State Republicans support pee-for-dollars law



Janak Joshi
  • Janak Joshi

The Denver Post did some initial reporting on a bill that has passed out of a state House committee that would require applicants for federal temporary assistance through Colorado Works to submit to, and pay for, a drug test.

Apparently, the state House Republicans who voted for this bill failed to learn from the giant debacle a similar law caused in Florida. From Florida's ACLU office:

As the result of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute (FJI), today U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven halted enforcement of Florida’s new law mandating drug tests for all applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The judge ruled that the compelled drug testing is a search under the 4th Amendment, and that individuals retain a right of privacy against such intrusive, suspicionless searches by the state, even when applying for temporary assistance.

Also, they must not have noticed the law's utter failure to save the state of Florida any money whatsoever, and by some estimates, that it cost that state money. Further, they must not have noticed that, despite the rhetoric, the population of people in Florida who submitted to testing were proven to use drugs at a far lower rate than the general public.

As the argument goes, since these applicants are asking for hard-earned taxpayer dollars, they ought to be happy to prove their moral purity. If so, as one Miami Herald columnist asked, shouldn't everyone who receives government money be equally held accountable?

Here in Florida, Rick Scott’s campaign promise of mass job creation is at least coming true for professional urine samplers. However, in addition to being sued over drug-testing welfare parents, Scott also faces a court fight for ordering random substance screening on thousands of state workers.

Interestingly, the governor’s pee-in-the-cup mandate doesn’t apply to the one bunch that whizzes away more tax dollars than anyone else — the legislators who pass such useless laws.

I say line up all 160 of ‘em for a patriotic whiz-fest at the Capitol clinic. You think more than 2.5 percent might test positive? Let’s find out.

And I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket. Seriously.

The idea of testing legislators came up in the debates during the committee hearing in Denver as well. According to the Post, the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling said that he would be willing to submit to a similar drug testing.

Sonnenberg said his bill was similar to legislation in Florida that has caused controversy. Critics of that legislation have asked politicians who support it whether they'd be willing to take drug tests themselves in exchange for their taxpayer-funded salaries.

"That's a valid argument," Sonnenberg said in response. "I'd be willing to do that."

His bill, unsurprisingly, makes no mention of the legislator drug testing requirement. What it does require, however, is that anyone, even unwed teen mothers, submit to the pee test.

Never fear, though, as the bill's author does take into consideration that forcing someone to pee in a cup solely based on their economic vulnerability could be invasive and humiliating, the law would assure "each person tested a reasonable degree of dignity while producing and submitting a sample."

I guess that means that they can go behind a curtain.

By-the-by, this is an extraordinary power — arguably a huge violation of the Fourth Amendment — to be given the government. So it's ironic (or at least it ought to be) that it's a bill authored and backed by so-called small-government Republicans. In the committee vote, the Springs' own conservative favorite, and former doctor, Republican Rep. Janak Joshi was one of the legislators to vote for passage.

This is a legislative notion so mockable that it even drew the attention of The Daily Show:

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