PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 14, 2012

Deshotel challenges Gov. Perry to support drug testing for state officials

Josh Brown
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — State Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, is challenging state leaders to support a mandatory drug test for any person receiving government money, including business owners and elected officials, in response to Gov. Rick Perry backing a similar regulation for welfare recipients.

At a speaking event in Austin on Tuesday, Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gave their support to a proposed bill by Republican Sen. Jane Nelson that would make anyone filing for state welfare benefits pass a drug test.

Deshotel responded in a statement released Wednesday that asked for the governor’s support in requiring a drug test when someone applies to run for state office. He said anyone who receives state funds, be it students seeking financial aid or grants for small business owners, should be subjected to a drug test.

“If you’re going to test this one group you have to test them all,” he said. “It’s all or none.”

The goal of the statement, Deshotel said, was to point out the flaws with testing one group that receives money from the state while ignoring everyone else.

He said the proposed bill makes a specific implication that people receiving benefits use drugs and that it “would single out poor families” because they are the main recipients of state aid.

Florida implemented a similar law last year that saved the state almost no money and found few drugs dealers, according to the New York Times.

During the state’s four-month testing period, before the law was suspended by a temporary injunction, only 2.6 percent of welfare applicants failed the drug test.

“The cost was significantly more than the benefit,” Deshotel said. “The same thing would happen in Texas.”

Drug testing is expensive, according to Deshotel’s statement, and more than 45,000 applications were filed this October to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

“Texas taxpayers would benefit most if its state leaders kept their focus on the economy and education instead of making cynical attempts to legislate people’s personal decisions,” the statement said.

The governor was likely pandering to a specific group at his speaking engagement, Deshotel said, and people on welfare are an easy target.

“Unfortunately, there is a group out there that thinks this way,” he said.

Deshotel said he wants testing available if there is evidence a person is abusing drugs, but he does not think everyone should be presumed guilty.

“I don’t want them to use these people because they’re down and out,” he said. “It makes them an easy target.”