The Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee passes legislation that would randomly drug test welfare recipients. Livingston Parish Rep. Sherman Mack's measure would test 20% of the people who receive welfare benefits. Mack says if a welfare recipient tests positive for drugs, he or she would be required to enter a drug rehab program at their own expense.

Black lawmakers on the panel opposed the legislation. Representative Katrina Jackson expressed concern about how a welfare recipient can afford drug counseling, when they are already facing financial difficulties.

"How are they to fund their own treatment if my district doesn't offer treatment for free?"

Representative Regina Barrow questioned why Mack is picking on a certain segment of the population.

Rep. Barrow: "Do you believe that anyone that receives taxpayer dollars should have to be drug tested?

Rep. Mack: "I would have no problem with it."

Rep. Barrow: "Ok, so you wouldn't have a problem with making sure that legislators have to be drug tested."

Rep. Mack: "If someone wanted to offer an amendment to attach to this bill that state legislators need to be drug screened I would absolutely have no problem with it and would probably be the first one to go take the screen."

Mack says his legislation would not cut off benefits for those welfare recipients who fail an initial drug test. He says they must enroll in a treatment program and a pass a second test. The republican lawmaker says if they don't do so in 90 days, then their benefits will be suspended for one year.

"As long as we continue to help others remain helpless, this problem is gonna get worse. Let's help people help themselves."

The legislation now moves to the Louisiana House.

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