Guam - Following what is now law in the state of Florida, one freshman senator has introduced legislation that if enacted into law would require all recipients of public assistance to be tested for controlled substances and pass in order to receive government subsidized services. Senator Sam Mabini has introduced a controversial piece of legislation that would require individuals who are applying or renewing their applications for public assistance.

She recognizes Bill 317 may be sensitive, but hopes instead it will help Guam's law enforcement agencies in the war on drugs. "This bill is designed to help individuals," she maintained, "and what we want to make sure is that the families and especially the children are protected and there are provisions with in the bill to protect the minor recipients who are entitled to welfare subsidies."

According to Bill 317, if an individual tests positive or found to be in connection with controlled substances, he or she will be ineligible to receive public assistance benefits for one year. Additionally, individuals who are discovered to be involved in the sale, manufacturing, distribution or addiction of controlled substances will be removed from any further public assistance programs. She adds if the individual tests positive, there would be an assigned protectorate to take the place of the parent or guardian so children will still be able to receive funding.

Mabini says she considered issues from stereotyping to a possible violation of one's Fourth Amendment right, but says it's ultimately to address the negative affects of drug abuse. "What I'm depending on is studies - there have been studies that shown that families tend to rely on assistance have a higher degree or percentage of drug abuse then those who are not receiving public assistance," she said.

"When we apply for jobs, whether a private entity, federal government even our local government requires drug testing before and while the application is in process, so it's no different than that."

Mabini says the bill requires Public Health to set the parameters of what kind of public assistance the bill would cover whether they be food stamps, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Medicaid and MIP, or other kind of assistance. Public Health director Jim Gillam tells KUAM News that he has yet to read the measure but based strictly on Florida law, he finds the bill might not necessarily be entirely effective or bring a cost-savings. There are currently 14,000 cases under the Food Stamp Program, over 8,000 cases under Medicaid, 6,000 under MIP and over a thousand in the TANF program. There are over 2,000 cases of public assistance that involve cash payments. 

Ultimately, Mabini envisions the bill will allow Public Health and Mental Health to work together to get those who may be on drugs help. "So what I'm hoping is we'll be able to identify them, help them, find the help they need and get them back on track to become productive individuals who are working in our community and are very successful individuals", she said.

According to the bill, applicants will have to foot the bill for the drug test, if they test negative then they will be reimbursed. Senator Mabini, however, hasn't yet determined what kind of funding will accommodate this provision. She says if Public Health feels this section of the bill is unfeasible, she welcomes them to come to the public hearing and make suggestions.