Missouri Legislature Sends Governor Bill to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

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.

David Robertson, political science professor at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, spoke to Missouri Public Radio about Nixon's next steps on this and a few other controversial bills.

“Governor Nixon is going to have to decide on that fine line between taking a number of actions that could make the base of his support angry in the Democratic Party, versus taking positions that aid his Republican opponents,” Robertson said.

The bill would require testing based on a "reasonable suspicion" that that person is using drugs. The bill’s proponents believe this provision allays any constitutional questions. Opponents to the bill in Missouri and elsewhere argue the bill is unconstitutional and that federal courts have agreed.

Several other states have considered similar drug testing bills this legislative session. Bills failed to pass in Kentucky, New Mexico, South Dakota, Florida, and West Virginia before those legislatures adjourned.

In Illinois, HB 1402 would require drug testing for legislative candidates. The bill has not advanced so far in the 2011 session.

CSG Resources

  • “Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients,” CSG E-Newsletter, February 3, 2011.

Other Resources

  • “Missouri Legislature approves drug tests for welfare recipients,” May 11, 2011. St. Louis Today.com
  • “States eye drug tests for welfare recipients,” May 11, 2011 Seattle PI