Maine Governor Pushes Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

Wikipedia / Paul LePage for Governor campaign

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Earlier this year, Maine’s legislature passed a law that requires drug testing for welfare recipients who have felony drug convictions. But now first-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage wants to amp that law up further by mandating random drug testing for all welfare recipients, Maine Today reports:

“I’m going to ask the Legislature to allow us to do what every truck driver in the United States of America has to do, take a random test,” he said. “I think if we’re going to take our own limited resources, we ought to be able to test ’em on occasion.”

The comments came at a business chamber breakfast in Jay, where LePage gave an overview of accomplishments from the last legislative session and previewed some of his goals for the new year.

Never mind that random drug testing might be illegal:

Robyn Merrill of Maine Equal Justice, which provides legal services for the poor, said random drug-testing programs in other states have been found to be unconstitutional. She said that’s why a bill that would have required random drug testing for MaineCare recipients did not pass earlier this year.

“Random drug testing is very questionable legally with respect to constitutional issues,” she said. “If the government has the right to drug-test people based on receipt of aid from public assistance programs, what is to stop the government from requiring drug testing for anyone who receives a student loan or any other government benefit?”

Over two dozen states have proposed drug testing for people who receive government assistance. In Florida, for instance, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill in June requiring state welfare recipients to undergo—and pay for—drug-testing urinalysis before receiving their benefits. If beneficiaries pass the test, the state reimburses them for the cost of the test.

But just two weeks back, a federal court court smacked down the law, ruling that it amountd to an unreasonable search in violation of the 4th Amendment. Legally speaking, it doesn’t bode well for LePage.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

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And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

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