Asked at yesterday’s Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast whether he’d support drug testing for recipients of unemployment insurance checks, Rep. Bob Bryant said he’d support it if elected officials are required to pass the same test as a condition of holding office. From the Savannah Morning-News:
Testing for unemployment benefits was part of its 2012 legislative agenda, which legislators traditionally discuss at the yearly breakfast.
Rep. Bob Bryant, D-Garden City, drew loud applause — and shifted the discussion — when his turn came.
Bryant said he backs the whole agenda except for the drug-test item.
“I can support it,” he added, “if you require all elected officials to take the same exam.”
Voicing a widespread view, Rep. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, said it would be “hypocritical” for legislators not to accept a requirement they seek to impose on others.
Like Watson, Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, who supports the chamber proposal, welcomed Bryant’s suggestion. So did Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.
“Anyone who holds elected office ought to be able to do so unimpaired,” Stephens said.
He said workers fired for failing a private employer’s drug test often spend unemployment checks on drugs.
“Let’s fix this problem for the business community,” Stephens added.
Recession-driven joblessness has strained Georgia’s unemployment benefits programs, and there is talk of increasing mandatory contributions from business.
Chamber vice president Trip Tollison said many business owners think testing might ease the crunch by weeding out drug abusers.
Senator Vincent Fort chimed in with talking points lifted from some Georgia liberal, no doubt:
Fort said it’s a “bad idea” and likely an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
“They’re saying we’re going to drug-test people who haven’t been accused of a crime,” he said. “We don’t even do it for people who are arrested. They want to criminalize the poor.”
If the criterion for tests is receipt of tax money, CEOs of companies that get big tax breaks should have to take them, Fort said.
“Companies like Delta Airlines get millions and millions,” he said. “That’s corporate welfare.”
I say let’s do them one better and require legislators to work at least 24 hours per week in the service of a 501(c)(3) in order to be eligible for their paychecks, per diem, and employee benefits.