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Drug Testing Bills Still Floating Around Statehouse

Lawmakers who want to drug-test their peers are slowly flushing those plans down the toilet as they struggle to fight high costs for their plans.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker who wants citizens on the state benefits rolls to provide a urine sample before collecting government handouts says he’ll be ready to pitch his bill soon.

“We have limited tax dollars and we want the dollars that we do have to go to people so they can do everything they can to get off the benefits,” said Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.

Campfield expects to push SB2580 next week mandating drug tests for those collecting welfare benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, legislation he said he spend most of the summer refining.

He says he is waiting on revisions to the price tag, which he expects will translate to state government savings over time as benefits recipients test positive for drugs. The fiscal note should be available this week, he said, and he expects to bring the measure up in committee in late February or early March.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is an advocate of requiring recipients of government dollars, such as those collecting unemployment benefits and worker’s compensation, to submit to drug tests. Ramsey has also said he supports drug testing public servants and even key personnel that contract with the state.

Several Democratic lawmakers are taking Ramsey up on his word and have proposed bills requiring lawmakers and their staffs to submit to drug tests, including Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar.

But Shaw said he’ll likely delay or take his bill, HB2411, out of committee when it is up for debate Tuesday because it has a $30,000 price tag every two years.

“I’m a little bit fed up with legislators passing laws they don’t live up to themselves,” said Shaw. “I can’t deny that some people do abuse social services but I’m willing to be tested first and foremost.”

Rep. G. A. Hardaway, who also wants lawmakers to take drug tests, took HB2432 and HB2433 off notice in the House Judiciary Subcommittee earlier this month to do more research on private sector drug testing. As is, his plan would cost $11,500 to drug tests legislators every two years. To lower the costs, Hardaway said legislators should pay for their own drug tests.

Hardaway says he expects to repitch his plans to the committee as early as this week.

“I don’t care how well we test, people still probably think we’re on drugs with the bills we’re churning out,” said Hardaway, D-Memphis.

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