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Hurley stands by bill to test those seeking state assistance

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By Damon Lawrence

State Rep. Julia Hurley is staying the course on her drug testing for welfare recipients bill, despite a Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion that questions the legality of the legislation.

“This measure is about accountability and proper fiscal management,” Hurley, R-Lenoir City, was quoted in a press release emailed to media last Thursday.

House Bill 2725, which is sponsored by Hurley, has been placed on a finance subcommittee calendar for Wednesday.

It would require Temporary Assistance for Needy Families applicants to take a drug test before receiving benefits.

State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

“Taxpayers don’t want individuals who are clearly taking advantage of the system in order to procure more illegal drugs to benefit from hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” Hurley was quoted.

“We need to help those families who need legitimate support, not those trying to milk the system.”

Hurley’s bill is not the only one pending in the legislature that seeks implementation of a testing program as a condition for public assistance.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. released an opinion on the proposed bills last month. In regard to the Hurley/Campfield legislation, Cooper said the reach of it “would be severely constrained since current federal law as interpreted by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals prohibits suspicionless drug testing of TANF applicants as unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Hurley said she’s not going to be deterred by Cooper’s opinion.

“The AG and this General Assembly have had many differing opinions over the last session,” Hurley said via email after Cooper released his opinion. “I believe this bill is what the people of the state of Tennessee and I believe. I will stand up for that request.”