The Times West Virginian

March 8, 2013

Random drug testing concept: ‘Get it moving’ in Legislature

Times West Virginian

— Florida law requires it.

There’s a variation of it in Arizona and Missouri, too.

Just what is “it”?

It’s the requirement that people receiving welfare and food stamps submit to random drug testing.

And if some state lawmakers’ efforts pay off, West Virginia could be on that list, too.

The Mountain State wouldn’t be alone though. More than 20 states across the nation are seeking to adopt stricter laws that would require public aid recipients to take drug tests.

The issue is even gaining ground in Washington, D.C., where U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., has introduced a new version of the Welfare Integrity Act, which would require random drug testing to be performed on welfare recipients.

Closer to home, the bipartisan proposal in front of West Virginia lawmakers would impose random drug tests on welfare recipients and anyone getting an unemployment check. The proposal would stop a check going directly to the recipient after failing to come clean on a second test; the first positive test would direct a recipient to counseling.

The goal? Ultimately, the bill would prevent recipients from using tax dollars to buy drugs, helping curb the drug prevalence throughout the state. Plus, the measure takes steps to assure children in families where drugs have been detected won’t be denied money they need for essentials.

But officials are already voicing concerns that because the bill was assigned to three committees in the state Senate, it will be more difficult for it to reach the Senate floor for a vote. It first must go to the Health and Human Resources, chaired by Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, a physician. From there it goes to Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha. The final stop is Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.

We hope the bill moves through the committees without the hassles of what freshman Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, described as a slowdown tactic.

“It’s obviously a mechanism to delay consideration of it by the full body,” Carmichael said. “I’m disappointed that it’s triple referenced. However, let everybody have a full and open debate on it. Send it to as many committees as they want to, and let’s get it moving.”

He referenced “overwhelming” public support for the bill, and it’s no surprise.

Think about it. How many people working in the public sector are required to undergo some sort of random drug testing? And don’t stop there — even some privately owned companies require it. Countless people in this state — and nation — submit to random drug testing and prove they are drug free in order to continue working and earning a paycheck.

Why should it be different for those receiving public assistance?

And it wouldn’t stop there. In an effort to “lead by example,” the measure would provide random drug screens for members of the Legislature. Lawmakers who test positive for drugs would face the forfeiture of their pay.

We think it’s past time for West Virginia to enact a law of this type. We hope each committee member — including Marion County’s own Roman Prezioso, if the bill makes it that far — gives the bill the careful consideration it deserves.

Passing this bill is a chance for the state to lead by example as well.