Bills Requiring Welfare Recipients To Pass Drug Tests; Do Volunteer Work Move Through Michigan Legislature

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The Michigan State Senate has approved a measure that requires able-bodied welfare recipients to show a little good faith if they’re willing to ask for, and receive, government assistance.

According to CBS Detroit, the State Senate passed a bill requiring those receiving public assistance to perform volunteer work. The House Commerce Committee, meanwhile, has vetted a separate bill that would require periodic drug testing, and that would revoke the benefits of any recipient who declines to take the tests, or tests positive.

“The whole intention is to make certain folks have some skin in the game, and I don’t feel that there’s any problem with making folks go out and do some kind of community service in order to receive their cash assistance,” said Republican State Senator Joe Hune, who sponsored the volunteer bill.

The legislation isn’t sitting well with some Democrats, though. “These people, they already need as much money as they can get, they wouldn’t be asking for it if they didn’t need it,” said Democratic State Senator Vincent Gregory. “… A lot of people are embarrassed to even be there [asking for benefits], and they have this put on them — It’s this feeling that ‘This is what the public wants.’ But the public doesn’t want to see people beaten down.”

The legislation has been written to allow for a lot of leeway in its implementation, with Hune noting that the State’s Department of Human Services is better equipped than elected politicians to implement the new programs on a functional level – should the two bills become law.

An accompanying viewer poll on the CBS Detroit website asked readers, “Should People Be required To Perform Community Service To Receive Welfare?”

At last check, the “yesses” had a slight lead over the “nos” – 97.23 percent to 2.77.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.