DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado lawmakers are taking up an issue stirring up controversy across the country — requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests.

“I think that this is unfair to be treating poor people like criminals,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

“If you have enough money to buy drugs you don’t need the money from the state or the federal government,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

The bill was introduced this week by Sonnenberg, who says the bill makes sense, ensuring those who really need welfare get the benefits.

“Essentially in order for you to get your check you have to be drug free,” Sonnenberg said. “If you are drug free, we will pay for that drug test we’ll reimburse that drug test.”

Fields says the $45 test forces those already in need to pay for help.

“What if they don’t have the $45 to pay for the drug test, does that mean that we will not feed and provide assistance to that family?” Fields said.

If someone fails they are ineligible to reapply for a full year, unless they seek treatment.

“We want you in treatment; get off the drug and once you complete that then in 6 months you can reapply and then we can get you the money,” Sonnenberg said.

Fields says the program would be costly and if the poor should be drug tested to receive government money, then so should state lawmakers.

“As an elected official whose salary is paid by taxpayers, then I think everyone in the House of Representatives and the Senate should also be required,” Fields said.

Fields says the estimated cost is $200,000 to administer the program but she believes it would cost much more.

The bill moves to the Finance Committee next week.

Thirty-six states are considering similar measures. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently voiced support for such laws. Twelve states are looking at drug testing for unemployment benefits.

Comments (21)
  1. Tom says:

    Good, if there wasn’t so much abuse and fraud this wouldn’t be necessary.

  2. Amie King says:

    What a waste of time and money! I do NOT want my tax dollars going to some trumped up campaign to make money for the drug testing companies that are no doubt lining Sonnenberg’s pockets! What a racket….

  3. Jerry says:

    I needed to take a drug test to get my job so I could earn the money to pay my taxes that the state divvies out to the poor in the form of welfare. If I have to take a drug test to earn the money, then they can certainly take one to receive my money.
    That would not be treating them as a criminal but it would be treating them like most working people.
    Fields is right, everyone in the House and Senate should be required to take the test. Most all government jobs require it to get the job in the first place.

  4. Mike says:

    So Amie, you have no problem with your tax dollars going to dope smoking crackheads.
    Adminisratating the program would creat jobs and the testing companies would also have to hire more people to conduct all of the testing and create higher profits that would get spent in our state. So you are against creating jobs and growing the economy.

  5. Erika says:

    Hey, you want my money, you going to have to prove you deserve it. Its not a right to get welfare. We workers pay for it.

  6. Richard says:

    This is really needed i’ve known a lot of people on welfare and doing drugs including relatives.

  7. Roger says:

    What a waste of tax payer money. Florida already tried this and it was determined to be unconstitutional. Most of those that get welfare would not be able to pay for the test, and then we would just have more homeless to deal with.

  8. Mark says:

    A waste of taxpayer money huh???As a tax payer, paying my share in order to help all the less fortunate people, and the poor and needy, I believe my rights as a taxpayer are being violated, and abused by those that use my tax dollars to support their illegal habits.. And to YOU Roger you say it was deemed ” Unconstitutional ” in another state??? Well assuming you pay taxes like almost everyone else does, do you feel it’s a right of people receiving welfare, and state aid(other than treatment for said problems) to use YOUR,AND ALL OTHERS taxes for their drug habits?I don’t want my dollars going for that!! I’d rather it go to the people that really need it!! You say welfare recipients can’t afford these tests, well they are getting FREE $$$ now, if they have nothing to hide, and they pass they get their free $$$ back. As a tax payer I believe I don’t have to pay taxes to support illegal drug use!! But the bad thing is, I’m forced to, or I go to jail, or get my hard earned wages garnished. Just so someone can get high!!!

  9. Chrystal says:

    I thinks its about time they do…So many lie out their teeth to get free money and assistance! And people who really need it can’t get it! And people wonder why our seniors are eating cat food! because they only get $10 in food stamps and joe schmoe who is lieing out his butt is getting $600!! and driving an escalade!

  10. happyday says:

    Hey Fields from Aurora; not picking on the poor. Fields you are out in left field; go away! Trying to keep the druggies from collecting my money! They have fair warning to clean up if you want benefits. We law abiding citizens often must take drug tests to qualify for a job. What’s wrong with welfare recipients taking a drug test to collect benefits? NOTHING WRONG!

  11. J Todd says:

    In my humble, but informed opinion this is a much needed bill. One which is far over due. In order to work in most places now you need to submit to a drug screening, so logic goes to show that the same requirement be made of those who get assistance. If I am subject to it to make the money to pay into the fund, then they should be subject to it to gain from the fund. It will save tax dollars in the long run because it would rule out those that are abusing the system. If we would eliminate benefits for those that are not in the country legally that would save more also and the $200,000 to start this would seem like a good investment.

  12. AFBLB says:

    Rep. Rhonda Fields, get your head out of your ###. If I have to take a drug test to get a job, does that mean I’m being treated like a criminal?

  13. Sharon L. Bradbury says:

    What is going on in this country? Now we want to require our poorest in this country to pay for drug tests just so they can have a roof over their heads and some food in their bellies? If something like this is passed our homeless population will grow & grow. Children living on the streets, all because some politician says they have to pass a drug test & if failed they have to wait a year to reapply, or go to rehab and it’s cut down to 9 months. What is the family supposed to do? To me it seems that elite 1% wants to see the poor die off in the streets. That way they truely can own this country & control the government! Doesn’t this country have enough problems with trying to end hunger & homelessness in this country? Do we really need to add to the problem? I say NO!!!

    1. Megan says:

      Sharon: This wouldn’t be an issue except that the problem has overwhelmed the system. So you are justifying using welfare money to buy drugs? Why not include alcohol? You see, a growing number of people are scamming the system to include making welfare a lifelong habit. No, that isn’t okay.

  14. A.G. Trespass says:

    English only application process should be required as well.

  15. Megan says:

    This bill is long overdue. Drug testing should be a requirement for anybody receiving welfare money. This is taxpayer money and there should be limits on how it’s spent. Welfare money is also being used to buy alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food. How can the liberal mindset justify that?

  16. Sammy says:

    Florida tried a similar bill and a judge found it to be illegal. It does end up costing the state more money than it saves because research has found that only about 2% of people who receive assistance test positive for drug use. That means the state has to PAY BACK the cost of the drug tests for the other 98% of people who are drug free and use the money as it should be used. I agree that our tax dollars should not be used for drugs but this is not the way to make sure that doesn’t happen. The state needs to focus on prevention and support organizations that work to help drug users get clean. The amount of users that access TANF money is no more than the amount of users in the general population. This bill costs the state way more than it saves, takes away the dignity of people who need assistance, and creates a culture of treating people on assistance as second class citizens.

  17. Jim says:

    Notice fields in other articles is very very pro welfare and wants to give away taxpayer money to any loser that asks as long as they look a certain way see photos of fields

  18. Jim says:

    The dignity of people on welfare isn’t affected most gov workers or workers at major corporations have to take drug tests to have the right to earn there money so I see no reason the freeloaders can’t take drug tests as well

  19. Jane says:

    I believe this is a grea bill and fully support it. This will make people more responsible for themselves and make them realize we the tax payers are not going to pay for their drug use. There are to many people on the dole that should not be and this will help weed these people out. If the federal gov’t (FCC) didn’t spend 1.6 BILLION tax payer dollars a year on giving low income people cell phones they could help pay for this drug test bill.

  20. Marty says:

    Hmmm… hypocritical! I was a flight attendant at the major airline where Rhonda Fields was a inflight supervisor. She didn’t have any qualms about meeting the aircraft upon arrival with the mandatory drug testing of airline employees. I could have lost my job if I refused and I was working for my money. This is another example of “party line” thinking. We will do better if our elected officials vote with common sense and integrity.

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