Colo. welfare recipient drug test bill advances

DENVER (AP) — One criticism of the idea to make welfare recipients take drug tests is that lawmakers and other elected officials who also get state funds should submit themselves to the same standard.

In Colorado, lawmakers are moving to make that happen, adding the provision on a divisive bill Friday that would require drug tests for welfare applicants, and now also elected officials, including the governor.

The lawmaker who proposed the amendment, Democratic House Leader Mark Ferrandino, passed around small cups with pictures of lawmakers and the words "drug test," prompting chuckles from members of the Appropriations Committee that moved the bill to a vote of the full House. The cups listed the name of the committee as "Appropeeations."

"I brought us all cups so we can go get drug tested," Ferrandino jovially said, prompting a quip from a lawmaker that if Ferrandino was willing to take the cups, they'd be willing to take the test. Ferrandino opposes the bill.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, the bill sponsor, said he was thinking of adding the amendment even before Ferrandino proposed it. He said he's heard from people about his bill who think lawmakers should also be tested because they're paid by the state.

"I have no problem with that. I'll be the first one in line," Sonnenberg said.

His bill would require applicants of the Colorado Works Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to pay for and pass a drug test before receiving assistance. People who passed the drug test would be reimbursed for the cost. Applicants who fail the test would be ineligible for benefits for one year.

Sonnenberg said the bill is needed make sure government benefits are going to people who truly need the help, not people who are using the money for drugs.

But opponents of the legislation said it plays on inaccurate stereotypes of minorities and low-income people. They also warn that the state could face legal challenges because courts in other states have struck down similar drug-testing programs, ruling that such plans amount to an unconstitutional search of people.

"It's a bad bill," said Ferrandino, adding that it would cost more to implement and that any savings from people who get their welfare benefits revoked would be minimal.

Legislative staffers said it would cost $219,520 to have the Department of Human Service update its benefits system if the bill passes, and counties would pay an estimated $1.3 million next fiscal year to reimburse people who passed drug tests.

Sonnenberg said state officials who say the drug test would cost $45 to $100 are wrong and he's heard from businesses that the tests cost much less.

Ferrandino said the bill adds barriers to people seeking help. He said he would try to amend the bill further to make it so state officials who fail a drug test would not get paid for the year.

The bill stands a good chance to pass the House, where Republican supporters have a one-vote majority. But Democrats control the Senate, where the bill is expected to fail.

Wyoming rejected a proposal this year to require drug testing for welfare applicants.

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Comments

Andrew Russo 2 years ago

("Legislative staffers said it would cost $219,520 to have the Department of Human Service update its benefits system if the bill passes, and counties would pay an estimated $1.3 million next fiscal year to reimburse people who passed drug tests.")

It's only money....that we don't have.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

If you want to put people to work, put em' to work fixing our roads and bridges, which is a REAL issue and one of safety. Way too many are in disrepair.

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cory5611 2 years ago

This is the best use of tax payers money it will save us money and stop helping these people get drugs and drunk I have to do random drug testing at my job and if I dont pass I dont get paid and dont have a job I wished every company drug tested it would be one of the best things to happens to the county

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Nadja Rider 2 years ago

I absolutely agree that any recipient of public assistance should be drug tested. No free money for druggies and drunks. Plus testing will save money in the long run. I'm sick and tired of my heard earned money being used to support people that should be working. By drug testing, then we can at least weed out the abusers of the system. All states should institute drug testing.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Florida's welfare drug testing halted by federal judge

The state’s law requiring welfare applicants to pass drug tests was temporarily blocked by a federal judge, who indicated it likely violates the Fourth Amendment.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/24/2470519/florida-welfare-drug-testing-halted.html

http://www2.tbo.com/news/politics/2011/aug/24/3/welfare-drug-testing-yields-2-percent-positive-res-ar-252458/

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Nadja Rider 2 years ago

I'm aware of what happened in Florida and believe the judge was wrong in his ruling. Why does it not violate an employee's rights when they have to be drug tested to keep their job, but it does if they get free money? This is so wrong.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

("Why does it not violate an employee's rights when they have to be drug tested to keep their job, but it does if they get free money?")

Glad you asked that, when companies or your job drug tests it employers, not the state. Your employer can require your dress and speech (you can't dress like a Nazi, wearing a swastika armband at work and spewing white supremacy, hate rhetoric) and it does not infringe upon the 1st amendment because it isn't the government prohibiting you from doing so. At the same time you CAN go out in public dressed as you please and spew all the hate speech you want. The Constitution is to protect you from government and liberty means less government intrusion. Democracy requires minority rights equally as it does majority rule.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

("Anyone with any sense at all knows that our founding fathers never intended the Fourth Ammendment to be used in this manner.")

So YOU know the intentions of men, the great majority wealthy slave owners from over 2 centuries ago. Hilarious.

("I fear that before this stupidity ends we will need another Civil War to make it stop and cleanse this country of these crazy politicians and judges.")

This isn't the first time you've expressed this, seems to be more of a wish than a fear. Some day, you just might get what you wish for.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

('Handing out free money to drug addicts and alcoholics so they can sit at home and get drunker is just plain stupid') ('No free money for druggies and drunks.')

BTW - alcohol is legal and there is no mention of it in these bills.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

('The useless liberals in this country will eventually destroy it.")

LOL! Be afraid, be very afraid of "useless liberals" and keep up the hate rhetoric, you'll get you war if that's what you want, hope you like war....it's a real "blast"

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment fourth amendment: an overview

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Ultimately, these words endeavor to protect two fundamental liberty interests - the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary invasions.

A search occurs when an expectation of privacy that society considers reasonable is infringed by a governmental employee or by an agent of the government. Private individuals who are not acting in either capacity are exempt from the Fourth Amendment prohibitions.

A seizure refers to the interference with an individual's possessory interest in property. To meet the definition of an unreasonable seizure, the property's owner must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the items seized. A person is seized when law enforcement personnel use physical force to restrain the person if a reasonable person in the same or a similar situation would not feel free to leave the situation. The previous owner of abandoned property cannot allege an unreasonable seizure of that abandoned property. Abandoned property is property left behind by its owner in a manner in which the owner abandons the possessory interest in the property and no longer retains a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to the search.

The prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures particularly affects the work of law enforcement personnel by restricting the actions that they may take in performing a criminal investigation; however, the ban also disallows unreasonable searches and seizures in the civil litigation context. Law enforcement may only conduct a search if individualized suspicion motivates the search. The Fourth Amendment prohibits generalized searches, unless extraordinary circumstances place the general public in danger.

To sue regarding an alleged Fourth Amendment violation, the plaintiff must have standing. Standing with respect to Fourth Amendment violations requires that the plaintiff have had a legitimate expectation of privacy at the searched location. A legitimate expectation of privacy must meet both the subjective and objective tests of reasonableness. The subjective test requires that the plaintiff actually and genuinely expected privacy, and the objective test requires that given the circumstances, a reasonable person in the same or a similar situation would have expected privacy as well.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies the Fourth Amendment's provisions against the states as well as the federal government. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

The Exclusionary Rule

Courts ordinarily suppress evidence obtained during an unreasonable search or seizure and offered against the accused. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961). This rule, known as the exclusionary rule, applies equally to both the investigatory and accusatory stages of a criminal prosecution. The Warrant Requirement

In order to avoid illegally searching or seizing the property of a suspect, law enforcement personnel typically obtain search warrants. To obtain a search warrant, law enforcement must show probable cause, must support the showing by oath or affirmation, and must describe in particularity the place they will search and the items they will seize. A judge can find probable cause only be examining the totality of the circumstances.

Different types of warrants exist. A knock-and-announce warrant requires law enforcement personnel to knock on the door of a residence and announce their identity before entering, giving the owner or occupier an opportunity to answer the door. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that law enforcement's failure to knock or announce when in possession of a knock-and-announce warrant does not necessitate use of the exclusionary rule. See Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586 (2006).

No knock warrants allow law enforcement personnel to enter a building or home without announcing their presence and without knocking on the door first. Courts reserve these warrants for situations in which a building's owner or occupier could destroy the sought-after evidence by the time law enforcement waits for the owner or occupier to open the door.

An anticipatory warrant grants police officers a warrant that becomes valid after some future triggering condition occurs. Courts reserve these types of warrants for situations in which police have probable cause that at some future time evidence in a particular location will become available. Although United States v. Grubbs presented a challenge to the constitutionality of this type of warrant, the U.S. Supreme Court found that anticipatory warrants do not violate the Fourth Amendment's Warrant Clause. 547 U.S. 90 (2006).

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

Exceptions to the warrant requirement exist, however. The plain view doctrine is one exception. Pursuant to the plain view doctrine, if a government agent takes possession of property not included within the warrant but that was in the plain view of the government agent, then the property may be taken. A seizure of evidence in plain view does not compromise any further expectation of privacy than that already compromised by the warrant and thus serves as the rationale behind the plain view doctrine.

Officers can also search and seize objects on a person if the officer has placed the person under arrest. This exception extends to situations in which the police in good-faith mistakenly arrest the wrong suspect and seize contraband during the search. If a suspect, either during a traffic stop or otherwise, makes a furtive gesture, the gesture justifies a limited warrantless police intrusion.

At times exigent circumstances will make obtaining a warrant impractical. The law permits officers to make warrantless searches and seizures if they find that exigent circumstances exist and that they have probable cause. An exigent circumstance exists when an officer has a compelling need to take official action but lacks the time needed to acquire a warrant. Determining probable cause in this context requires a consideration of the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an officer acted in accord with a high probability that the search would turn up contraband or evidence. The decision maker must examine the facts making up the totality of the circumstances from the viewpoint of an objectively reasonable officer prior to making the arrest.

If officers enter a residence or building without a warrant to assist in an emergency, the entry does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Electronic Searches and Seizures

The interplay between the Fourth Amendment and electronic searches and seizures has received much attention from the courts in recent years. With the advent of the internet and increased popularity of computers, law enforcement has witnessed a continually increasing amount of crime occurring electronically. Consequently, evidence of such crime can often be found on computers, hard drives, or other electronic devices. Yet, the parameters of the Fourth Amendment do not cease in the realm of searching electronic devices.

Many electronic search cases have involved whether law enforcement can search the company-owned computer that an employee uses to conduct business. Although the case law is split, the majority holds that employees do not have legitimate expectations of privacy with regard to information stored on company-owned computers. In the 2010 case of City of Ontario v. Quon (08-1332), the Supreme Court extended this lack of an expectation of privacy to text messages sent and received on a public employer-owned pager.

Electronic surveillance and wiretapping has also caused a significant amount of Fourth Amendment litigation lately. The USA PATRIOT Act<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congress and the President enacted legislation to strengthen the intelligence gathering community’s ability to combat domestic terrorism. Entitled the USA Patriot Act, the legislation’s provisions aimed to increase the ability of law enforcement to search email and telephonic communications in addition to medical, financial, and library records.

One provision permitted law enforcement to obtain access to tapping stored voicemails by obtaining a basic search warrant rather than a surveillance warrant. Obtaining the former requires a much lower evidentiary showing.A highly-controversial provision of the Act included permission for law enforcement to use sneak-and-peak warrants. A sneak-and-peak warrant is a warrant in which law enforcement can delay notifying the property owner about the warrant’s issuance. In an Oregon federal district court case that drew national attention, Judge Ann Aiken struck down the use of sneak-and-peak warrants as unconstitutionally violative of the Fourth Amendment. See 504 F.Supp.2d 1023 (D. Or. 2007).

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

The "Founding Fathers" didn't foresee any of this either but here it is. Those damn liberals and their liberty.....

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Those damn liberals and their Declaration of Independence...

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

"I believe in a republican form of government (representative government with the different classes and powers balancing each other) and that this government should have powers limited by a constitution. I am a conservative liberal. Although the signers of the Declaration of Independence could not be considered conservative from a British viewpoint, they certainly were from an American perspective.

These leading men were also liberal in the classical sense of “a commitment to the liberty of individual citizens,” “the proper role of just government as the protection of the liberties of individual citizens,” and “a commitment to a system of free markets.” As Frederick Douglass said about the signers of the Declaration of Independence: “They loved their country better than their own private interests… In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests… They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny.”

Therein lay the delicate balance. The Founding Fathers wished to protect the liberties of the American colonists and stop British tyranny while still maintaining law and order. I have the same goals as our Founding Fathers. I want to promote liberty by removing the tyranny of an abusive and unresponsive government. That makes me a classical liberal. (Modern liberals, or neo-liberals, believe in something entirely different.) While I would love to see a dramatically smaller government, I do not believe we can go from a government spending 40% of GDP to one spending just 10% of GDP overnight. It will take many years. Drastic changes in the nature of our government done overnight would create so much chaos that it would give demagogues the opportunity to seize power. This makes me a conservative in the classical sense of the word.

So please, call me a conservative liberal. More so, learn what it means to be a conservative liberal and we can follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers."

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Nadja Rider 2 years ago

Airborne, the bottom line is if I have to work my ass off and pay taxes and be tested, then I believe recipients of my hard earned money should at least prove that they're worthy of my $$. If you don't believe that's fair, then I don't want to pay taxes either and I will choose who receives help from me.

I will say it again, I hope all states wake up and figure out how to cut out the druggies and lazies from getting my hard earned money. If that sounds harsh, too bad.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

"Only an insane person wishes for war, but I still believe that if our current situation doesn't change, it will lead to a second American Civil War. People are growing tired of being taken advantage of so the loosers in this country can sit on their rear ends and accomplish nothing."

LOL! Dang loosers....

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

You are right, the 4th Amendment is being ignored anyway, the government should just drug test every citizen. In the period since September 11, 2001, the US government has secretly compiled vast databases containing private information on the American public. These databases include telephone conversations, the contents of personal emails, visited web sites, Google searches, text messages, credit card transactions, mobile phone GPS location data, travel itineraries, Facebook activity, medical records, traffic tickets, surveillance camera footage and online purchases. The vast quantities of information that are being collected and stored by the US government far exceed what was gathered by the most infamous police states of the last century. So what's wrong with drug testing not only every poor person applying for assistance but everyone in general.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

("I will say it again, I hope all states wake up and figure out how to cut out the druggies and lazies from getting my hard earned money. If that sounds harsh, too bad.")

Doesn't sound harsh, just illegal. That is if the 4th Amendment meant anything anymore. Since habeas corpus has been suspended, again, may as well suspend the 4th Amendment too, seems it has been anyway. And when that civil war comes around, again, the states won't have any say anyway. The 10th Amendment will be suspended too as it was by Mr. Lincoln. Not that federal law doesn't supersede state law already.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

(“So YOU know the intentions of men, the great majority wealthy slave owners from over 2 centuries ago. Hilarious.”

That is a bold statement since you obviously think you do!)

Not so bold, I have no idea what the intentions of the plutocrats of that time were, only what they wrote in the Constitution and how the courts interpret it. Look for "4th Amendment case law," if you are interested. The courts don't go by "intentions" of the authors when interpreting the Bill of Rights or every citizen just might be granted habeas corpus.

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Warrants don't magically make unconstitutional laws legal...

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cory5611 2 years ago

The one thang everyone seems to forget about since spet 11 2011 they do not need a warrant under the patriot act and they have proven that time after time they can enter any thang you owen and claim you have drugs and the money for those drugs was used for war funding or crimes against the usa . And I hope the pass drug testing it would be the best thing this state has done on a long time

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Perfect, just use either the Patriot Act or the National Defense Appropriation Act of 2012, declare all public assistance applicants suspected terrorists and put them all in indefinite detention, without charge before a judge (habeas corpus) or trial. Maybe Florida should do that after a Federal Judge suspended that drug testing program on 4th Amendment grounds.

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cory5611 2 years ago

Hey I have to follow strick guide lines for my job and if I dont I loose my job and money and with hauling Haz-Mat I have state and local and feds looking at what I do I have to acct for every thing that I haul. And they what to bitch about peeing in a cup. Truck drivers are subject to random drug test that the goverment has set. Then if there is a accident and even if truck driver is not at fault he still has to drug test so guess what these people can to for free money

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

Maybe they'll use the Patriot Act against YOU....

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Andrew Russo 2 years ago

A number of judges have already ruled that drug testing applicants for public assistance goes against the 4th amendment. The Florida program has been halted because of it.

("Or maybe since Airborne thinks that the drunks and druggies deserve to get free money to but booze and drugs with, then he should pay for all of them.")

The proposed statute is for illegal DRUG testing(which weeded out a whopping 2% in Florida), not alcohol, which is LEGAL. If you really want to make this personal by the above comment, as opposed to a discussion about the Constitutionality of the law then you'll do it by yourself. Have fun.

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Nadja Rider 2 years ago

I agree 2% is better than 0%. I'm also betting that if the law had been allowed to stand, it would have weeded out a lot more. I think we need some new judges... but that's a whole new discussion.

Sure alcohol may be legal, but when a person is supposedly destitute and relies on public assistance, why should our tax $$ be funding drugs or alcohol? I'm not opposed to helping folks that truly need a helping hand, but our system is being overwhelmingly abused. It needs to end.

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native_craig_guy 2 years ago

Collection of public data and usage information is not an unreasonable search.... Remember when the entire "Twitter" Database including every tweet that was ever sent was obtained by the library of Congress? Your right to privacy when dealing in a public forum is not protected, its as simple as that because you have no expectation of privacy. There are Federal Laws on the books that require drug testing for people who meet a certain criteria, Federal DOT Standards (29 CFR 40, I believe). So this is not a new topic.... It is interesting though that you cannot receive Federal Student Loans if you have a drug conviction, but you can receive welfare.... I think that you should be required to take drug tests to obtain student loans as well.....

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Becky Plummer 2 years ago

If they don't want to be tested then don't apply for assistance, if they apply for assistance then they should expect and therefore must consent to the test, problem solved....

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