So we are back to talking about mandatory drug tests for those who receive government assistance. State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, is one of those backing the measure.
A federal judge has blocked a similar measure in Florida on constitutional grounds. Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure is alleged. But we are entering an election year, so the odds favor passage here in Georgia.
In reaction, state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, on Friday dropped a measure to require that all members of the Legislature submit urine or blood samples so that they, too, can be screened for mind-altering substances.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before. A well-informed reader reminded us of a particular April 15, 1997 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. From the AJC archives:
A state law that requires candidates to pass a drug test before seeking elected office may have helped Georgia bolster its image of being tough on drugs , but the statute violates the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Even the lone dissenter, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, called the 1990 law “misguided” and “even silly.” Still, Rehnquist argued that “this is the sort of policy judgment that surely must be left to legislatures” and not to the courts.
The 8-1 decision struck down the law as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches. The ruling ends any possibility that other states might follow Georgia’s lead in requiring a drug test within a few weeks after a candidate qualifies to run for an office.
“Georgia asserts no evidence of a drug problem among the state’s elected officials, ” and those officials typically do not perform safety- sensitive jobs, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.
“The need revealed, in short, is symbolic, ” Ginsburg said. “However well meant, the candidate drug test Georgia has devised diminishes personal privacy for a symbol’s sake.”
The case was argued by libertarian and Zebulon lawyer Walker Chandler, a lone practitioner who has run unsuccessfully for probate judge in Pike County and for lieutenant governor.
Walker drove to Washington, with his two sons to keep him company, to argue before the high court after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against him. The court, based in Atlanta, said in a 2-1 decision a year earlier, “the nature of high public office in itself demands the highest levels of honesty, clear-sightedness and clear thinking.”
As a matter of fact, I do recall that state Rep. Billy McKinney – the father of Cynthia — stood in front of the House chamber and, in a fiery speech, expressed his outrage at being forced to “pee into a cup.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider