Try 1 month for 99¢
Scott Walker delivers State of the State (copy)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers his State of the State address in January. Walker on Thursday proposed a series of initiatives that he said will make more Wisconsin residents ready to work.

Wisconsin is one step closer to implementing a policy that would require some applicants to take a drug test in order to receive food stamps, job training or unemployment insurance.

Gov. Scott Walker announced on Tuesday that he has approved an administrative rule submitted by the state Department of Children and Families that would establish a process to screen for and test for the use of controlled substances by applicants for state work experience programs, and to refer those determined to be abusing drugs to a treatment program. 

The rule is set to take effect on November 9.

Walker's proposal to drug test for some recipients of public benefits was approved in the state budget, passed in July. 

"Our 2015-17 State Budget implements common-sense reforms that put in place drug screening, testing, and treatment mechanisms, so we can continue strengthening Wisconsin’s workforce," Walker said in a statement. "Employers across the state frequently tell me they have good-paying jobs available in high-demand fields, but need their workers to be drug-free. These important entitlement reforms will help more people find family-supporting jobs, moving them from government dependence to true independence."

Administrative rules are policies implemented by state agencies, approved by the governor. They carry the same force as laws. The drug testing provision of the state budget required DCF to create this corresponding rule.

Critics say the proposal unfairly targets poor people, wasting state money with no evidence to justify the cost. Those spearheading the effort say their intent is to prepare people for the workforce and help them secure employment.

The provision requires applicants for state-run job training programs such as Wisconsin Works to answer a questionnaire that screens for drug abuse. Based on the results of that screening, a drug test could be required.

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Those who fail the test would be required to receive state-funded treatment in order to remain eligible for job training. One positive test would be allowed during treatment. 

At least 12 states have passed similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Following the passage of the budget, Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to declare the requirement to drug test food stamp recipients to be legal. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.