Legislative and Regulatory Action

In a ruling that may have implications for other states, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the law strongly supported by Florida Gov. Rick Scott that would have required drug testing for applicants of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal welfare program known as TANF.

In a unanimous ruling (see the text here) on Dec. 3, 2014, the panel of judges said it was unconstitutional to force applicants to surrender their rights to receive assistance.

A federal bill to require drug testing of welfare recipients was introduced by Tennessee Representative Stephen Fincher last week. In a move to answer constitutionality concerns, the bill proposes to require applicants to waive their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing before qualifying for assistance. States would be required to certify that they test at least 20 percent of applicants or lose 10 percent of their Temporary Assistance to Families (TANF) funding.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill to require applicants for cash assistance from the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program – also known as the welfare program called TANF.  House Bill 861 requires that applicants pay for the test. They will be reimbursed if they pass the drug test.  They are denied benefits if they fail the test.

The money-saving argument of supporters of mandatory drug testing for applicants for state assistance programs has been disputed by new data from Florida just reported by the New York Times.  From July through October, 2011, drug testing cost the state $118,140. The small number who failed the test, 108 out of 4,086, and were denied benefits didn’t outweigh the overall tests costs – the program still ended up costing state government $45,780 according to analysis of state data completed by the ACLU in Florida.

The Florida Senate recently approved HB 1205, which would allow state agency heads to randomly drug test state employees. The bill is the nation’s first and only law that allows random drug testing of state employees without a specific suspicion in individual cases or when an employee’s position is “safety sensitive” – like someone who handles heavy machinery.

On Monday, a senate committee in Georgia approved a bill to require drug testing for applicants to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provides cash assistance to low-income families with children.

Senate Bill 292, sponsored by John Albers, from Roswell, Georgia, is based on a similar measure passed last year in Florida. Implementation of the Florida law has been blocked by a federal court judge.

The numbers are eye opening. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicaid, estimates that improper payments in the Medicaid program totaled $21.9 billion in fiscal year 2011. And the national payment error rate (called the “PERM” rate)[1] for Medicaid was 8.1 percent in the same year. Although these figures are reported annually, they are receiving even more attention this year than usual. That’s in part due to the stress that federal and state governments are under to trim budgets and increase the efficiency of programs, but also because, for the first time, CMS has released state-by-state breakdowns of individual state error rates. 

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law an historic overhaul of the country’s welfare programs. Fifteen years later, during one of the most prolonged economic downturns in U.S. history, some states are actually seeing declines in the number of their citizens accessing TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - which is the nation’s cash assistance program for poor families with children.

Under Massachusetts law, foundation leaders previously thought they were exempt from policies that prohibited stipend pay to board members. But a new law proposed by attorney general Martha Coakley aims to prohibit board pay for foundations as well.

The new bill stemmed from public debate over the four nonprofit health insurers in Massachusetts who pay five-figure stipends to board members. Two have now suspended their board pay.

Foundations argue that because their board members come from diverse backgrounds,...

On May 10, the Missouri House gave final approval to HB 73, requiring drug testing of adults who receive cash assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The bill goes on to Governor Jay Nixon. He has 15 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

This Act establishes a process to enable a mutual insurer to convert to a stock insurer in a manner consistent with the manner in which a mutual savings institution converts from mutual to a stock form under federal law and regulation. The purpose of the Act is to help facilitate the recapitalization of insurance industry by establishing a method of capital formation for insurers that elect to domicile in the state.