Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans — May 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Michigan House passes GOP legislation that penalizes one group only: the poor (and Dems helped!)


Because the poor simply haven’t been screwed over enough already, right?

Photo by Anne C. Savage

Two bills passed by the Michigan House of Representatives this week have the effect of punishing one group and one group only: the poor. One bill, House Bill 4118 would force Michiganders applying for or seeking a renewal of their government benefits to undergo drug testing if they are “suspected” of being on drugs. The other, House Bill 4388, would kick families off from welfare if they have a child who skips school.

As egregious as this legislation is, what’s worse is that Democrats aided and abetted the Republicans in the passage of both bills. Have a look at the roll call for HB 4118 and HB 4388. Even House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel and my own Representative Gretchen Driskell voted for these bills.


There’s little motivation for these punitive actions. When Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law mandating drug testing of welfare recipients, he claimed it would save his state upwards of $77 million. It turned out to cost them $45,000 annually. This is simply a way to punish poor families, in some cases even if one member of that family skips school too often.

It’s worth noting that an effort by one Republican, Rep. Tom McMillin, to drug test legislators, too, was shot down.

The Detroit Free Press excoriated House Republicans for passing this bill in an editorial titled Speaker Jase Bolger is letting his House get out of order”:

Just when you thought the Michigan House of Representatives had passed all of the ideologically driven, ill-thought-out, go-nowhere bills imaginable, it finds a way to surprise you.

We’re still trying to make sense of the latest offering from that legislative brain trust: A plan to strip welfare benefits from families with a truant child, tacked on to an equally offensive bill that would require welfare recipients to submit to drug screening (a measure that’s proved costly, ineffective and unconstitutional in states, including Michigan, that have tried it).

Even if you accept the nonsensical GOP belief that welfare recipients are lazy, feckless degenerates, this doesn’t add up. Part of the point of welfare is to ensure that children are taken care of, that the most vulnerable don’t have to suffer in circumstances over which they have no control. That, if you want to get biblical about it, punishment for the sins of the father isn’t visited on the child. {…}

Let’s review an important fact that this callous piece of legislation conveniently ignores: In families with more than one child, stripping benefits from that family because one child is truant would put all children at risk of homelessness, malnutrition, even starvation. In addition — and this is ironic — destabilizing the family in this way would likely increase the chances that additional children would become truant. {…}

[W]e reject outright the notion that removing any piece of the social safety net that helps keep children off the streets, fed and clothed is reflective of anything other than an outdated and aloof bias about the causes of poverty.

Amen to all of that.