On Monday, Gov. Scott Walker began moving forward with his plan to require able-bodied, childless adults that request food stamps to submit to drug testing as a condition for receiving aid, even though other states that have made similar attempts have been blocked by the federal government over concerns that the requirement was unconstitutional.
As reported by Fox News, Walker is positioning the state of Wisconsin to become the first to mandate drug testing as a condition for receiving food stamps.
The state’s plan was previously approved, over two years ago, by the Republican-controlled legislature, but stalled because the requirement conflicted with federal rules that prevent states from adding additional eligibility criteria on those participating in the food stamp program.
When the state of Florida imposed a similar drug testing requirement, a federal appeals court blocked the attempt in 2014, determining the mandate violated certain constitutional protections associated with unreasonable searches.
In 2015, Walker filed a lawsuit in federal court requesting approval to drug test applicants to the food stamp system, but was initially rejected since the Obama administration had not formally rejected Wisconsin’s request to begin a drug testing program.
In December 2016, Walker approached then-President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, requesting that they authorize the drug tests. Trump’s administration has not taken any action on the matter, but Walker is proceeding anyway.
Walker approved a rule change that would allow the screening requirement to be implemented, sending it to the legislature for further review.
Tom Evenson, a spokesman for governor, stated in an interview that Walker believes he has the authority to move forward, even without federal action.
“Our position is we have the authority to implement the rule,” said Evenson.
The legislature has four months to review the proposed rule, and the first screenings may not take place until a year or more after its approved, if that occurs.
Many anticipate lawsuits would be filed if the rule is implemented, though the federal government could also intervene, blocking the program before it starts or stopping it after it begins.
Walker has also pushed to include drug testing requirements for recipients of other public benefits, including able-bodied, childless adults applying for Medicaid BadgerCare health benefits, for which federal approval is still pending, as well as expanding the food stamps testing beyond able-bodied childless adults to include parents with children aged 6 to 18.