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State lawmaker embarrasses himself on drug testing bill

 Tommy Tucker 2There are so many reasons that it is a ridiculous idea to require drug tests for all applicants for Work First/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or “TANF” benefits (as proposed by multiple state senators) that it’s hard to know where to begin.

It would be absurdly expensive. It would likely catch a tiny number of people. It would likely undermine the state’s ongoing successful efforts to help get people with drug abuse problems into treatment. It is also absurdly unfair to pick only on TANF recipients — Why not all college students? Or all legislators? Or all recipients of economic incentive giveaways?

But here’s another and less debatable reason: It’s unconstitutional.  Last month, the Federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta unanimously struck down a Florida law that is the basis of the North Carolina proposal.

According to the court:

“Here, the state argues that there is a ‘special need’ to test TANF applicants because TANF funds should not be used for drugs as drug use undermines the program’s goals of moving applicants into employment and promoting child welfare and family stability. But this argument, which assumes drug use, begs the question. The question is not whether drug use is detrimental to the goals of the TANF program, which it might be. Instead, the only pertinent inquiry is whether there is a substantial special need for mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of TANF recipients when there is no immediate or direct threat to public safety, when those being searched are not directly involved in the frontlines of drug interdiction, when there is no public school setting where the government has a responsibility for the care and tutelage of its young students, or when there are no dire consequences or grave risk of imminent physical harm as a result of waiting to obtain a warrant if a TANF recipient, or anyone else for that matter, is suspected of violating the law. We conclude that, on this record, the answer to that question of whether there is a substantial special need for mandatory suspicionless drug testing is ‘no.’”

Unfortunately, Senator Tommy Tucker (pictured above) isn’t apparently interested  in the law or the constitution. According to Laura Leslie of WRAL who covered the Senate Judiciary 2 Committee meeting this morning on the bill, Tucker said the following when N.C. Justice Center lawyer Bill Rowe (an attorney with nearly 30 years’ of expertise in such matters) pointed out the unconstitutionality of the proposed law:

“You’re OK with (drug users) getting federal dollars if they’ve had a doobie and get the munchies and need more food stamps? Sit down.”

Tucker, the owner of a heating and cooling business who “attended” N.C. State and has no evident experience in the law is obviously the one who should sit down.

12 Comments

  1. Regina

    April 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    NC GOP so worried someone is smoking a doobie and then using Food stamps to buy munchies. Worrisome they find that more important than background checks for GUNS. Their ideology in a nutshell if you ask me. Don’t feed, educate, assist, protect or otherwise treat NC citizens as anything except the criminals they GOP evidently think we are.

  2. Gene Bridges

    April 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    He’s an idiot. Not only does such a blanket restriction run afoul of the 4th Amendment, it runs afoul of the NC Constitution. Our own state constitution is very specific: General warrants, whereby any officer or other person may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the act committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted. On this basis, according to our own courts, we can’t randomly drug test our own teachers, so why on earth does this man think we can do it to TANF recipients?

  3. Frances Jenkins

    April 10, 2013 at 1:48 am

    So if drug users get food stamps for their children/family, surely you are not indicating they are buying food and not using it for drugs????? Then you are smoking crack. Attack the problem not the message. Alcoholics and drug abusers use food stamps to purchase food and then sell it at a reduced rate. How are you going to stop this? The family is straving. Stop bashing Senator Tucker. Jesus would want you to stop the bashing.

  4. david esmay

    April 10, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Frances, you need to put your crack pipe down and just walk away.

  5. Alex

    April 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

    The federal government is by far the largest drug pusher in this country. Just ask yourself where the money comes from to enable folks in our poor drug-infested communities to purchase large amounts of illegal drugs, Much of the federal entitlement dollar ends up in the hands of the drug dealers, and eventually back to the Latin cartels. Then we turn around and spend billions of dollars on this crazy “War on Drugs”, and we end up incarcerating the same folks we are trying to help.The whole thing is totally insane !

  6. Gene Bridges

    April 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Frances writes: Alcoholics and drug abusers use food stamps to purchase food and then sell it at a reduced rate. and Alex writes;Much of the federal entitlement dollar ends up in the hands of the drug dealers, and eventually back to the Latin cartels.

    Here’s the problem with that: Study after study after study has shown that the rate of drug use by those in populations that receive entitlement dollars / are eligible to receive such dollars is no higher than the rate in the general population, and in some states it is lower. In NC, that’s right at 8 percent. So, if it’s true that lots of the “entitlement dollars” are going to fund drug use, it would be no more than 8 percent of those dollars, give or take a few tenths of a percent, not vast amounts of those dollars.

    Frances in particular is addressing a straw man – nobody is arguing that these things don’t happen. Rather, the argument is that a blanket law like the one proposed violates the both the Bill of Rights and the NC Constitution. Our rights don’t end when we apply for food stamps. Applying for food stamps does not count as an abdication of those rights – the courts have rule on that argument already when it comes to drug testing.

    Jesus would want Frances to both learn to love the 9th Commandment by telling the truth about her opposition’s views and living within the bounds of the civil law under the principles laid down in the New Testament. Jesus, by the way, isn’t against “bashing” anybody when there is justification for it. Frances must have a sanitized version of the Bible. In reality, the Bible employs harsh, judgmental language for apostates, false teachers, and other enemies of the faith, etc.. The Bible is full of taunt-songs. Frances should acquaint herself with them.

    Remember that,in addition to this, in Scripture, most false teachers are also professing believers. So merely calling yourself a Christian or a believer or pointing to the fact that somebody is trying to “do something,” doesn’t immunize you or that person from judgmental language where appropriate. It is our Christian duty to analogize from Biblical cases to contemporary cases.

  7. Chris

    April 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I think Alex is suggesting that the War on Drugs is a failure and needs to be re-evaluated. If that is the case, I agree.

  8. Alex

    April 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Gene, if you go into the small towns like I do where there are few jobs and a large portion of the population is on federal assistance, you would get laughed at with the 8% figure. I don’t know who did the study, but just ask some law enforcement folks that same question, and I guarantee you would get a much different answer. There are many communities in Raleigh and Durham that are so drug-infested it’s hard to find anyone not associated one way or the other. If no one is working in these communities, you can bet Uncle Sam is picking up the tab.

  9. Chris

    April 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    It isn’t only the poor people who need government assistance doing drugs. So the implication that all poor people have a drug problem is less reliable than using studies without providing a link to them.

    It also seems to be the established truth that drug use is inherently bad, a concept with which I disagree, but if that is the case perhaps we should start euthanizing the poor since there aren’t enough sticks and hoops around to keep them occupied while they live in squalor.

  10. david esmay

    April 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    As usual Ad Hominem Alex gets it backwards. The biggest drug pushers in this country are the giant pharmaceutical corporations, their CEO’s, congressmen who pass laws to subsidize them and the doctors they pay off to sell their over priced medicine. http://www.propublica.org/article/dollars-for-docs-mints-a-millionaire

  11. Alex

    April 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

    That’s exactly right david Ventura ! Everything is a conspiracy! You take paranoia to a different level !

  12. Rebecca Forbes

    April 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    As usual, our NC Legislators are making themselves look silly before a world out there that has found productive ways to deal with drug related issues. Federally on the horizon there is coming a wash of new drug policy because the science, the facts, and the public polls are showing that over 78% of Americans agree, the DRUG war is a complete failure and that we are destroying families with the insane laws in place. We are spending millions arresting people for low level drug charges to make money for the lawyers and the Justice System and law enforcement while rapists, and murderers would still get freaking food stamps. We have created a mentality that somehow human behaviour can be legislated even in regards to soft drugs like Cannabis, which is what most people would bust positive for under this type of Legislation. On March 12th, 2013 our own Federal Govt. came clean on National news that Cannabis ( AKA marijuana) is in fact killing cancer cells, and being made into pharma drugs by GW Pharma with the recently granted US Patent for cannabinoids… we live in an insane world that needs some serious changes…. but not this kind. It is time for a reality check.