SB2279, introduced by Senator Tom Campbell (R-Grafton), came to the floor today in a form substantially changed from how it was introduced. It was “hog housed,” to use the parlance of the North Dakota legislature.
Where the original iteration of the bill would have required drug testing for TANF recipients, and removed benefits from them if they refused to enter a treatment program upon a positive test, the version which hit the floor today would have focused only on those participating in a job placement program.
“We really softened this bill,” Senator Campbell told the floor.
Still the Democratic lawmakers – because their goal these days seems more to do with creating outrageous talking points they can share share with each other in their Facebook groups – tried to paint this as an attempt to take benefits away from women. Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman said, specifically, that the bill is “carving out a specific group of young women” to deny them benefits.
Which is nonsense. The bill applies to participants in the program, be they men or women.
But there is plenty of room to question the efficacy of the policy.
Campbell describes the bill as one which says “not that we gotcha but we love ya.” That’s exactly how I saw his original legislation. Not as as away to save the public money by finding ways to deny people benefits, but rather by giving the state the means to detect people on assistance who are struggling with substance abuse and guide them into a treatment program, with loss of benefits only to be denied when they refuse help.
I don’t think that’s a bad impulse. But how practical is it given the realities of our overtaxed social welfare systems?
Probably not very unless the state is willing to dump a lot more resources into social services than our lawmakers, or a majority of taxpayers in our state, are willing to put on the table.
The bill failed on a 20-26 vote.
Here’s video of the debate: