Your View: Guest Column - Drug testing bill is bad policy for state

Sep. 03, 2013 @ 04:09 PM

Editor’s note: Because of technical problems, this guest column was not received until Tuesday when a legislative vote to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto was expected. It is being published as Rep. Brandon wrote it prior to the expected vote.

BY MARCUS BRANDON

There are not many things I agree with in regards to our governor and the GOP this legislative session. However, I want to thank the governor for his veto of HB 319, which would drug test people on government assistance. This bill sounds good on the surface — after all, why should we give assistance to people who are on drugs — but it’s not that simple. Anytime we deal with drug issues in this country, we fail to realize that many mitigating factors exist. I personally believe that this bill is one of the worst passed this year.
First, other GOP-controlled legislatures around the country tried implementing similar policies, only to find out that the amount of people using drugs is not nearly the number they tout at their county conventions. Also, in every single case, the taxpayers end up losing a significant amount of money because they have to pay for these drug tests in the event the recipient passes. In every state with this policy, this was the case over 90 percent of the time.
The major reason why this bill is bad policy for our state is that it does absolutely nothing to fix the problem. It actually exacerbates the problem. If you are trying to help people that are using drugs, the last thing you want to do is to take away their ability to eat. I did not grow up poor, but I live with and represent the people this bill targets. Taking away people’s ability to eat, especially children, is never good policy. I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that the game is survival. People always need to eat and they can go about that in a legal way or an illegal way, but no matter what, they are going to eat to survive.
If we are going to get serious about helping people in poverty and making them more self-sustaining, we have to deal with the structural reasons why people are living in poverty and abusing drugs. For many, it’s a coping mechanism, for others it could be a mental health issue. To address these problems we need to focus on creating jobs for the people who were in the recession before the recession. We need to look at the quality of education that we provide to these communities. We must examine the process by which we handle law enforcement, an entity that casts many of our young people aside as felons before the age of 21. If you lack a high school diploma and are marked as a felon, your chance of succeeding in this society diminishes tremendously.
So I urge my fellow colleagues to sustain the veto of this bad legislation. Let’s come together and make comprehensive sustainable policies for those who need it most. Policies that get people off the street and back to work, policies that help people with the problems of drug abuse and make them healthy. Let’s come together and give people a fighting chance in our society by creating independence and sustainability for generations to come.

Marcus Brandon, D-60th, of High Point is also a candidate for the 12th District U.S. House seat.