Legislature and Welfare and State Government and Government & Economic Development and Government

Indiana House dilutes drug tests for lawmakers

January 30, 2012

Indiana's state lawmakers would have to submit to drug tests before they get perks like parking spots and laptops under a plan advanced Monday by the state House of Representatives.

The testing proposal is part of a bill introduced by Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, that would mandate Indiana's welfare recipients take drug tests before receiving any assistance. But McMillin withdrew his measure last week after lawmakers amended it to also require lawmakers to submit to drug tests.

McMillin said he withdrew the measure because the drug testing of legislators would be unconstitutional. But he brought a diluted version the bill back for consideration on Monday.

"This particular amendment would provide for legislative drug testing in in a way that I fully believe would meet constitutional muster," he said.

Indiana lawmakers overwhelmingly chose McMillin's pared-down drug test for themselves Monday, voting 81-15 for the proposal. The diluted plan would limit the number of lawmakers who are tested and give the House speaker and Senate president pro tem the power to test lawmakers they suspect of using drugs.

Democrats argued that Indiana's poor should not be the lone targets of drug testing, in one instance offering an amendment that would have mandated business owners who receive tax breaks and loans from the state take drug tests as well.

"I think at some point the people of Indiana want consistency when government money is given, about whether or not somebody is drug free when they accept it," said Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, who authored the original amendment requiring lawmakers to submit to the tests.

The overarching question of constitutionality and Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure has led federal courts to block drug-testing of welfare recipients in other states.

A federal judge ordered last year that Florida's testing law be put on hold while a challenge from the ACLU and a single father works its way through the courts. A federal appeals court blocked Michigan's attempt to mandate drug testing in 2003.

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