Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jan 2015
Source: Times Herald, The (Norristown, PA)
Contact:  2015 The Times Herald
Author: Andrew Staub, PA Independent


State lawmakers took their oath of office on Jan. 6, solemnly 
promising to uphold the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions.

But it shouldn't stop there, says State Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester 
County. They should swear to something else, too: that their pee is clean.

Lawrence said candidates for state-level elected office should be 
subject to a drug test, and he is floating legislation that would require it.

"I think that voters would be very interested in knowing," Lawrence said.

The rationale for it is simple. Plenty of private-sector employers 
require drug tests, and elected officials should be held to the same 
high standards, Lawrence said.

His idea crystallized last year, when the state House passed a bill 
requiring prospective schoolteachers and workers to take a drug test. 
The Senate never acted on it, but it reminded Lawrence of the age-old 
idiom: what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

So he introduced a bill requiring drug screenings for candidates for 
state representative, state senator, governor, lieutenant governor, 
elected row offices and judges on the Superior, Commonwealth and 
state Supreme Court.

It didn't go anywhere, so he's back at it this session. He's still 
refining the language of the bill, he said, but his past proposal 
called for candidates to file an affidavit stating they had undergone 
testing for controlled substances within 30 days and that they had 
not used drugs without a doctor's prescription. They'd also have to 
attach the test report.

The legislation was silent on what happened if they tested positive, 
and Lawrence said he's still considering whether to add language 
addressing that this time.

There's evidence the public likes the concept of drug testing for 
elected officials.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll last year found that 78 percent of Americans 
favored random drug testing for members of Congress. That was an even 
greater majority than those who favored drug testing for welfare recipients.

But had it been contacted, the American Civil Liberties Union of 
Pennsylvania would have been among the 7 percent of respondents that 
didn't support the idea. Government has less leeway than the private 
sector when it comes to drug screenings, said Andy Hoover, the 
organization's legislative director.

"If it's a government-instituted drug test, there's a Fourth 
Amendment problem," Hoover said, but added there can be "narrow" 
exceptions, such as for state employees who work in public safety or 
drive a school bus, for example.

Lawrence's proposal would indeed hold those pursuing elected office 
to a higher standard than many state employees.

The commonwealth is a drug-free work zone - meaning employees aren't 
supposed to use or bring alcohol or drugs to work and aren't supposed 
to be in an unfit condition to do their jobs - but only select 
categories of employees actually face drug testing, said Dan Egan, a 
spokesman for the Office of Administration.

Pennsylvania requires pre-employment screening and then random drug 
tests for workers who need a commercial driver's license to do their 
job, Egan said. The state also requires those who work in 
public-safety fields - such as state police cadets, corrections 
officer trainees and game officers - to undergo pre-employment 
screens, he said.

"If you have a CDL or carry a gun, you're probably going to get 
pre-employment tested," Egan said.

If Lawrence has his way, the state would add politicians to that 
list. Some lawmakers said they wouldn't mind.

State Rep. Jerry Knowles, a Schuylkill County Republican who has been 
advocating for drug testing for recipients of public assistance, said 
he supports Lawrence's idea.

"We're not above the law," Knowles said.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, who sponsored the legislation 
that inspired Lawrence's idea, is signing on as a co-sponsor of the 
drug-testing bill, even though he thinks there's a "vast difference" 
between screening candidates for the 253-person General Assembly and 
thousands of school employees who work around kids every day.

"If he wants to be cute," DeLuca said, "let him be cute."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom