Senator criticizes bill targeting aid recipients
By Karl Henkel
If passing a drug test becomes a requisite for state benefits, then state Rep. Robert F. Hagan knows just the group to test.
No, not public-aid recipients.
He’d test his fellow legislators.
Hagan, of Youngstown, D-60th, proposed legislation Thursday that would require legislators, Supreme Court justices, statewide elected officials and JobsOhio board members to pay for mandatory drug tests — with their own dime.
“We have a lot of people running around and getting picked up with drugs and alcohol in their system,” Hagan told The Vindicator on Thursday. “And lately, they happen to be politicians.”
Hagan was referring to former state Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, R-30th, who resigned last month after he was pulled over April 23 in Indiana on suspicion of driving under the influence. He posted a 0.097 blood-alcohol level, higher than the Indiana legal limit of 0.08.
State Rep. Jarrod Martin, R-70th, has been implicated in three alcohol-related incidents. He has said he won’t resign.
The Ohio bill, which would have to be embraced by the GOP- controlled House and Senate, likely will end up as only a political statement against Republican attempts to require drug and alcohol testing of anyone receiving public assistance.
“A good portion of what I’m saying is tongue-in-cheek,” Hagan said. “If they think it’s OK to do that and think people aren’t going to start adding up the dollars like in Florida, then I’m fine with doing the same thing.”
Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Tim Grendell, R-18th, already have announced their intention to introduce legislation requiring Ohioans receiving state benefits to undergo drug testing.
Hagan, whose legislation has not yet been introduced, said public officials should pay for the test, which will check for those who use unprescribed pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs and alcohol. The legislation is similar to one in effect in Missouri.
Consequences could include the outright removal from public office and in the case of JobsOhio board members, impeachment.
“It’s in the early stages of the drafting,” Hagan said. “I’m certainly not against treatment, but I also think that we have to have some leeway there when it comes to how we want to penalize somebody.”
Grendell said last month that his bill would require welfare applicants who fail the tests to enroll in state-approved treatment programs to continue receiving benefits.
“Hard-working taxpayers of the State of Ohio should not have to pay for the drug habits of illegal drug users,” he said in a released statement. “This assistance from the state is for those who need these funds for food and shelter, not illegal drugs.”
Hagan said he would vote for Grendell’s bill only if legislators agreed to be drug-tested themselves. Otherwise, he said, it was hypocritical to ask one segment of the population to abide by different rules.
Columbus correspondent Marc Kovac contributed to this report