The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 9, 2014

Other Views: Good for thee, not me

JOPLIN, Mo. — It seems the get-the-government-off-our-backs crowd in Topeka has decided that it’s OK to penalize some of those receiving state aid if they fail a drug test, but legislators don’t believe the rule should apply to them.

According to a story in The Topeka Capital-Journal, under a new state law, low-income Kansans who fail their drug test will have their benefits frozen unless they complete a treatment program.

Not so for legislators. And because of privacy laws, it’s not clear that the names of legislators who fail the test can be released.

The Kansas bill also bars anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from receiving cash aid for five years and extends that to a lifetime ban for a second conviction. It also requires drug screening for recipients of unemployment insurance.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, told the Topeka newspaper: “The only reason I voted for that bill is because I knew legislators would be tested. I just assumed that if we were subject to testing, we were subject to the same treatment as the individuals we imposed this on. Obviously we’re not.”

Clayton would like to see legislators who fail the test forfeit their legislative pay and have to go into rehab.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, sought to not only have legislators tested but also the heads of businesses that received state incentives. The effort to test business leaders failed, as did his effort to penalize legislators who failed a test.

The positive side of testing is that if the state knows who has a drug problem, it can help by getting those people into treatment.

But we’re also sure some legislators saw this as a chance to cut off drug users who they fear are living off the dole.

We like the idea of expanding treatment, but cutting off aid can punish far more than just the drug user. Quite often children and other dependents are involved.

A better, long-term solution would be to move toward legalizing drugs. But until then, we’ll settle for at least not punishing those who have a drug problem, and that would include legislators.

 

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