Deal Delays Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will delay enforcement of a controversial law that allows for drug testing of some welfare recipients.As heard on the radio

House Bill 772 went into effect Tuesday, but Deal’s spokesperson Brian Robinson said the state won’t enforce it until a Federal Appeals Court rules on a related Florida law.

Robinson said the state delayed enforcement in order to avoid “needless litigation.”  

“If the court gives us some finality that allows us to move forward with this more narrowly tailored law, then we’ll implement it,” he said.

Georgia’s delay comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year said a portion of the law permitting drug testing for food stamp recipients violates federal policy.

Robinson still defended the law, calling it “one most Georgians can get behind.”

“Let’s just wait a few months,” he said, “see what the court says, see if they provide a pathway for us to implement this law.”

The state General Assembly in 2012 passed a law to drug test all food stamp and welfare recipients. However that law was never implemented after Florida’s law, which Georgia modeled its own law after, was struck down.

But Georgia Republican lawmakers this year thought they’d found a way around a potential constitutional challenge: only test recipients deemed reasonably suspicious of drug use.

The move prompted threats of legal action from a handful of organization, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

“It remains to be seen whether this law can be implemented in a way to provide for true reasonable suspicion,” said Chad Brock of the ACLU of Georgia.

Brock praised the governor’s decision to delay enforcement, adding the ruling on Florida’s law could have some bearing on Georgia’s now more tailored law.

Still, he said the ACLU would move forward with a lawsuit should the state move forward with the law.