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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Montana House Approves Drug Testing For Welfare Applicants

Montana Legislature

The Montana House today approved a bill to screen everyone who applies for financial assistance for drug abuse.

The sponsor, Republican Randall Pinocci of Sun River, says the bill is not about punishing people.

"House Bill 200 provides help for those who need it, for those who want it, without fear of losing their benefits, or the children they love."

Applicants would first complete a questionnaire. Those whose results suggested a drug problem would next have to take a drug test and enter a treatment program to receive benefits.  

Missoula Democrat Ellie Boldman Hill said Pinocci’s bill is modeled after a failed program in Utah.

"In Utah after 4,730 applicants, they rooted out 12 drug tests," Hill noted. "And they spent $30,000 for twelve positive drug tests."

Hill did not mention that more than 240 Utah applicants dropped their application for benefits rather than take a drug test, saving the state $350,000, according to officials there.

The bill passed the House 56 to 44.  Opponents say it’s a prime target for a veto if it ever reaches the Governor’s desk.

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