No penalty for lawmakers who fail Kansas drug test

The man chosen to administer a new drug testing program for state lawmakers said those who fail the tests won’t be penalized and their names might not be made public.

The law allowing the drug testing for lawmakers also requires testing of some people who receive government benefits. If those people fail drug tests, they will have their welfare benefits frozen unless they complete a treatment program.

Jeff Russell, director of the Legislative Administrative Services, will run the testing program, a decision made by the Legislative Coordinating Council. He said the bill does not give anyone authority to penalize lawmakers.

“None whatsoever,” Russell said.

And he said he doesn’t think he can disclose names of lawmakers who fail the tests because of privacy laws concerning medical records.

The lack of penalties has upset one freshman legislator.

“The only reason I voted for that bill is because I knew legislators would be tested,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican. “I just assumed that if we were subject to testing, we were subject to the same treatment as the individuals we imposed this on. Obviously we’re not.”

Clayton conceded she should have read the bill more closely but said she would like to see some measures put in the law to hold legislators accountable for their actions, such as by docking their pay and mandating rehabilitation.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, said experience in other states indicate that drug testing isn’t a good use of public funds and isn’t good for children.

“But if, as a state, we’re moving forward with drug testing, we should hold legislators to the highest standard.”

Testing for individuals receiving benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program begins July 1. Test results will be confidential, except for use in agency hearings. The drug testing and treatment for recipients is expected to cost the state about $1 million annually.