At long last, consequences for drugged-up Kansas lawmakers

THREE STRIKES: An amendment submitted Tuesday would allow lawmakers to test positive three times before completely cutting off pay.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — It took the Kansas Legislature a grand total of 336 days to go from the signing of new drug testing laws to the day lawmakers actually implemented punishing elected officials who test positive for an illegal substance.

Better late than never.

Legislation intended to enact punitive measures for doped-up lawmakers died a quick, quiet death nearly a month ago after Senate lawmakers declined to boost the bill past the February turnaround deadline.

But Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, changed all that Tuesday by tacking just such an amendment onto existing legislation targeted at drug screening for public educators.

The amendment closely mirrors Hensley’s previous bill, which failed to even land a hearing this year. Lawmakers could be required to submit to a drug test on grounds of reasonable suspicion. In the event of a positive screening, officials would receive no pay until they complete a substance abuse program.

Afterward, lawmakers would be required to submit to further testing at various intervals. A second positive test would mandate another round of substance abuse treatment and denial of pay for a full year. At three strikes, lawmakers will be financially cut-off.

There’s a catch: Federal law, namely the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, would prevent a lawmaker’s positive drug test from being revealed outright to voters.

Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, has been a vocal advocate for full disclosure, describing such a revelation as “effectively job termination.” But in light of federal law, he called Hensley’s amendment the next best thing.

While drug test results aren’t public record, Hensley said, payroll documents are.

“The disclosure in all this is for the news media to check payroll,” Hensley said.

Related: Bill to punish Kansas lawmakers on drugs dies in Legislature
Related: As deadline looms, doped-up KS lawmakers could escape punishment
Related: Dopey law: KS lawmakers who use drugs could get special treatment

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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