Monday, May 21, 2012

Ohio lawmakers remove amendment to budget bill that required that Ohioans on food stamps be drug tested, Cleveland NAACP officials, Black Cleveland lawmakers like State Sen. Shirley Smith suggest that the bill is racist, sexist, elitist and unconstitutional, State Sen. Nina Turner had threatened a bill for Ohio lawmakers to be drug tested in response to requiring it only for poor people on food stamps and other welfare


Ohio State Sen. 
Nina Turner, left (D-Cleveland)

Ohio State Sen. Shirley Smith, right (D-Cleveland)

By Kathy Wray Coleman, Editor, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com( and (

COLUMBUS, Ohio- The Ohio State Legislature last week removed an amendment added a day earlier to the budget bill that required that Ohioans on food stamps and other welfare be drug tested for potential illegal drugs in order to get or to continue getting federally allocated public assistance, a proposed state law pushed mainly by Republicans that some Ohio lawmakers and community activists say is racist, sexist, elitist, and an unconstitutional stretch that goes too far.

"It's unconstitutional and targets Blacks, women, poor people and other minorities," said Dr. Eugene Jordan, an East Cleveland dentist, community activist and second vice president of the Cleveland NAACP. "It is ludicrous."

State Sen. Shirley Smith (D-22), a Cleveland Democrat, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, that poor people and minorities were being harassed by the bill and that it  is "crazy."

She did not return phone calls seeking comment from Cleveland Urban News.Com and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com.

State Sen. Nina Turner (D-25), also a Cleveland  Democrat,  got so angry over the insensitive legislative gesture that she told her colleagues that if they continue to seek to undermine poor people and minorities with the drug testing bill that she will counter by introducing a bill that requires that state employees and elected state officials are drug tested too.

“If we are going to be sincere in preventing individuals from obtaining public funds while also using illegal drugs, then we should start with the people who have the greatest impact on state dollars, politicians,” said Turner, in a press release.

The proposed legislation follows a national trend with 22 other state legislatures introducing, and some adopting, drug testing provisions for welfare recipients.

How state legislatures can dictate federal funds is puzzling some say, and possibly lacking in authority, particularly since federal law, by most authorities, tramples state law in a conflict, absent some collective bargaining and other type of provision that specifies otherwise.

Race, sex, age, religion and  discrimination due to national origin, however,  are plainly addressed independent of a collective bargaining agreement and by state law, under the constitutional provisions of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and by federal statutes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as Amended . 

Whether state legislatures can require unprecedented mandates like drug testing for food when a wide portion of those impacted like Blacks, single  women and other minorities are members of a protected class under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, remains to be seen, if civil liberty groups upset over the trend like the American Civil Liberties Union sue over the controversy. 

Ohio State Sen Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster)

The  now removed budget amendment, added last Tuesday to House Bill 487, the mid-biennium budget review, was introduced by state Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-31), a Lancaster Republican and conservative White lawmaker who routinely introduces bills, such as gun toting legislation and now the welfare drug testing bill, that most Black lawmakers and many Democrats find offensive and detrimental to the Black community and other disenfranchised groups. 

Data show that while most Americans on food stamps and other public assistance are White, a disproportionate of recipients are Black, partly, say historians, because racism is still alive in America and the vestiges of slavery and racial discrimination have never been remedied to the extent practicable. 

Advocates of the bill claim that the federal government should not be used to fund illegal drug use.

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