One of the changes the law imposes is putting the recipient's photo on every EBT card. The government loads food stamp benefits on the EBT, or electronic benefits transfer card, and the holder uses it to pay for food.

Want public assistance? Take a drug test

Gov. Nathan Deal has until Tuesday to sign a bill that would require drug testing for some recipients of welfare and food stamps -- and require them to pay for the tests out of their own pockets.

The law is by far the toughest in the nation when it comes to public assistance. About a dozen states require some drug testing of welfare recipients. Georgia’s bill would cover people on welfare, but they only number about 16,000 statewide. By contrast, the state has 1.7 million food stamp recipients, and Georgia would become the only state in the Union to impose drug tests on food stamp users. (Many recipients will be exempt from drug testing, including children and people living in nursing homes, so the testing provision wouldn't apply to all 1.7 million on the rolls.)

Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said the bill is sensible and fair. “We passed a bill that simply insists on some level of personal responsibility of people who receive public funds for their support and livelihood,” he said.

But Democrats in the Legislature, all of whom voted against it, say the bill is anything but fair.

“These are mean-spirited proposals,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “This bash-the-poor legislation continues to crop up.”

Subscribers may read staff writer Ariel Hart's full story in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution and on

Also coming Sunday . . .

  • Fulton County commissioners have been using police officers to chauffeur them about, even though county rules say commissioners shouldn't use cops that way except for "executive protection" when there's been a documented threat. Who knew that being a county commissioner was such a risky business? Staff writer David Wickert reports.
  • The first major work on the Capitol Hill grounds in nearly four decades will soon begin with the demolition of a parking deck across the street from the Capitol. In its place: Liberty Plaza, where crowds of up to 3,000 people may gather for rallies. Staff writer James Salzer reports.
  • Ballerinas often don't return to the stage after giving birth. Count Atlanta's Christine Winkler, who has played many lead roles in her 19 years with the Atlanta Ballet, as an exception. But for how long? Staff writer Howard Pousner writes this week's Personal Journey.

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