Friday, January 19, 2007

GOP Still Wasting Your Time--Drug Testing??

It's one thing to propose harebrained schemes based on your hilarious misinterpretations of reality when your party is in the majority; while the bills may not be any less devoid of substance, they can serve as ideological platitudes that many Republicans seem to like better than the old boring ones from the Constitution. They become useful base-ralliers, with their own twisted and sad purpose--they make the proposing politician feel important and participatory, and with a majority he or she gets the bill to hang on a hook and show the folks back home that he's working hard to impose their particular worldview on everyone else. Even if it doesn't pass, it's something he fought the good fight for, and he can blame those damn Democrats for having just enough votes to block it.

But in the minority, that shit don't fly. When you're on the short side of the roster, all of those paranoiac, reactionary bills get posted, put in a subcommittee that meets near the broom closet, and are left to die the lonely death of the incomplete record. As well they should. Case in point:
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, has introduced a bill that would require regular twice-yearly drug testing for all legislators as well as the governor, state treasurer, secretary of state and all other statewide elected officials -- even the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Krieger's not messing around. Refusing to take the test would be regarded as an admission that the official has taken a controlled substance illegally, under House Bill 2306. Anyone who fails the test would be given the choice of getting treatment or seeing the results made public.

Krieger says he decided to go forward with his proposal after listening to fellow legislators' pious talk about winching down on ethics rules and banning gifts from lobbyists. What's worse, he asks, accepting an $11 plaque from an interest group or passing laws while schwacked?

"It seems to me," Krieger says, "that state officials should be more than willing to stand up and say, 'When I'm doing the people's business, I'm doing it with a clear mind and not under the influence of any drug.'"
Oh, what a load of crap--the people's business. Which people? I challenge Krieger to tell me how many people he talked to last campaign who said, "Hey Wayne, you know the thing you should concentrate on the first three weeks of 2007? Getting the entire top level of government to do pee tests! Yeah, focus on that." Baloney.

It's all so stupid--not even The O believes there's the slightest chance this bill sees the light of day. And the responses of those potentially subject to the law range from slightly indignant to highly bemused:
Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, takes a dim view of it. The Legislature is aiming for an end-of-June adjournment, and needs to use its time "pragmatically," he says.

"If there's some evidence that the chief justice or the state treasurer is taking a controlled substance, then we can look at whether this is a good solution," Macpherson said. "We should focus our time on real issues, not invented or imagined ones."

Reaction among those to whom the bill would apply was muted. Gov. Ted Kulongoski's spokeswoman said the governor would be "interested to hear the floor debate" on the bill. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said through a spokeswoman that he has no opinion on the bill, but would comply if it became law.

"I'm OK with being tested," said state schools superintendent Susan Castillo. "My question would be, why?"
Greg Macpherson is a quickly rising star in the House, respected across both sides of the chamber. He's the head of the Judiciary Committee, and he's got enough bills to deal with, without having this lame time-waster to debate. I rarely if at all have seen him be that categorical in response to a colleague's initiative--"invented and imagined"--ouch!

But beyond all that, putting aside politics and focusing on the actual concept and structure of the legislation...Krieger's bill looks even worse. It looks like it was set up by a high schooler at 3AM buzzed on cafe americano, Red Bull and Capn Crunch.

The main idea is that twice yearly, pretty much every elected or high appointed official would be drug tested for "Schedule I and II controlled substances." Indeed, life-destroying, highly dangerous marijuana is on the list, as are cocaine, heroin, meth, LSD, X...most everything illegal you can think of.

It's a pretty big list.
Ever taken OxyContin? How about Percocet? Nembutal? I've had that one, more than once. Vicodin? Another popular item. But what's not on the list? Booze. Amyl nitrate. Benzene. Airplane glue. Nitrous oxide (otherwise known as laughing gas.) Whiteboard markers, even. And what about the tests? Are they random? The bill doesn't say. If they're going to test for Sched. I and II drugs, is Krieger aware how much it costs to test for all of them? Or did he intend to stick to the boogeyman drugs, and leave the prescription-addicted alone? His bill doesn't say. On another point, apparently the OSP are going to conduct the tests--I can't wait to see a police phlebotomist try to stick her boss (the governor) for drugs. How much is enough to register a positive result? Who is the arbiter in the proposed hearing setup for the accused? Does a Justice of the Supreme Court have the right to appeal his adverse finding to himself?

OK, I'm getting silly, but that's not a serious bill on any basis--not the least of which is the plain old Constitutional test, which looks down very strongly on suspicionless searches. The US Supreme Court is wary even to grant the right of blanket searches on minors in school; to test adults--especially those in public employ--on a suspicionless basis is absurd on its face. And Krieger wants to impose it as an after-the-fact condition of employment (because refusing is an admission of guilt in the bill!) on the very people elevated and sworn to uphold the law. Didn't individual liberty use to be a talisman of the core conservative?

Of course people at those levels are human, and they fall to addiction just like anyone else. We understand now that Chief Justice Rehnquist was addicted to pain pills for years while serving on the bench. Certain people knew it, and they covered for him. Now THAT should have been a crime or civil penalty. Who knows how many cases were influenced by his being "whacked" on drugs, instead of his right wing, shit-kicker ideology? By the way, he was addicted to Placidyl. And you know what? Placidyl is a Schedule IV drug...meaning under Krieger's bill the Chief would have been A-OK.

What will it take? How long will it be before Republicans in the Oregon Legislature realize they are simply taking up oxygen with this bullshit? I'm begging you now: PLEASE debate the bills coming to the floor in the coming months. PLEASE tell me you object to suspending the people's will on M37. PLEASE say it's unfair to raise taxes. PLEASE say we're giving too much money to light rail. I don't agree with a bit of it, but it's a properly rational response to the bills being proposed on the people's behalf. No, instead we get this slapdash nonsense that not only is immediately doomed for defeat, but represents time squandered that could have been used to advance a more practical cause. Until you get some real ideas, just shut up and vote when called, OK?