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When North Carolina lawmakers passed a law last year mandating drug testing of public benefit recipients modeled (at least in part) on a law in Florida, civil liberties and anti-poverty advocates told them it was a bad and unconstitutional idea.

Today those advocates are feeling some vindication as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1tth Circuit stuck down Florida’s law. This is from the New York Times story:

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled that the law, one of the strictest in the country, was an unreasonable search because Florida officials had failed to show a “substantial need” to test all people who applied for welfare benefits. Applicants were required to submit to urine tests, a measure that Mr. Scott said would protect children of welfare applicants by ensuring that their parents were not buying and using drugs.

“The state has not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population,” the panel said in its unanimous decision, using an acronym for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

North Carolina’s law is not identical, but the same basic logic ought to apply: If we’re going to start doing forced bodily searches of welfare recipients, there’s no logical reason the state shouldn’t be able to mandate such tests for all recipients of public benefits — from college students to Social Security beneficiaries.

let’s hope this decision heralds th beginning of the end for such invasive and ill-conceived programs.

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The NC House took less than an hour Tuesday to override Governor Pat McCrory’s vetoes of two bills that would require drug screening for some welfare recipients, and broaden an exemption for the E-Verify immigration system.

Rep. Jim Fulghum, M.D. urged his colleagues to sustain the governor’s veto of House Bill 392. He argued that the drug-screening bill failed to solve any real problems, and amounted to  ‘kicking a man while he’s down.’

Rep. Dean Arp of Union County said supporting the governor’s veto on this bill was a vote in favor of providing benefits to those taking illegal drugs.

Fulghum took exception to Arp’s insinuation, but in the end the veto was easily overridden, 77-39. In addition to Fulghum,  Representatives Rick Catlin and Nathan Ramsey were the only Republicans in the House who voted to sustain McCrory’s veto of H392.

The veto of the E-verify bill fell next, 84-32.

The NC Senate convenes Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. to vote next on the two vetoed bills. To hear a portion of Tuesday’s House debate on H392, click below:
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