The Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation that would require drug testing for members of the state Legislature along with those seeking welfare and unemployment benefits.
The bill moves back to the state Senate, which approved the legislation earlier this month, to clarify wording. The Senate is expected to approve the bill, the core of which is drug testing those seeking benefits. The drug testing for lawmakers was added after state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita) noted "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."
State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) supports the benefit-testing requirement, noting that he believes it would allow those who are currently on drugs to receive treatment and also to escape the cycle of poverty. He dismissed the legislative drug-testing provision.
“It is obvious this was put in as a silly political thing," Claeys said. "The intent of the body is to see that if someone receiving public assistance is in that cycle of poverty where they are in substance abuse and to take them off that. The rest is a side show.”
Drug testing welfare applicants is gaining steam with conservatives nationwide, despite a lack of evidence that drug abuse is common with those receiving benefits. A Florida law that required all benefit applicants to be drug tested was struck down by a federal judge. A Kansas proposal requires testing only for those suspected of being on drugs.
State Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), a moderate Republican who opposed the Kansas bill, questioned how drug testing would help. She cited reports from mental health experts that showed less than 20 percent recover from addiction with treatment. She also noted that the legislation does not describe what type of treatment the state would require of those who tested positive.
Bollier also told HuffPost that she believes it could cost the state more money, noting that it is "unclear how many more children will end up in foster care" while a parent is being forced into drug treatment by the state.
Claeys, who stressed that he is drug free, said he has serious constitutional concerns over allowing the state's executive branch to drug test legislators, calling it a violation of separation of powers. It also could contradict the state constitution, which does not allow for the detention or arrest of legislators while performing their duties, he said.
Claeys said he can also see drug testing being used for political purposes; he indicated he would likely challenge a Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) administration request for a drug test.
“I would likely decline it based on the constitutional issue," Claeys said. "But again I don’t have a problem with knowing that I am not on drugs.”