Ohio state Rep. Tim Grendell (R) said today that he will introduce legislation requiring Ohioans in need of unemployment benefits, welfare, or other government aid to take a drug test first. Patterned on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) new law, the bill, Grendell says, will force those seeking state aid “to pay for the drug tests” upfront — a payment that would only be repaid “if they pass.” If anyone fails the test two times, they will be banned from receiving aid for three years.
In defense of stigmatizing aid beneficiaries in such a way, Grendell declared that “assistance from the state is for those who need these funds for food and shelter, not illegal drugs”:
“Hard working taxpayers of the state of Ohio should not have to pay for the drug habits of illegal drug users,” Grendell said in a press release.
“This assistance from the state is for those who need these funds for food and shelter, not illegal drugs.”
If Grendell actually took a look at the Florida law he is so eager to emulate, he’d realize his big idea might run into an equally big obstacle: The Constitution. As UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler notes, “the Supreme Court has upheld the ability of government to mandate random drug tests in a few limited circumstances,” particularly in high-risk public safety environments. However, the courts have repeatedly struck down policies like the Florida law (and the Ohio proposal) that constitute “unreasonable searches and seizures” — a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
What’s more, the Florida law is actually costing rather than saving the state money. Only 2 percent of welfare recipients actually failed the drug tests, which means Florida will reimburse the 96 percent of recipients the $30 for the drug test. Florida will now owe “about $28,800 — $43,200 monthly in reimbursements.”
The only thing this bill will succeed in doing is impugning the character of the 529,000 unemployed Ohioans and numerous others who may seek support in the struggling economy. Perhaps that is why Grendell has yet to find cosponsors for the proposal.