Setting aside other, less pressing business, the Louisiana House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs approved a bill, HB 1352, which would allow lawmakers and elected officials to take a voluntary drug test and mental health evaluation after election, with the state paying the tab. The bill would also allow testees to post the results on the Internet. The bill is the brainchild of Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), who has also sponsored a bill mandating drug testing for welfare recipients.
LaBruzzo's bill originally contained only the drug testing provision, but according to the account of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Rep. Nancy Lang (R-Lafayette) half-jokingly asked, "Have you considered having legislators undergo a mental health test?" An amendment to that effect was then offered and accepted.
Thousands of state employees, as well as all applicants for state jobs, are required to take drug tests under state law now. "We should apply ourselves to the same rules as state employees," LaBruzzo said.
"I think it is a lot of window dressing," said Rep. Patrick Connery (R-Harvey), before voting for it. He said legislators could simply abstain from drugs for long enough to pass a drug test, then take one and post the results online.
"If it is voluntary, and somebody is on drugs, why would he take it?" asked Rep. Wayne Waddell (R-Shreveport). "You are putting the perception out there that those who don't take it are on drugs."
The evidence is building that those legislators really do need those mental health evaluations.