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Legislators in the Virginia House have recommended that a proposal to perform drug screening on certain recipients of public assistance in the state be delayed until next year.

A House Appropriations subcommittee recommended carrying the bill over until next year, to allow more time to study the potential costs of the measure, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Their recommendation now moves to the full House Appropriations Committee.

Similar legislation narrowly passed a state Senate panel, but is facing opposition, the article notes. The House bill would require local social services departments to screen people in a program called the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare, to see if there is a reason to believe they are using illegal substances. If so, the next step would be a formal assessment, which could include drug testing. Anyone who tests positive, or who refuses to participate without good cause, could not receive payments unless they enter a drug treatment program.

Critics of the bill said it raises constitutional questions and singles out the poor.

Earlier this month, officials in Pennsylvania announced they are introducing a new drug testing program for certain welfare recipients. Pennsylvania’s program will randomly test those with a felony drug conviction within the past five years, and those on probation for such crimes. A program introduced in Florida last year to test all welfare recipients was blocked by a federal judge.


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