Welfare, HJR-3 are hot topics

Posted on Jan. 15, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

House Speaker Brian Bosma is eager to require drug tests for welfare recipients. It’s an idea that has been tested and failed.

But Bosma said Thursday he will “enthusiastically endorse” legislation being filed by state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, that Bosma deemed “entitlement reform through drug testing.”

McMillin has tried three times to require the 27,000 recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to submit to drug testing as a condition of receiving public aid.

Last year, the nonprofit Legislative Services Agency said the program would cost more than $3 million per year, yet the state would recoup only $215,000 from positive tests.

If the state has an extra $3 million to burn, it could extend TANF benefits to more Hoosiers.

Recipients of this assistance are not just poor, they’re very poor. A two-person family, such as a mother and child, would have to earn less than $5,661 a year and have less than $1,000 in assets to qualify for TANF funds.

Bosma wants to “ensure public money is being used for the purpose intended and not for other purposes.” Fair enough. But no such restrictions apply to other recipients of public money, such as state government employees.

Why single out TANF recipients? Where’s the evidence that beneficiaries are more likely than the general public to use illegal drugs?

Florida had a similar drug testing program that was stopped after four months, halted by a court order. During that time, fewer than 3 percent of the tests were positive.

Last month, a federal judge ruled Florida’s law was unconstitutional. Why should Indiana try the same thing and expect different results?

— The Times (Munster)

Social engineering can be a messy business, as Republicans in the Indiana Legislature are discovering.

On Monday, Jan. 13, a hearing was conducted on a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Or rather, it bans same-sex marriage.

Momentum against HJR-3, the amendment banning gay marriage, has been building. The state’s leading (and high-tech) industries, Cummins Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co, have come out against it, plus most of the state’s universities and the mayors of major cities. That includes Republicans and Democrats.

The amendment has become almost an embarrassment for the state and the Republican Party, as well it should. It’s also spurred much confusion. How else to explain why Republicans introduced a “companion” bill to the amendment, HB 1153, that states the amendment is not intended to deny employer health benefits to same-sex couples or circumvent local ordinances that forbid discrimination.

Huh? Any fifth-grader knows legislative bodies enact laws and the courts interpret them. HB 1153 is an attempt to usurp the power of the courts by defining what the amendment really means.

The Republicans want it both ways in this marriage business. They want to dictate their own version of what they believe is morally right, but also appear to cater to business interests, individual freedom and be a party of less intrusive government. They fail on all accounts with the marriage amendment. Business must hire and retain the best and brightest workers, and some of them will be gay or lesbian. Good luck trying to get those workers to relocate or stay in a state that enshrines discrimination and hate in its constitution.

No doubt there are some within the Republican ranks who would like this marriage amendment to go away. It’s divisive and it detracts from real issues the legislature needs to address, such as education, the economy, health and infrastructure. That sentiment is opposed by those who want Hoosier voters to decide the issue.

Should HJR-3 pass the legislature again, it will go to the voters this November. But on the path to Election Day, Hoosiers can expect an unrelenting blitz of advertisements pro and con, and many of them catering to fear mongering and the spread of disinformation.

Republicans in the Statehouse need to face the fact this amendment will yield no winners, but it will extract a steep price.

— The Star Press (Muncie)

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