none of the other amendments were given due consideration,” Kosowski said. “The idea behind this bill is something I could support, but without the changes offered in committee, there are too many problems with the bill and it does not go far enough to protect our children from unintended consequences.”
The adopted amendment offered by Kosowski altered the language of the bill to require the Department of Human Services to use an empirically validated substance abuse screening tool, rather than creating their own.
“If suspicion-based drug testing is going to be administered, it is vital that the screening tool used to determine suspicion is a proven diagnostic tool developed by experts in the substance abuse treatment profession,” Kosowski said. “Using a proprietary and untested questionnaire developed by the Department tasked with implementing the program does not ensure that FIP applicants and recipients will be treated fairly.”
In addition to the amendment which was adopted, Kosowski offered an amendment to protect the rights of those tested under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which protects the rights of individuals to medical record privacy. According to Kosowski, “Everyone is entitled to the privacy of their personal medical records under HIPAA and any medical information derived as a result of this bill ought to be precluded from public disclosure. I hoped that my colleagues would agree that receiving temporary assistance in times of need should not require the disclosure of private medical information.”
The final amendment offered by Representative Kosowski would have required that all legislators received drug testing if those receiving certain kinds of public assistance are required to be tested in order for the bill to be enacted. “Legislators receive a check from the state of Michigan. If we are going to drug test those receiving temporary benefits, then it would make sense to also test legislators elected to serve the public. Legislators should take the lead and be willing to prove that they are not substance abusers before we demand the same of our most vulnerable citizens looking for short term assistance,” said Kosowski.
The bill was approved by the committee on a 6-3 party-line vote, with Kosowski voting against. “Despite adopting one amendment, the committee failed to address numerous concerns with the bill as drafted. There has been no evidence that this proposal will save the state money if enacted or that substance abuse occurs more frequently in FIP recipients than the general population. I wish that the committee had given more consideration to our amendments and had given greater thought to the effects this proposal would have on the children of disqualified recipients,” said Kosowski.
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State Representative Robert L. Kosowski
16th House District