A Senate committee cleared a plan this morning that would require people seeking temporary cash assistance to pay for drug tests.

Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, the former Alachua County Sheriff who is supporting the measure, said the measure is intended to keep taxpayer money out of the hands of drug users, and to โ€œbreak the cycle of drug abuseโ€ among the poor and the unemployed.

Under the measure, anyone who tests positive can be denied assistance for one year. An amendment added today would allow them to seek benefits after six months if they complete a drug treatment program, also at their own expense unless they already qualify for government-sponsored treatment.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said the amendment would help, but was concerned that not everyone in the state can easily access subsidized treatment. Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, said lawmakers should hold off on the measure โ€œuntil weโ€™re in a better position to help peopleโ€ (in other words, not this budget year).

The measure passed along party lines, with Rich and Sobel opposing.

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