North Carolina House passes background check requirement for welfare applicants
North Carolina House legislators have overwhelmingly approved a bill that will institute mandatory background checks for benefits recipients. The measure, passed by a 106-6 margin, comes just days after Texas lawmakers enacted a similar regulation.
The North Carolina bill passed Thursday requires all social services employees to perform background checks to screen welfare and food stamp applicants with outstanding arrest warrants and other active violations. Social services employees would have to report applicants to law enforcement.
The bill, proposed by Republican Dean Arp, now moves to the State Senate. Arp admitted that federal laws already prohibit those wanted on felony laws from receiving public assistance. Democrats in the House reportedly expressed concern that the measure would add stress on social services employees and unduly characterize the poor in a negative light.
Earlier this week the Texas Senate passed a bill that will force drug tests on welfare recipients, who are provided with money for food, housing, and other basic needs. The current program spends about $90 million on 100,000 Texans annually, with the bill's sponsor saying that the money “should not be used to support a drug habit.”
As evidenced by the wide voting margin, North Carolina voters have embraced politicians who tend to believe in an anti-government, pro-religious philosophy. Since US President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, North Carolinian lawmakers have introduced restrictions on voting, limited the ability of unions to negotiate and attempted to impose an official state religion.
Rallies and protests have frequently been organized to oppose those political aims. Just days before the North Carolina House approved welfare screening, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the legislative building against loosened regulations on charter schools and high-interest payday loans, among other issues.
“We have the opportunity to build a progressive movement the likes of which has never been seen in the state,” MaryBe McMillan, a treasurer of the state AFL-CIO told the News Observer. “If we don’t build the movement, our state will become unrecognizable.”