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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two State Lawmakers Want to Drug Test State Officials

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 2:00 PM


Could the sometimes crazy behavior of our Ohio officials and lawmakers in Columbus possibly be drug-fueled or alcohol related? Two Democratic legislators are proposing we find out. State senator Nina Turner of Cleveland and state representative Bob Hagan of Youngstown have put together two separate bills that would call for drug testing legislators.

Hagan’s proposed law goes even further and would also mandate testing for officeholders statewide, including the governor, Supreme Court Justices, and JobsOhio board members. All would be tested for alcohol too. Hagan’s inspiration for that is presumably the recent rash of alcohol-fueled antics among his fellow legislators.

With either bill, state officials failing a drug or alcohol test would be subject to a dock in pay.

Turner and Hagan drafted their proposals as retaliation to state senator Tim Grendell’s announcement that he will introduce a bill mandating drug testing for state aid recipients, including those getting unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation. Recipients would pay for testing themselves and be reimbursed only if they pass. Grendell’s law is modeled on a Florida law that isn’t working out too well. Only two percent test positive; the rest have to be reimbursed.

Turner and Hagan recognize their measures won’t get far, but they feel they need to make a point.

“I was moved to this by what I perceived as an attack on the poor, who had nothing to do with this blighted economy, yet seem to be the continuous scapegoat of Republicans,” says Hagan. “I believe if you’re going to attack them, you should open yourself to drug and alcohol testing as well. There are some who perceive they are better than the middle class or the poor. Some make the serious mistake of driving drunk and having other chemicals in their system [state rep. Bob Mecklenborg] or having passengers in their car [state rep. Jarrod Martin].”

Turner says her legislation was inspired by Hagan’s, and she echoes his belief that Grendell’s bill is an attack on the poor.

“If you’re testing those who receive state money, let’s start at the top and test members of the general assembly,” she says.

Grendell won’t be sticking around to introduce his bill; he was just appointed to a Geauga County judicial seat by the governor. But surely one of his colleagues will pick up the slack — although Jarrod Martin will probably be hiding in the john until the smoke clears. — Anastasia Pantsios

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