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California initiative to test law-makers for drugs may be on ballot

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July 17, 2009

California: California activists have put together a ballot initiative that, if put into law, would require all legislators to be tested for drug use and habitual alcohol use on the first day of a legislative session after elections. Supporters will have to collect about 434,000 signatures from registered voters to get the measure on the November 2010 ballot. Despite the difficulty in getting so many signatures just to get the initiative on the ballot, many have remarked that it would probably be met with broad public support. Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said if it were on the state ballot, it "would pass with 85 percent."[1]

The measure states that if a legislator tests positive for illegal drug use, chronic alcohol use or refuses to be tested, they will be suspended until they have completed a substance abuse program treatment program and tests negatively for illicit substances. If they test positive again, their service would effectively end and their seat will remain empty until the next regular election, instead of having a special election.[2] The measure also points out that the drug tests would cost thousands of dollars in additional state costs every two years, but fails to specify where this extra revenue will come from or how costs might possibly be offset.

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