Published: Apr 13, 2011 4:42 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 13, 2011 1:42 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - New applicants for one form of welfare assistance would have to get drug tests at their own expense under a bill advancing in the Florida Legislature.

The Senate version won approval from a budget subcommittee Wednesday on 5-2 party line vote. Republicans voted in favor and Democrats against.

Sen. Steve Oelrich is sponsoring the bill (SB 556). The Alachua Republican said it's only fair for welfare recipients to get drug tested because many taxpayers are screened by their employers.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich said it would be unfair to make poor people pay for drug tests. The Weston lawmaker also cited a national study showing little difference in drug use between welfare recipients and other people.

A Senate staff analysis says testing can cost up to $35.

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