Sunday, March 6, 2011

Kentucky drug testing bill ruled dead!

This is already shaping up to be a very, very bad week for Kentucky's Tea Party tyrants and their ideological allies at Operation UNITE.

Tomorrow is the last day that Kentucky lawmakers can pass new bills in this year's session. And H.B. 208 - a dangerous bill that we've watched like the Hulk - does not appear on the agenda.

H.B. 208 is one of a flurry of bills nationwide that would require people on welfare to take a drug test. But H.B. 208 would apply not only to welfare but also Medicaid. And it's so poorly written that it would even apply to veterans benefits, disability payments, and Social Security for seniors. It's probably the broadest bill of its kind in the nation.

Right-wing sponsors promised the bill would be modified before being heard. They lied. It was never changed. At least one dissenting lawmaker pointed out that the bill was unconstitutional - in part because it didn't limit the drug tests to when there was probable cause. A court had already ruled you can't drug-test welfare recipients unless there's probable cause. But H.B. 208's sponsors were unwilling to shape their bill to comply with the court's ruling.

I'm sure some of the sponsors are well aware it was unconstitutional, because some happen to be attorneys by profession. In other words, they know their bill is unconstitutional but they just don't give a shit. This garbage is their idea of lawmaking.

I spotted a glimmer of hope that the bill might not even make it out of the House when legislators balked at voting on it weeks ago. They said they were reluctant to bring it to a vote because it was a fraud against Kentucky taxpayers: While the bill's supporters said it would save money by kicking drug addicts off the rolls, it would actually waste money because drug tests are costly and very few welfare recipients are even using illicit drugs.

Make no mistake: The bill was an effort to make Kentucky the first state to banish the poor from its borders. Competition has been fierce lately, I hear. Although the poor are as drug-free as anybody, the message of this bill is crystal clear: It's intended to stigmatize poverty.

Well, I am now pleased to inform you that - as of today - H.B. 208 has officially been declared dead. Gone. Kaput. Done for. Terminated. Flushed. By that, I mean legislators have failed to approve it.

The bill's supporters are bawling that this is because large central cities dominate the Kentucky legislature. What? They're kidding, right? The exurbs seem to have almost every seat! Even some mostly urban districts manage to elect a suburbanite. This made-up fable about urban dominance ranks right up there with the teabaggers' cries that Campbell County didn't have enough commissioners from the suburbs. In the Kentucky legislature, it's the exurbs (not the cities) that have too much influence.

Here's a safe bet: You can almost wager your life savings that a bill nearly identical to H.B. 208 will be introduced again next year. Why? Because our lawmakers don't listen. They don't listen to the public that opposes the drug tests, and they don't listen to courts that have ruled it unconstitutional. Our legislators believe Facebook and Free Republic are a gauge of public opinion and constitutional law. They'd rather waste their colleagues' time on headline-grabbing pet projects like H.B. 208 than pass effective laws. More worrisomely, they're truly hoping a bill like this can someday pass, and they'll claw to the edge of the universe to see it become law.

Real solutions are long overdue. We can cut the welfare rolls if we had full employment. One way we can do that is by barring American jobs from being shipped overseas. Americans can't expect to enjoy the living standards of 35 years ago unless they're once again able to buy American-made products.