Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: Trump administration considers drug tests for food stamp recipients


The Associated Press poked around emails generated by Sonny Perdue’s U.S. Department of Agriculture and found this:

The Trump administration is considering a plan that would allow states to require certain food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing, handing a win to conservatives who've long sought ways to curb the safety net program.

The proposal under review would be narrowly targeted, applying mostly to people who are able-bodied, without dependents and applying for some specialized jobs, according to an administration official briefed on the plan. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said roughly 5 percent of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could be affected.

The drug testing proposal is another step in the Trump administration's push to allow states more flexibility in how they implement federal programs that serve the poor, unemployed or uninsured. It also wants to allow states to tighten work requirements for food stamp recipients and has found support among GOP governors who argue greater state control saves money and reduces dependency.

Internal emails obtained by the Associated Press indicated that Agriculture Department officials in February were awaiting word from the White House about the timing of a possible drug testing announcement.

"I think we just have to be ready because my guess is we may get an hour's notice instead of a day's notice," wrote Jessica Shahin, associate administrator of SNAP.

Conservative policymakers have pushed for years to tie food assistance programs to drug testing.

The House Agriculture committee today is slated to release its draft of the farm bill, which would set guidelines for Perdue’s Agriculture Department for the next five years. Beefed-up work requirements have already roiled negotiations, as we told you last week:

U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta, the No. 2 Democrat on the committee, co-wrote a letter last month urging the panel’s top Democrat to halt negotiations. He said in a recent interview that there was “absolutely” a racial component to the SNAP changes and that the GOP’s proposal was “mean-spirited.”

“I guarantee you, if all the people who were on food stamps were white, there wouldn’t be this,” he said. “Race is at the bottom of this. It is at the top of this. And it has always been.”

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Last year, Democrat Jon Ossoff was criticized for not attacking President Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid to beat Karen Handel in the Sixth District congressional race. That’s not likely to be the case this year.

Kevin Abel, a native of South Africa and one of four Democrats in the Sixth District primary, has put up a blunt video on Facebook and YouTube, addressing the president by name:

A rough transcript, emphasis ours:

“President Trump, my name is Kevin Abel. I’m an immigrant and running in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, in part as a reaction to your holding DACA kids hostage. My parents brought me to America at 14, and thanks to hard work and opportunity, I built and sold a business, created jobs and raised three amazing children. I’m Keven Abel, and I approve this message, sir, because America was a better, more decent and kind place -- before you.”

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One explanation for the above shift in tactics might be found in a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll that indicates the South is growing less tolerant of President Donald Trump:

The region's solid support for Donald Trump helped put him in the White House, but Southerners have cooled a bit on the president, with less than half saying they approve, 48 percent, and 51 percent disapproving.

The poll included voters from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

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Corporate CEOs, civil rights groups and a segment of the state’s GOP establishment have long worried that “religious liberty” bills pushed by social conservatives in the Legislature would risk the state’s pro-business reputation. Over on our Opinions pages, Republican Hunter Hill argues that the critics have it all wrong - and that “religious liberty” legislation he’s pledged to sign into law will help Georgia entice Amazon’s second headquarters. From his column: 

Our business climate is clouded by uncertainty over what our state will or will not do regarding religious freedom. Passing a RFRA which mirrors the current federal language would provide a stable, predictable environment for businesses looking to locate or stay in Georgia.

During three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I witnessed firsthand what governments can do to people who may not share belief in the prevailing religious doctrine. Our greatness as a country is directly attributable to our defense of the rights of religious or cultural minorities. Amazon, and every company looking to locate or stay here in Georgia, should know we value diversity and inclusion. Passage of a state-level RFRA will protect every Georgian who chooses to express their constitutional, God-given right of free exercise of religion.

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Foes of the GOP tax bill that passed late last year are planning a town hall meeting in Atlanta on tax day, April 17, to urge lawmakers to repeal the legislation. The event, sponsored by the group calling itself Tax March, will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church. It’ll feature the Rev. William E. Flippin of the Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in east Atlanta and Ady Barkan, a tax activist and father with Lou Gehrig’s disease who confronted U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake about the bill on a plane last December. Similar events being coordinated by Tax March across the country.

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Piggybacking off this week’s congressional hearings that have featured Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said he’ll renew a push for two bills he’s authored to help safeguard consumer data. The six-term congressman said the measures would require app developers to obtain the consent of users before collecting their data, and give consumers more power to opt out of data collection.

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This isn’t about politics, but we couldn’t resist these paragraphs from the Macon Telegraph, on plans for the Georgia National Fair in Perry later this year:

Work is underway on an expansion of the Georgia Grown building at the fairgrounds to be called the Baby Barn, which will allow fair attendees to witness live animal births.

The goal is for 11 births by dairy cows to be done at the center, which would be one birth for each day of the fair, to be held Oct. 4-14. Five hog births are also planned.

No word yet on whether cigars will be handed out afterwards.


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