Welfare Junk Food And Drug Testing Bill Approved In Wisconsin

Tara Dodrill

Welfare recipients might be limited on how much junk food they can buy with their taxpayer-funded assistance. A bill passed by the Wisconsin State Assembly seeks to limit junk food purchases and require Wisconsin Work job training recipients to submit to drug testing.

The Wisconsin State Assembly junk food welfare bill passed the Republican controlled chamber, but it must still pass in the Senate before it is sent to Governor Scott Walker's desk to be signed into law. Funding for the Wisconsin Works drug tests has been voiced as a concern if the legislation becomes law. The cost of software at grocery store checkouts designed to track junk food purchases was also reportedly a concern for Wisconsin lawmakers.

The Wisconsin drug testing bill would impact both the Wisconsin Works state job training program recipients and "certain applicants" that apply for unemployment benefits. Wisconsin state law mandates that all able-bodied adults who do no have dependent children get job training in order to receive food stamps. The drug test would also be applied to "some" food stamp recipients.

Republican members of the state assembly who support the welfare junk food bill and drug testing bill reportedly want to ensure that public assistance recipient are healthy and, therefore, more employable.

"With help from the government comes responsibility," Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the media before a debate on the welfare drug testing and junk food bill.

The Wisconsin State Assembly welfare junk food bill states that public assistance recipients would be mandated to use at least two-thirds of their monthly handout to buy nutritional foods such as "beef, chicken, pork, potatoes, dairy products, fresh produce and food available under the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program." The Wisconsin welfare recipients would not be permitted to purchase crab, lobster, shrimp, and other shellfish if the state assembly bill becomes law.

Wisconsin Democrats reportedly feel that the welfare junk food bill is "overreach." Some grocery stores have also complained about the food stamps bill because they claim the tracking software needed to track how the recipients spend taxpayer money would cost about $55 million.

"You've decided that being the food police might make you more popular," Democratic Wisconsin State Representative Andy Jorgenson said when pointing out items in Governor Scott Walker's budget that he feels are unpopular with some voters.

The federal government controls the food stamp programs. Federal officials would have to approve any welfare junk food and Wisconsin Works drug testing limitations imposed in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Assembly junk food and drug testing for welfare recipients bill passed 60-35. All Republicans, except Jessie Rodriguez and Adam Neylon, voted for the measure, and all Democrats voted against.

Eleven states have some type of welfare drug testing, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four states require drug testing of at least some people filing for unemployment compensation.

What do you think about the Wisconsin welfare junk food and drug testing bill?

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