MADISON (WQOW) – An assembly committee advanced three bills Wednesday evening aimed at amending a trio of public assistance programs.
The committee on public benefit reform passed a bill requiring applicants for state job training programs, like Wisconsin Works, to answer questionnaires meant to screen for drug abuse.
Those deemed to be possible drug abusers would then have to undergo drug testing and/or enter a treatment program to remain eligible for the subsidized worker training programs.
A similar bill, which would require drug testing for some of the applicants seeking unemployment benefits, like unemployment insurance, also passed.
“I heard it all across Wisconsin when I was out knocking on doors,” said Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), chairman of the public benefit reform committee. “People are very concerned about these systems. They want to make sure the programs are being used fairly for what they're supposed to be doing – which is helping people in their time of need.”
Minority Democrats on the committee prepared two dozen amendments to the bills. None was approved.
A democratic amendment calling for Wisconsin state lawmakers to undergo drug testing in order to receive per diem payments was not taken up.
“Lawmakers' paychecks come from taxpayers too,” said Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton). “When we take office, we should be comfortable with taking a drug test.”
“This is demoralizing and dehumanizing to folks,” Jorgensen said. “If it's not, then let's go first.”
The committee also passed a bill requiring food stamp recipients to spend roughly two thirds of their monthly benefits on foods deemed to have nutritional value – like poultry, beef and produce.
The federal government funds food stamp benefits. If approved, legislators would need a waiver to impose limitations. No state has received such a waiver to date.
All three bills are expected to be taken up by the full assembly next week.