Should those who get welfare benefits in Texas have to undergo drug testing? That is just one of the topics that lawmakers in Austin are debating. According to the Austin American Statesman, a bill that would require welfare applicants to be drug tested is closer to becoming reality.

Drug testing for Texas welfare applicants moved a step closer to reality Tuesday when the bill’s author accepted legislative changes to ensure that children would continue to receive benefits if a parent is caught using drugs.

In the original version of the bill by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, children could permanently lose benefits based on a third failed drug test by a parent.

But Nelson agreed to several changes designed to ensure that children would continue to receive benefits while their drug-using parents are directed into rehabilitation programs, prompting the Health and Human Services Committee to vote 9-0 to approve Senate Bill 11.

“My intent is absolutely not to hurt the children,” Nelson said. “But I believe that if Mama is a serious drug abuser, that money is not going to helping the children. That money is going to buy drugs.”

Tuesday’s committee meeting began with Nelson unveiling a slimmed-down version of her bill, stripping out several items unrelated to drug testing, including stronger work and job-training conditions and a requirement that retailers ensure that benefits are not used to buy alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets or other prohibited items.

Under Nelson’s modified bill, applicants for welfare — known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — would undergo a drug screening. If the assessment indicates a “good cause to suspect” substance abuse, a drug test must be administered. Testing also would be mandatory for applicants with previous felony drug convictions or a prior positive drug test.

Adults who test positive would lose their benefits for one year but could reapply in six months after passing another drug test.

A second positive test also would cancel benefits for one year, though they could be reinstated after six months with proof of completion of or enrollment in a drug rehabilitation program. A third positive drug test would result in a lifetime ban from welfare benefits.

Children would continue receiving benefits no matter how many drug tests a parent fails, Nelson said.

What do you think about this? Should welfare applicants be drug tested? Let us know in today's KFYO Poll of the Day.