Today I testified against three bills that would severely, and unconstitutionally, restrict welfare benefits for some of Maine's most vulnerable families.

Two of the bills seek to limit the number of people who can receive state aid by creating unconstitutional residency requirements and automatically terminating benefits for anyone convicted of a drug crime. The third bill would allow random, suspicionless drug testing of public benefit recipients in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Our system of justice dictates that a past conviction is not an indication of future bad conduct, and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. When someone does break the law, punishment is appropriately determined by a court of law. And, once the sentence is served, the individual’s debt to society has been paid.

These bills turn these core principles upside-down. LD 1443 would enshrine in law the incorrect assumption that a past drug offense leads to a future offense. LD 678 presumes that benefit recipients are likely to be drug users.  These bills not only punish recipients, they punish families, and therefore children. It is patently unfair to deprive needy children of state assistance because of past bad acts by parents, fiscal concerns, and unscientific assumptions about benefit recipients.

We hope the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services stands with us in opposing these bills.