Georgia Bill Would Require Drug-Testing for State Legislators

LTB default 777x437

State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) may or may not be serious about this proposal, but given some of the other stuff that legislatures have done, mandatory drug testing of legislators prior to any vote might not be a bad idea.

Holcomb said his bill was a response to HB 668, which would require anyone applying for state assistance, and any other adults in that family, to take drug tests. Failing would mean denial or loss of benefits. A federal judge in Florida enjoined a similar law last year, finding the requirement was an unreasonable suspicionless search under the Fourth Amendment. According to the order, while the Florida law was in effect, the percentage of welfare recipients who had tested positive (two to five percent) was significantly lower than the percentage of illegal drug use in the general population (said to be about eight percent, allegedly).

Holcomb's bill, HB 677, would require anyone elected to serve in the General Assembly to undergo mandatory drug testing within three months of taking office or beginning any subsequent term. Failing would mean removal from office. "[W]e should lead by example," Holcomb said, and "shouldn't expect others to live by standards that we don't uphold ourselves." Holcomb insisted he was optimistic about his bill's chances, although my guess is he's probably aware of the solid GOP majority in the Georgia Legislature, which should ensure that nobody there is getting drug-tested anytime soon.

Just in case, though, his bill provides that it would take effect in July 2012 and would apply only "to members of the General Assembly elected on or after such date." Notice that it doesn't say "re-elected" on or after such date. But maybe it's just a coincidence that it arguably would not apply to him even if it did pass.

This is not an entirely new idea – in 2008, there were calls for periodic breath-testing of members of Australia's parliament, after a series of incidents in which drunken MPs engaged in embarrassing shenanigans (or whatever the equivalent Australian term is). Which gives me an excuse to mention one of my favorite legislative quotes, uttered by then-Premier Nathan Rees, explaining why he had asked a minister to resign: "I subsequently put it to former minister Brown late last night," he said, "that there are 'too many reports of you in your underwear to ignore.'"