Saturday, January 28, 2012


Short of Republicans, a Hawaii Democrat introduces bills to drug test the poor anyway

No compelling evidence exists that individuals on public assistance or more likely to engage in drug use or other illegal behaviors and yet Republicans in more than 30 states have attempted to institute a drug testing requirement to receive benefits. Some laws have even attempted to make it impossible to collect food stamps or unemployment benefits without being tested.–[Raw Story, Indiana welfare drug testing bill withdrawn after lawmakers included, 1/28/2012]

by Larry Geller

In Hawaii, we are a bit short of Republicans. But several drug testing bills have been introduced in our state legislature this session that demonstrate that wrongheadedness and discrimination are non-partisan.

On Thursday an informational briefing was held by Rep. John Mizuno and a couple of the members of his Health and Human Services Committee who came and left during the testimony. The bills at issue were HB1710 and HB1711, both aimed at drug testing TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicants or recipients.

Constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment aside, how does it help TANF recipients to take away benefits? As I testified, how does it help their children if the family becomes homeless?

No Republicans can be blamed for these bills. Actually, there was a nexus of bills that I found in my hands during that info briefing. Add in HB1885 which would have required mandatory testing of those in public housing.

Hawaii seems to be the “take away state.” Someone made off with the Aloha Spirit before this legislative session began. Taking away TANF harms, not helps people. Same for taking away public housing. What exactly did the children affected do to deserve living on the street or the beaches?

Once homeless, very conveniently, the City and County of Honolulu will jump in and take away any remaining provisions under a new shiny law they just passed. Again, that doesn’t help the people affected, but it sure is cheaper than budgeting for services that might, and much easier than instituting rent control or other measures to assure that there is affordable housing for everyone.

I had one more bill in my hands, HB2288, the one that would spy on each of us by requiring Internet service providers to keep records on everything we do from our home computer terminals and make it available to authorities.

Looking at the set of bills, I couldn’t help thinking, “what were these legislators smoking?”

Bills don’t just happen. I thought it would be useful to note who introduced or voted for these bills. We need to take note of how our lawmakers are working for us. Maybe one day there could be evaluation sheets or a website that would keep score.


Bill # Purpose Introduced by Votes so far in favor
HB1710 Drug test TANF recipients Mizuno  
HB1711 Drug test TANF recipients Mizuno  
HB1885 Drug test any tenant or any applicant of federal or state low-income housing Cabinilla, Ito, Mizuno, Awana, Chang, Nakashima Cabanilla, Ito, Chang, Coffman, Herkes, Nakashima
HB2288 Spying on internet users in Hawaii Mizuno, Ito, Manahan, Awana, Har, M. Lee, Nishimoto (bill was deferred)

There are apparently other drug testing bills that have been introduced that I haven’t tracked down yet.

It’s easy to understand the Constitutional objection to these, and we also know that misuse of drugs occurs at every level of society, so that testing only the poor is clearly discrimination. Yet these bills were introduced.

And they have one thing in common, the person who has introduced each of them. He’s no Republican, either.

So at the end of my testimony I pushed a plastic testing cup across the table to Rep. Mizuno and suggested that since state legislators are paid from taxpayer money, before introducing any bills, they might each be required to pee in the cup and be drug tested themselves.

Rep. Mizuno has long been a champion of the downtrodden. He fought hard for the Micronesians who were cut off from health care by former governor Lingle. He got a “safe haven” bill passed to protect unwanted newborns. So I couldn’t help wondering why his name is on these bills.

The two bills won’t be heard. But why were they introduced in the first place?


Yes, why were they introduced in the first place? What company most likely would be asked to do the testing for Hawaii...start there.

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