Bill Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2012
Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE –The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto SB 2580/HB 2725, which mandates drug testing for some Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) applicants, raising serious constitutional concerns.
“This bill is the latest in a series of attacks the legislature has waged on civil liberties this session,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director. “Presuming that TANF applicants are more likely to use drugs than scholarship applicants, farmers, legislators or anyone else receiving government funds is not only an insulting stereotype contradicted by actual research, it’s constitutionally suspect.”
Such an assumption makes the state vulnerable to a challenge under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, according to the letter. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, conducting a search such as drug testing based on anything less than probable cause is, in and of itself, unconstitutional.
The legislation is also problematic in its lack of clear definitions and guidance on implementation and its failure to meaningfully address the “public safety” issue of illegal drug use it purports to address. Tennessee is also likely to incur significant costs to implement this bill, without any net savings resulting from the proposed drug-testing program.
Tennesseans concerned about how this law will affect them should contact ACLU-TN at https://www.aclu-tn.org/legal-assistance/.
A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter urging Governor Haslam to veto the drug testing bill can be found here.