hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 8, 2012

Baddour: Drug test to qualify for welfare

Calls testing for legislators a 'red herring'

State Sen. Steven Baddour wants to test welfare recipients for drug use but says he's not interested in passing the cup to his fellow legislators.

The Methuen Democrat, whose district includes Haverhill, filed his drug testing proposal as amendment to his welfare reform bill, which was referred for committee review last month.

Similar proposals nationwide have drawn harsh criticism and even counterproposals to require testing of legislators for illicit substances.

Despite the controversy, Baddour said he'll remain resolute in his push for testing as part of welfare reform and called the suggestion that legislators be tested a "red herring."

"It's about drug testing people who should be drug tested," he said. "Those who are opposed to it always try to throw you a curveball to get you off track," he said.

Baddour's "Act relative to welfare reform," filed on Jan. 21, would require all applicants for the EBT program to pay for and undergo a drug test. Those who pass would be repaid for the test. Those who fail wouldn't be reimbursed and would be barred from benefits for a year, with harsher penalties for repeated failures.

A Republican-sponsored drug testing bill passed the House in Indiana on Jan. 30, but only after a Democratic-backed amendment was added to also test state legislators.

Although the Indiana bill includes punishments for aid applicants that are similar to those in Baddour's proposal, it also calls for punishing legislators who decline to take the test by taking away their personal staff, statehouse parking space and office, among other things. Legislators who tested positive would "be assessed a penalty" by their peers in addition to suffering the aforementioned penalties.

The amendment also requires testing results to be published on the state's website.

Baddour and other Massachusetts legislators, however, said such a testing proposal would detract from the need to reform the oft-maligned EBT program.

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