JAY — Gov. Paul LePage said today he will propose legislation in January to require random drug testing for welfare recipients.

I’m going to ask the Legislature to allow us to do what every truck driver in the United States of America has to do, take a random test,” he said. “I think if we’re going to take our own limited resources, we ought to be able to test ’em on occasion.”

The comments came at a chamber breakfast in Jay, where LePage gave an overview of accomplishments from the last legislative session and previewed some of his goals for the new year.

With regard to drug testing, the Legislature added new provisions in the budget this year that allow the state to test those who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds if they have a prior felony drug conviction. LePage said he wants to take it a step further and explained that he believes people go “benefit shopping” when deciding where to live.

As proof, he talked about an email he received recently when a woman asked him if Maine provides benefits that are better than New Hampshire.

“I found that very insulting,” he said. “I responded by saying ‘ask not what the state of Maine can do for you, but what you can do for the state of Maine. Have a nice life.’”

Robyn Merrill of Maine Equal Justice, which provides legal services for the poor, said random drug testing programs in other states have been found unconstitutional. She said that’s why a bill that would have required random drug testing did not make it out of the Health and Human Services Committee earlier this year.

Random drug testing is very questionable legally with respect to constitutional issues,” she said. “If the government has the right to drug test people based on receipt of aid from public assistance programs, what is to stop the government from requiring drug testing for anyone who receives a student loan or any other government benefit. This law would create a very slippery slope with respect to infringement on peoples’ right to privacy.”

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