A recent poll of Georgia voters says that while 64 percent of those surveyed favor drug-testing for individuals applying for public assistance, a whopping 79 percent support drug-tests for lawmakers and other elected officials. The poll, conducted by the progressive organization Better Georgia, also reveals that 66 percent of voters support testing of CEO’s of companies that receive any form of government money.
The poll was inspired by Georgia House Bill 677, proposed by State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), that stipulates that all members of the Georgia State Assembly should be tested for drugs before they can continue to collect their government paychecks. Holcomb proposed his bill in response to Senate Bill 292, introduced by State Senator Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and other Republicans, a measure that mimics Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to drug-test all applicants for welfare benefits.
Applicants would be forced to pay for the tests out-of-pocket, but some may qualify for reimbursement through the state Medicare system. Republican lawmakers who favor the bill seem undaunted by the fact that Florida’s plan has revealed a startlingly low number of positive test results and has ended up costing the state considerably more than it saves.
State Senator John Albers (R-Roswell), a co-sponsor of SB 292, says that the bill is based on the Florida law, which is currently on hold after being blocked by a federal judge. Albers says that the bill could save the state up to $103,000 per year, but admits that according to the sponsors’ own numbers, it could just as easily cost the state $84,500 per year to implement.
Georgia House and Senate versions of the drug testing requirement for welfare recipients have been passed by the Assembly and are now in committee for mark-ups and revisions. The measures are expected to pass.
Georgia currently ranks fifty-first among the United States and District of Columbia for job growth. Better Georgia Executive Director Bryan Long said in a telephone interview with Raw Story that the House and Senate members who support the measures know that the bills are a distraction and a “political stunt,” but don’t care.
“They want to target people,” he said, “And we see who they’re targeting.”
Better Georgia is currently mounting a campaign to send urinalysis cups to Republican Governor Nathan Deal and the members of the Georgia State Assembly, asking them to prove that they deserve government money first.
The group’s website says, “Government abuses happen at the top, with those who have power. The state gives money to many groups of people, including our elected officials and corporate executives who receive millions in tax credits and government contracts.”
“We’re sending them a message,” said Long, “‘If you’re going to require drug tests for Georgia residents, then you pee first.’”
(image via Flickr Commons)
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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