HF1889: Legislation that Wastes Taxpayer Money and Government Time

January 27, 2012

HF1889/SFXXX: Legislation that Wastes Taxpayer Money and Government Time
Drug Testing Applicants for the Minnesota Family Investment Program and General Assistance

HF1889/SFXX is a New Unfunded Mandate on Counties, Local Law Enforcement, and the Judiciary
Contrary to the stated intent of the Legislature to relive local governments of unfunded mandates, HF1889/SFXX imposes a new, unfunded bureaucratic mandate requiring drug testing. The legislation creates significant new responsibilities for counties without providing counties with additional funds to implement the staff training, testing and storage practices, or computer systems modifications required to implement the mandate. Nor are Local law enforcement agencies given any additional funds to provide “once per month” arrest records to hundreds of social services providers across the state. Finally, the courts are not appropriated additional funds to address an inevitable increase in appeals.

HF1889/SFXX Forces Minnesota Taxpayers to Foot the Bill for Negative Tests
HF1889/SFXX requires the State to reimburse applicants for a negative test result. In Florida’s recent experience with drug testing, a mere 2% of applicants tested positive. Therefore, under this bill, Minnesota taxpayers could be asked to engage in the extremely wasteful reimbursement of expenses for the 98% of applicants whose tests are negative. Drug testing can range from $15 to $150 depending on the test.

State Law Already Allows Counties Test Persons with a Prior Drug Conviction
Counties already have the power to test persons with prior drug convictions and to sanction participants for a positive test. The Department of Human Services reports fewer than 20 positive drug tests in the past 14 years.

HF1889/SFXX is Likely Unconstitutional
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, a person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches. It is well established that a drug test is considered a intrusive search. Government has the burden of showing that such intrusions are based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing or there exists a special government need – such as the protection of public safety – to drug test. The test required by HF 1889/SFXX is an unreasonable search because it is not motivated by individualized, reasonable suspicion of drug use and public safety is not implicated. The courts have never recognized the wholesale deputization of a State’s county workers to find suspicion based on arbitrary indicators created in the bill (i.e., “bizarre behavior, odor of alcohol, twitching, inability to verbalize, nausea”). Such indicators are more likely to erroneously single out persons with disabilities, chronic physical illness, and mental health challenges than they are to detect drug use. The courts have long held that there are “few activities in society more personal or private than the passing of urine.” Due to a lack of empirical data showing low-income people as likely drug users, the Courts have explicitly and continually dismissed “special need” arguments such as the necessity to save taxpayer dollars or to protect children from their parents.

HF1889/SFXX is Discriminatory
If HF1889/SFXXX is intended to protect the integrity of all Minnesota taxpayer dollars, then the legislation should apply to all who receive money from the government — state agency workers; legislators; students receiving educational grants and loans; small business owners receiving state subsidies; veterans receiving state benefits; the elderly, the blind and disabled receiving state benefits; and unemployment insurance applicants. Unless the Legislature can show higher incidents of illegal drug use among low-income parents and disabled adults in MFIP and general assistance, the legislation as written is discriminatory.