Some public benefits recipients would need to pass drug screenings under terms of bills getting public hearings at the Capitol on Thursday. State Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) would require people receiving food stamps and unemployment benefits – including some job training programs – pass drug screenings.
“These bills require that individuals who are receiving state assistance and unemployment assistance be screened for potential substance abuse,” Rohrkaste said. “That screening can include a drug test in order to keep receiving these benefits.”
“Most employers in Wisconsin require a pre-employment drug test, and far too many times people fail such tests, and are never hired by that particular employer,” said Rohrkaste, whose bills mirror language contained in Governor Scott Walker’s state budget. “I thought the governor’s ideas were good, and I thought it was important to build on those and add a little bit more structure.”
In addition to Rohrkaste’s drug screening bills, a second bill that would impact Wisconsin resident receiving food stamp benefits also received public hearing.
The measure from state Representative Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) would require participants in Wisconsin’s FoodShare program to spend two-thirds of their monthly allotment on nutritional foods. Brooks claimed that’s not always happening now. “I’ve gotten numerous calls, I’ve done interviews with numerous clerks that work at grocery stores, and have heard tons of stories of reported abuses,” Brooks said.
His legislation would also strike items like lobster and crab legs from the list of allowed foods. “My intent is not to stigmatize, is not shame people – although that’s been the accusation out there – into not using the program,” Brooks said. “It’s just to better align it with it’s intended purpose to be a supplemental nutritional assistance program.”
“It is seeking to legislate the urban myths in our society,” said state Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee). “It’s the fear that somebody on food stamps is buying steak and lobster and champagne, and it’s just not true.”
All three bills were heard by the Assembly Committee on Public Benefits Reform, established by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos at the start of the legislative session. “We will work to provide fair and helpful programs to Wisconsin citizens in their time of need, and to provide maximum accountability to the taxpayers who provide significant investments in these programs,” said committee chairman, Representative Mark Born. (R-Beaver Dam).