LANSING -- Some welfare recipients suspected of illegal drug use could be tested under legislation approved early Thursday in the Michigan House.
It's the latest attempt by House Republicans to change some conditions of the state welfare system. The bill, passed just before lawmakers adjourned until after the November election, will go to the Senate for consideration when lawmakers return to the Capitol.
The bill cleared the House on a 82-25 vote, with some Democrats joining majority Republicans in supporting the bill.
The bill would allow for drug testing of a family assistance recipient if a Department of Human Services employee has a reasonable suspicion the recipient has been using drugs. The bill calls for DHS to set up a pilot program to test the measure.
Welfare recipients testing positive for drug use would be required to enter a treatment program. If they don't conform to the treatment program requirements, they eventually could lose some of their welfare benefits.
Democrats said the legislation wasn't needed because state could give drug tests to welfare recipients now. Republicans said the Democratic administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm has not done that.
The 25 Democrats voting against the bill were Doug Bennett of Muskegon, Steve Bieda of Warren, Marsha Cheeks of Detroit, Brenda Clack of Flint, Paul Condino of Southfield, George Cushingberry of Detroit, Barbara Farrah of Southgate, Matt Gillard of Alpena, Lee Gonzales of Flint, Morris Hood of Detroit, Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor, Tupac Hunter of Detroit, Chris Kolb of Ann Arbor, Gabe Leland of Detroit, LaMar Lemmons Jr. of Detroit, Bill McConico of Detroit, Andy Meisner of Ferndale, Fred Miller of Mount Clemens, Mike Murphy of Lansing, Jim Plakas of Garden City, Alma Wheeler Smith of Ypsilanti, Virgil Smith of Detroit, Steve Tobocman of Detroit, Aldo Vagnozzi of Farmington Hills and Mary Waters of Detroit.
Lawmakers and representatives of organizations interested in a cable television competition bill bargained for several hours Wednesday but the House did not take a final vote on the issue. Some lawmakers were hoping to vote on the bill before the House left for its election break, but it became clear by about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday that parts of the proposal had not been worked out.
Republican House Speaker of Craig DeRoche of Novi and House Democratic Leader Dianne Byrum of Onondaga, however, said they were in agreement about the bill and they expected it to pass by the end of the year. In a show of bipartisan support, lawmakers adopted a substitute of the original bill on a 101-6 vote early Thursday.
Both DeRoche and Byrum said the bill will be good for Michigan's economic development and give consumers more choice. The bill is designed to increase competition in the cable industry and help phone companies roll out new video services.
Cable companies historically have had to secure individual licenses, or franchises, from each of the cities and towns where they want to do business. The legislation developing in the House would make those local agreements more uniform across the state.
Supporters say it would provide more competition and perhaps keep cable prices in check.
Local governments have opposed some of the proposed changes. But lawmakers have been working on those concerns, including provisions to make sure low-income residents in a community could get new services and that local access channels would remain available.