Steve Shadley, Capital Public Radio
A bill that would have required all welfare recipients to take mandatory drug tests has been killed in a state legislative committee.
17 year old RJ Feild (Field) is like most other teenagers his age…except he uses a wheelchair to get around because he has cerebral palsey. He says his mom would use her welfare checks to buy illegal drugs while she was pregnant with him. Feild was born prematurely. Doctors say at birth, he was addicted to heroin and had traces of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol in his body. Right after he was born he was put into state care. As Feild got older he started asking members of his foster family about his condition…
“Did my mom ever get drug tested…while I was in her stomach. Is that why I turned out the way I did?”
Now Feild is an advocate for change. Awhile back he sent a letter to Republican State Senator John Benoit of Riverside County…
“It’s a very sincere thing coming from his heart that he’d like to hear that there’s no kids similarly situated in the future. That’s the idealism of a high school kid coming through loud and clear…”
Benoit is author of the legislation known as “RJ’s Law.” It would require everyone who receives welfare in California to take a mandatory drug test. Benoit says it would prevent welfare recipients from buying drugs.
But, opponents say counties already screen people on welfare for drugs. Michael Harold is with the Western Center On Law and Poverty…
“The fundamental issue is that the families won’t come in for welfare under Benoit’s bill because they’ll be afraid that they’ll be drug tested. Right now, it’s only if the county perceives if there’s a problem and once they do they can order it…”
The State Senate Human Services Committee killed Benoit’s bill. A similar version of “RJ’s Law” also died in the legislature last year.
But, Feild says he’ll try again to get the measure through…
“If it saves that one person’s life…that’ll pay for it. I’ll be glad if it does pass because I know someday I’ll come up here again and it will pass…”
Senator Benoit says he may try to get the bill reconsidered later this session. Meantime, Feild says he’s learning a lot about how the state legislature works.