New welfare drug-testing law could hit legal snag - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

New welfare drug-testing law could hit legal snag


Just because you're on welfare doesn't mean you're a criminal, said Sarita Martin, a single mother and information technology specialist.

"Sometimes people fall on bad terms, they're not necessarily bad people, they're not all drug deals or something like that," Martin said.

In the 1990s, Martin could not find work and had to apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Martin would've felt humiliated if she had to take a drug test to get her benefits.

"I have never done drugs or anything like that - that would be an insult," Martin said.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law to require some people applying for welfare benefits to pass drug tests, but he won't enforce it - at least not right away.

Page Pate, a constitutional law expert, said the state may be hard pressed to ever enforce the mandate.

"I'm very skeptical. A court would have a time trying to apply that law as it's currently written," Pate said.

Florida is appealing a federal judge's ruling against a similar law there.

If the appeals court strikes down the Florida law, it could cast doubt on the Georgia law and the governor has said he does not want a costly legal battle.

"It's a good idea to wait and see what the circuit court of appeals does," Pate said.

There is one thing could save the Georgia law.

It does not mandate drug testing for all welfare applicants, just ones who are suspected of using drugs.

Pate said the law still could run into legal wall.

"Who's going to determine it: a judge, a caseworker, the person giving the funds?" Pate asked.

Under the law, the state would reimburse applicants for the cost of the drug test if they pass.

CBS46 called the governor's office to find out if Governor Deal believes the law can withstand a court challenge, or if the state will ever enforce the law.

The governor's office has not returned our calls.

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