Gov. Pat McCrory recently vetoed HB392, which would force certain welfare applicants to submit to and pass a drug test before qualifying for public assistance. The veto was a surprise to many, since the legislation was heavily supported by the McCrory’s own political party.
However, McCrory’s decision is a smart one in the midst of the state’s financial woes and in light of the citizenry’s constitutionally protected but frequently encroached upon freedoms.
As the General Assembly is set to convene on Sept. 3 to consider overriding the governor’s veto, we as voters must let our locally elected officials know that we want them to respect his leadership on this issue and sustain the veto.
State law already requires local DSS offices to screen for substance abusers. HB392 is an unnecessary and unworkable piece of legislation; Gov. McCrory is right to question its potential unfair application, fiscal pitfalls, and operational quagmires.
On its face, HB392 utilizes a “reasonable suspicion” standard to determine which public assistance applicants are subject to drug testing; however the standards are, in fact, both vague and overly broad. The bill’s language opens the door wide to arbitrary enforcement by State agencies, as well as the potential for numerous, costly legal challenges.
Indeed, political leaders on the state and local level have cautioned that implementation of HB392 may have inconsistent and unfair application across North Carolina’s 100 counties. By requiring an applicant to pay for the drug test upfront — to be reimbursed only after the applicant passes the test — the law unfairly deters the extremely poor from applying for assistance when they are the ones who need assistance most.
Furthermore, local DSS officials have recognized that drug testing such as HB392 would require may actually be an obstacle to effective intervention. McCrory recognizes that the bill is not a prudent way to curb drug abuse, and similar efforts in other states have proven ineffective at identifying and helping those actually addicted to drugs.
If enacted by veto override, the law would do nothing to rehabilitate those who test positive for drugs. Gov. McCrory’s veto is a responsible exercise in moderation responding to what many see as an overzealous and far-reaching General Assembly.
At a time when the state refuses to spend money on things that truly matter, it makes no sense to enact, administer and inevitably defend the costly and unconstitutional HB392. Fair-minded, fiscally-responsible citizens should support the governor’s veto and call on their representatives in Raleigh to do the same.
Jason R. Horrell
2005 Harrells Christian grad