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N.C. General Assembly Overrides Governor's Veto of Bill to Drug Test Work First Applicants

N.C. General Assembly Overrides Governor's Veto of Bill to Drug Test Work First Applicants

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate today voted to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of H.B. 392, a bill that requires some applicants to the state’s Work First program for families in need to pay up front for and submit to drug tests as a precondition of aid. The state House voted to override the veto yesterday, meaning H.B. 392 will now become law.

In announcing his veto, Gov. McCrory called H.B. 392 “a recipe for government overreach and unnecessary government intrusion ... that is not a smart way to combat drug abuse.”

Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC), which strongly opposed the bill and urged the legislature to sustain the governor’s veto, released the following statement:

“It’s very disappointing that the legislature put so much effort into passing this cruel and constitutionally suspect bill. H.B. 392 does nothing to help those who test positive for drug use get treatment, but it does allow the government to conduct costly, unnecessary, and unreasonably intrusive searches of North Carolinians who seek public assistance to care for their families. Forcing people in need to pay up front for urine tests is not only cruel but will likely deter many low-income families from even applying for assistance.  Why the legislature was so adamant about passing this bill is unclear, since all available evidence shows that public aid applicants are no more likely to use drugs than the general public, and similar programs in other states have been found to be unconstitutional and fiscally wasteful.”

On July 31, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC), the North Carolina Justice Center, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to Gov. McCrory, asking him to veto the bill.

In 2011, a Florida law that mandated drug tests for all applicants of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was halted just months after it went into effect after the ACLU of Florida challenged the law and a federal court ruled the program unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals later unanimously upheld that decision.

In the four months that Florida's law was in place, the state drug tested 4,086 TANF applicants. Only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs — a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs.