Shell picks up where Napier left off on bill to drug test recipients of public assistance

02/20/2013 12:48 PM

A freshman Republican legislator is carrying the legislative torch of his predecessor to push a bill that would allow state agencies to drug test recipients of public assistance, such as food stamps.

Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, filed on Friday House Bill 394 . Shell replaces Lonnie Napier who retired the legislature last year. Napier had pushed in past sessions for testing for public assistance. The measure was heard for the first time in a House committee last year, although Democrats walked out of the meeting in protest of the bill.

Shell said he got the most comments from voters about that bill when he ran for office. But he has made some changes to the legislation since Napier last filed it.

“Instead of doing it as a broad scale random search — or random testing for all people on public assistance — there is a statue that says if you are convicted of substance abuse or have a history of substance abuse then it goes into the random testing,” Shell said.

In years past, some lawmakers have raised concerns that cutting off assistance — like food stamps — could negatively affect the children of those parents. Shell said his bill would allow children to continue receiving assistance.

“The public assistance — the food stamps — or whatever it may be stays with the children that are involved in that situation, so they’re not taken off of the roll and they’re not burdened by not having food or whatever it might be,” he said.

The bill has been assigned to the House Health and Welfare Committee. Shell said he had not yet talked with the committee’s chairman, Louisville Democratic Rep. Tom Burch, about hearing the bill. But he said he expected that he would receive numerous co-sponsors based on legislators reactions from years past.


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