Gwen Moore
Press Release

Rep. Moore to Governor Walker: Proposal to Drug Test the Poor is Wasteful and Unconstitutional

In response to his lawsuit against the federal government over drug testing food stamp recipients, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) sent the following letter to Governor Scott Walker:

By - Jul 16th, 2015 03:19 pm

The Honorable Scott Walker
Governor
State of Wisconsin
P.O. Box 7863
Madison, WI  53707

Dear Governor Walker,

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the ill-advised and illegal proposal enacted in the recently adopted Wisconsin State budget to add a drug test as a requirement for participating in Food Share for some recipients.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is vital in helping to combat hunger in America and is a vital lifeline for over 800,000 in Wisconsin. I remind you that SNAP is a federal program and the federal government covers 100% of the costs of the benefits. Administrative costs are split between states and the federal government. As a result, federal law grants the federal government sole authority to set eligibility requirements for the program.

Yet, the State of Wisconsin seems intent on pursuing this misguided drug testing policy, though federal law on this matter is clear. After passage in the recent State Budget of this unwarranted, wasteful, and unconstitutional provision, you have now filed a frivolous lawsuit—at state taxpayer expense no less. Your lawsuit appears to implicitly acknowledge that the federal government could not legally allow this scheme to move forward and advances a very serious misinterpretation of federal law permitting drug testing for SNAP recipients that not even Republicans in Congress share.

How do I know? In 2013, I managed the time opposing the amendment that sought to permit states to add drug testing as a condition for SNAP eligibility during debate in on the farm bill in the House. That proposal (Sec. 136 of H.R. 3102, Hudson Amendment to H.R. 1947) sought to allow states to conduct drug testing for SNAP recipients beyond current law which allows states to ban or test convicted drug felons. The amendment was adopted in the House and incorporated into both H.R. 1947 and H.R. 3102. As noted by the Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee during debate on H.R. 3102, “Language allowing the States to very clearly use drug testing as a part of their SNAP application process was adopted by a majority of the votes on this floor.” It would be inconceivable that House Republicans would have pursued this legislation if your interpretation of federal law was, in fact, correct.

If I have not been clear, just over a year and a half ago, House Republicans recognized that no federal law allows drug testing of SNAP recipients by states beyond those with drug convictions. Congress then said NO to giving states that power as the House passed provisions were dropped from the final Farm Bill.

Federal law related to SNAP remains crystal clear on another item: States cannot add conditions of eligibility to SNAP, outside those required by federal law. Specifically, Section 5(b) of the Food and Nutrition Act (7 U.S.C. §2014(b)) states that “No plan of operation submitted by a State agency shall be approved unless the standards of eligibility meet those established by the Secretary, and no State agency shall impose any other standards of eligibility as a condition for participating in the program.” I applaud the work of the USDA to make sure that Wisconsin and other states are not allowed to add wasteful, unnecessary, and, in this case, unconstitutional, requirements to impose more hardships and obstacles to those who are food insecure in our communities. While you may be frustrated by this interpretation, the law remains the law.

I won’t get into the very fallacious arguments behind proposals such as this that are based on the unfounded and unwarranted presumption most of the people who use food stamps also use drugs other than to express that I have seen neither your office nor proponents in the State Legislature provide one iota of scientific evidence supporting  that contention. I do know that Florida tried to drug test applicants for TANF benefits. Besides being struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court, it was wasteful as well given that Florida spent more money reimbursing individuals for drug tests than the state saved on screening out an extremely small population (108 of 4,086 TANF applicants).

I suggest instead of wasting Wisconsin taxpayer dollars on this frivolous lawsuit, the money could be better spent trying to figure out how to help restore food assistance to the seniors in Wisconsin who saw they Food Share payments significantly cut by the 2014 farm bill. This includes seniors like 65 year old Judy Beals of Belleville, a disabled senior who relies on Social Security, who saw her benefit drop from $120 to $16. Governors in other states have stepped up to protect vulnerable citizens from losing access to SNAP benefits. Wisconsin can join them if you so choose.

Again, I urge you to abandon your attempts to impose a wasteful, unconstitutional, unnecessary, and stigmatizing provision whose only goal is to shame poor people.

Sincerely,

Gwen Moore
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

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15 thoughts on “Rep. Moore to Governor Walker: Proposal to Drug Test the Poor is Wasteful and Unconstitutional”

  1. Alene Bidwell says:

    I think the law is aimed at scaring people from even applying for food share. They couldn’t come up with anything better to get those “lazy” people off food share and unemployment, so this is what they devised to help do that. It is the most mean-spirited action I have seen for about a month. It will work in some cases even though those people have nothing to fear. But, they will more than likely have to get themselves to a clinic or somewhere specific for the testing and that might be impossible for them to do. The law is only meant to hurt people, which Walker is very good at doing, unless they are his contributors or his friends.

  2. Paul says:

    Alene, why would this law scare people from applying for needed help, unless they are using illegal drugs, this law is meant to help those with drug problems to kick the habit and become productive citizens..

  3. Alene Bidwell says:

    Paul — Have you ever heard of false positives in testing? For someone not taking drugs, then how do they prove they are not taking drugs. People who are so poor that they qualify for food share do not have money to spend on drugs. Yes, there are a few who find a way to get them anyway, but the majority of people who are out of work and need help are not hooked on drugs. When thousands of people were laid off from work in 20008/09 due to the economic collapse, they were not all unemployed because they were drug addicts. I wasn’t and I would have been really pissed to have to go for a drug test. This law is only meant to demean people who are already down on their luck and unable to find substantial work that will support them and their families. It will waste more taxpayer dollars than it would cost to give them food or unemployment.

  4. Tony Muhammad says:

    Congresswoman Moore, Governor Scott Walker is out of the office on his national campaign trail to become Americas next president in 2016 – So that he can give the nation poor what he has given Wisconsin’s poor – So that he can write executive actions that will roll back federal laws and policies protecting the poor from falling into complete social desolation, and reduce Americas working class citizens back to pre-19 Century America workforce conditions.

    What is truly sad and mind congesting about American politics today is the Republican Party (GOP) has overwhelmingly convinced “Common Joe Republicans,” that President Obama is indeed “The Boogieman” in real life. And the Republican / Tea Party represents their patriotism and pursuits of happiness in the American society.

    If what I have stated turns out to be true then its time for all Black Americans to pack up our belongings repatriate to a Nation that will allow us to participate as citizens in their form of Democracy or Socialism because capitalism here in America is kicking most of us in the behind!

  5. Paul says:

    Alene, if you really think that some people that receive food share are doing illegal drugs, you are delusional.

    Tom, what has the Democrats war on poverty done for the poor for the last fifty years, besides keeping them poor. Why did you bring race into this saying that all Black Americans should pack and leave.

  6. Alene Bidwell says:

    Paul — You couldn’t be more wrong about what I am saying. I’ve been in that position more times in my life than I wish to recall. So, I do know about the poverty trap first hand, and I know very well how people get trapped in poverty. If it were not for going back to school for an Associate Degree in Marketing, I would have remained in that trap too. And, if it were not for a government program that helped me get that education, it never would have happened. There is no way I could have afforded the education without the help. My kids got really sick of eating soup and hot dogs for two years, but it paid off in the end.

    I disagree completely with the way they run poverty programs, because they are designed to keep people in poverty. I have pointed out many times how they need to continue to help people who are gaining ground getting out of poverty by not cutting off all assistance immediately once they reach a specific dollar income. Until that happens, nothing will change. Getting out of poverty is a slow process and does not happen overnight. We have to support those who are doing everything they can to grow their personal incomes. And keep supporting them until they are on solid financial ground.

    But, what they are doing with the drug testing is not going to help anybody but a few. For the majority, besides being demeaned by people assuming they are drug addicts, it also causes them to pull away from the help they really need to take that next step up the ladder. Furthermore, unless you are truly poor and destitute, you can never fully understand the emotional pain from this type of a program. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars just like all of those WEDC loans that never got paid back. We can do better.

  7. PMD says:

    It’s very hard to believe that this is about helping people. It hasn’t been cost-effective in other states that have tried it and it’s shown that people receiving food stamps use drugs at rates lower than the general population. The provision stating that reasonable suspicion would be required to drug test someone was vetoed by Walker so that they can drug test anyone they want. And if you really want to help people on drugs, why not make drug tests mandatory for any business/organization receiving government assistance? It’s a great sound bite, to claim this is merely about trying to help people (especially for a party known for struggling with the minority vote and the perception of not being minority friendly), but it’s hard to believe.

  8. Paul says:

    PMD, we finally agree on something, that is it’s only a perception that the Republican party is not minority friendly.
    Alene, I’m glad that through these programs and a lot of work and dedication on your part, that you were able better to advance yourself and your family. The sad fact is that there are families that have been taking advantage of these programs for generations. Just the opposite of being demeaning this will prove that those collecting are drug free.

  9. PMD says:

    We don’t agree on that at all Paul, but thanks for trying to put words in my mouth. In this case, perception = reality. Please read the party’s own postmortem on the 2012 election. The GOP itself admits they have a problem with minorities.

    Also, should all employees of any organization receiving government assistance be drug tested? Why or why not?

  10. PMD says:

    Or anyone receiving any sort of government benefit? Why not drug test them too?

  11. Paul says:

    PMD, go back and reread your post, you said “( especially for a party known for struggling with the minority vote and the perception of not being minority friendly) ” I just used your words. Many companies that receive tax breaks do drug test, if the government fully funds a company like they do the welfare programs, than yes it should be mandatory.

  12. PMD says:

    And perception = reality Paul, as the GOP understands even if you do not.

  13. Tim says:

    Well, drug-testing all the people about to get on the freeway would quickly put an end to most DUIs!

  14. PMD says:

    Good point Tim. And hey you’re only trying to help them.

  15. AG says:

    Well… many states do indeed do that by using checkpoints….

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