Robbie Hargett Aug. 13, 2015, 1:45pm

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - The state of Wisconsin is suing federal food and nutrition officials in a controversy involving drug testing of welfare recipients.

The state of Wisconsin and Kitty Rhoades, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, filed a lawsuit July 14 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin against U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and federal food and nutrition officials Kevin Concannon, Audrey Rowe, Jessica Shahin, and Suzan Holzer, alleging they violated a federal provision that states the federal government cannot prohibit states from testing welfare recipients for drug use.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are required by Wisconsin law to screen, test, and treat drug use certain recipients of its FoodShare welfare program, but the defendants say federal law does not permit drug testing of FoodShare recipients.

The plaintiffs cite the following federal provision: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, states shall not be prohibited by the federal government from testing welfare recipients for use of controlled substances nor from sanctioning welfare recipients who test positive for use of controlled substances."

The plaintiffs seek to resolve the controversy with an order clarifying the meaning and effect of the above provision, plus injunctive relief and court costs. They are represented by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad D. Schimel and assistant attorneys general Daniel P. Lennington and Thomas C. Bellavia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin case number 2:15-cv-00855-CNC.

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