Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 17, 2013

Drug test lawmakers?


— A state senator has reintroduced a measure this legislative session that asks welfare recipients in three yet-to-be-determined counties to consent to random drug tests.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, is designed to address a public perception that people on the dole are using tax dollars to support their drug habits.

Never mind that the state has no statistics to back up this assumption or that a similar program in Florida actually found just 2 percent of recipients tested positive for drugs.

And never mind that the targets of the measure might not be its only victims, that innocent children might be deprived of benefits because of a parent’s bad behavior.

The idea here is to make certain that hard-earned tax dollars aren’t going to support anyone’s destructive habits.

It’s a concept many of us can support. No one likes the image of poor people getting high on the public’s dime.

Frankly, saving individuals and families from the ravages of drug abuse is a worthy goal. If the state can accomplish that through this program, which was estimated to cost $1.1 million for a three-county pilot program during the last legislative session, it might turn out to be a good investment.

After all, if we truly can get drug-addicted welfare recipients the help they need to get their lives back on track, the result should be to reduce welfare costs and increase tax revenues.

Still, Kruse’s effort at this point is driven by perception, and given that, it might well make sense to propose these tests not only for welfare recipients but for the lawmakers themselves — just as legislators did in the last session.

That measure would’ve required legislators to consent to a test or give up privileges such as an office, a parking space or other amenities. It also would’ve given the Senate president or House speaker the authority to order a test based on reasonable suspicion that a legislator was using drugs.

The test results for lawmakers would’ve been a matter of public record, as would have the list of those who consented to a test and those who refused.

That still seems reasonable to us.

After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Shouldn’t lawmakers who are voting to test welfare recipients be willing to undergo the same tests?