CHARLESTON — An expert from the National Conference of State Legislatures told lawmakers Monday that they could expect a nearly break-even proposition if they plan to drug-test welfare recipients. 

Rochelle Finzel, the group director of NCSL, said that in other states that have done drug testing, the cost has a range of $1.2 million to $1.3 million annually, while the estimated savings is $1.3 million. 

Finzel said a dozen states have testing systems. All of those states have some period of ineligibility for benefits which range from one month to one year, she said. Some states have approved treatment programs as part of welfare clients being able to regain benefits. 

"(There's a) fairly low rate in terms of how many do test positive," she said. However, Finzel said, those numbers may be difficult to relate to what percentage of welfare recipients test positive, as "it is difficult to know how many don't even apply for benefits any more," she said.

Finzel said most welfare recipients test positive for marijuana and prescription drugs. 

Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said the point of any law dealing with drug-testing welfare recipients would be to improve the workforce in West Virginia, where fewer than 50 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 65 are working.

"It all comes down to giving people hope," he said. 

Cole said he had no information about property crime rates increasing in states that have denied benefits to welfare recipients. 

Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, who is also a doctor, said he plans to introduce legislation in 2016 that would prohibit cash payments at pawn shops for scrap metal and other items that may be stolen. Rohrbach said the payment would instead require a four-day waiting period and be made in the form of a check. 

— Email: ppritt@register-herald.com Follow PamPrittRH on Twitter

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