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Perry, Dewhurst push controversial drug testing bill

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The Texas Legislature will begin a new session in a couple of months, but Governor Rick Perry is speaking out for changes he would like to see made.

On Tuesday, he and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst advocated drug testing for individuals receiving state money, a move which has drawn both criticism and praise from around the state.

"I am calling on the Texas legislature to enact reforms that include authorizing the use of drug screening for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and unemployment benefit recipients," Gov. Perry said Tuesday.

The governor and lieutenant governor showed their support for Senate Bill 11 at the self-proclaimed “tough on drugs” business Austin Glass and Mirror in East Austin.

If passed, Senate Bill-11 would make drug tests a requirement when applying for TANF, a program which provides cash to low-income families.

"We have a right to privacy. We have a right to be left alone by the government,” Matt Simpson with the ACLU of Texas said. “This really oversteps it for just a certain amount of people."

In a state known country-wide for advocating personal freedom, ACLU officials say the drug testing would amount to unlawful search and seizure.

"Taking a group of people and subjecting them all to screening doesn't give any basis for why that one individual should be tested," Simpson said.

It’s a policy that Simpson says have been proven inefficient in Florida.

The Miami-Herald reported earlier this year that in four months of testing welfare recipients, just 2.6 percent tested positive for illicit drugs, most often for marijuana use.

According to the report, the state saw a sizable net loss of state money.

"SB-11 would take money out of the very dollars that are supposed to go to support needy families," Simpson said. "We are actually undermining our coffers to support families who need help just to do these tests."

But Perry argues the law would protect the use of state funds as he tries to balance a budget.

"This will stop tax dollars from going into the hands of drug abusers or drug dealers," Gov. Perry said.

The bill was filed by Republican State Senator Jane Nelson filed the bill Tuesday.

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