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· May 15, 2012

Ohio conservatives cross streams on welfare drug testing

Today, news is breaking that Ohio lawmakers are considering an amendment to budget legislation (HB 487) that would require drug testing of welfare recipients. Supporters assure us that, unlike bills in other states that were found to violate constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure, Ohio’s measure is designed to pass legal muster. The problem for conservatives is that, in their zeal to deal President Obama a blow last November, they backed an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution in the form of Issue 3 that actually renders the drug testing proposal a violation of Ohio’s constitution.
From the Ohio Constitution, Section 1.21 – Preservation of the freedom to choose health care and health care coverage No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system “Health care system” means any public or private entity or program whose function or purpose includes the management of, processing of, enrollment of individuals for, or payment for, in full or in part, health care services, health care data, or health care information for its participants.
Clearly, state and local agencies cannot set up a system that mandates (or, in the language of Issue 3, “compels”) the collection and sharing of health care data—in this case, drug test results. Unfortunately, Issue 3 passed in November and became the law of the land. Now, it could prove to thwart one of the right’s favorite new bad ideas. If the drug testing requirement is thrown out as unconstitutional, we certainly won’t be shedding any tears. We also won’t be surprised, since we wrote about this type of outcome in our report: “Bad Medicine: Unintended Consequences of Issue 3.”  

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