Is Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients a 'War on Poor'?

“High-level usage wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Farrington said.

Rep. Coleman Young II (D), whose late father was a mayor of Detroit, wondered why other people receiving state benefits, say for instance the CEO of a business getting tax breaks, should not be drug tested.

“Are we going to drug test other people who receive tax dollars? I don't think so," Young told the Detroit News.

Hovey-Wright admitted the drug-testing bills are not all bad. She said they would provide some incentive for those with substance abuse addictions to seek treatment.

But she does not like the provision that would stop welfare payments for children whose parents are found to be drug abusers.

“It wasn’t their fault that their parent had a substance abuse problem,” she said. “Innocent children will be put at risk. I can imagine seeing them on the streets without a home.”

Farrington doesn’t buy that argument.

“To me what impacts the children is the parent taking drugs,” he said. “It is ridiculous to think the extra money that is just going for drug use anyway, being taken away, is somehow hurting the kids.”

Hovey-Wright also opposes the provision that gives welfare recipients only one chance to get clean and sober.

She said there are several people in her family with substance abuse problems and they have all required more than one treatment program to go straight.

While the drug-testing legislation has drawn rancor along partisan lines, other legislation that would be used to make it easier to find the fathers of children on welfare has drawn support from Democrats and Republicans.

One bill in the package would allow state officials to use genetic testing to determine parentage without going through the courts. It sets up a method for figuring out who is the father of a child and would even allow a prosecutor to order genetic testing.

John Whetstone, the deputy communications director of the Michigan House, said the state already has laws in place that permit genetic testing to be ordered by a judge, but this proposal would simplify the process by allowing county officials to bypass the courts.

Another proposed bill would allow welfare benefits to be cut off if a father fails to make his child support payments or fights the paternity test.

Elmir said the Michigan ACLU is still analyzing that package of legislation before taking a position.