Welfare drug test bill will hurt Mississippi children

Published 12:07 am Friday, January 17, 2014

Why are lawmakers convinced legislating morals and good behavior is possible?

No evidence exists such endeavors work. Yet lawmakers try and try again, hoping to find the magic law that teaches adults what their own mothers and common sense failed to accomplish.

Mississippi lawmakers’ latest venture into moral legislation comes in the form of a carefully crafted bill aimed at cutting off state welfare payments to those who test positive for using illegal drugs.

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The reason? Because lawmakers think a problem exists and thus another law will help us solve it.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program funds are intended to provide help to economically challenged people with young children. Funds are limited for a maximum of 60 months.

Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, wrote the bill and led the charge for its passage. During Wednesday’s debate, Mims tried to spin the matter to say the bill’s goal was to improve the quality of Mississippi citizens.

“It’s about helping these people become better moms, become better dads, become better community members,” Mims said.

Really? Can cutting off the meager state assistance to poor children really teach a life lesson to the parents — no matter how awful or how addicted they are to drugs?

This misguided bill stands to punish the innocent children of what may prove to be a small handful of horrible parents.

Drug testing welfare recipients is great campaign rhetoric. It plays to the fear that someone is getting undeserved benefits.

We’re all for punishing those who break drug laws. But if one Mississippi child — no matter how pitifully deadbeat their parents may be — goes to bed hungry or without proper clothes because such a populist piece of legislation passes, it will indeed be a sad day in Mississippi.