On Tuesday, Governor Rick Perry and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst announced their support for a bill filed by Flower Mound State Senator Jane Nelson, which would require people applying for Temporary Assistant for Need Families (TANF) funds to be drug tested. At the same press conference, they also announced that Senator Tommy Williams will file a similar bill for people applying for unemployment insurance.
In response, Beaumont State Representative Joe Deshotel, a Democrat, has the same suggestion that many of you in the comments did: if we're pee-testing everybody who gets taxpayer dollars, shouldn't that include politicians?
On Wednesday, Deshotel sent out a press release saying he was disappointed by the proposed drug tests, which he called "fiscally and morally irresponsible." The bill, he said, would "would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature's expansion of government into our personal lives."
Deshotel added that there's no particular evidence that the poor abuse drugs more frequently than anybody else. Therefore, he added:
I challenge Senator Nelson, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Many office holders in Texas draw larger incomes from the state than any welfare recipient and officials should adhere to the same standard we impose on our constituents. This would help ensure our leaders "walk the walk" and that taxpayer money isn't "going into the pockets of drug abusers," as is the concern of our Governor.
Deshotel also questioned how the state plans to pay for the additional drug tests. He also points out, as did the Texas Observer, that Texas spent some $6 million drug testing student athletes, netting only 21 positives.
Just for a moment, let's recognize this for what it is: abject political posturing from both sides. Republicans don't tend to like the idea of welfare, and Democrats are enjoying the opportunity to accuse them of unwarranted, big government-style intrusion. But at some point this session, in the course of a heated argument in the Lege, someone may brandish a sample cup and demand that someone else pee into it. And that would be a truly wonderful thing.