By David Arkin
Most elected officials in eastern New Mexico say they want to learn more, but they support proposed legislation that calls for voluntary drug testing for all elected officials in the state.
Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, introduced the legislation on Wednesday and said results from the voluntary drug tests would be sent to the Secretary of State and be posted on its Web site. The proposal will be addressed during next year’s legislative session in Santa Fe.
“I want a chance to prove that I am clean,” Komadina said. “Government has the responsibility to prove that it is not being run by a bunch of druggies.”
Roosevelt County Commissioner Chad Davis said he liked the idea of drug testing elected officials, but thought it should be mandatory.
“If you’re an elected official, the people who elected you don’t want someone who is a drug user representing them,” he said. “I think if you are going to be enacting laws to imprison people you should be in a position to make sure that you are within those laws yourself.”
The proposed legislation surfaced because of the arrest of high-profile Albuquerque Chief District Judge W. John Brennan who was arrested for cocaine possession on May 29.
Komadina said throughout the year voluntary drug tests would be sent to elected officials and those who decide to take the tests would have 24 hours to do so. The tests would be sent by a drug-testing facility to the Secretary of State’s office. He said elected officials would pay for the testing, not taxpayers. It’s not known how much the drug tests would cost.
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, said he’s all for the program.
“It would be fine with me,” he said. “I just don’t think it would be a bad thing.”
Moore said he would “probably” vote for the voluntary drug-testing bill.
“I would need to see all of the details and it will be interesting to see the bill go through the process,” he said.
Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa, said he wouldn’t have a problem being drug tested, but did question the interference that government would be creating if the legislation were approved.
“It seems like everyone wants to be involved in everything that we do,” he said. “I just wonder how far we go with the intrusion that government has into everyone’s life. It’s just amazing.”
Newly elected 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said because state employees’ salaries are paid with taxpayer money, it’s only right that state workers be subject to drug tests.
“If you are being paid by the people, they have a right to know what you’re doing,” he said. “As long as you are working for the government, the people should have an interest in who they are employing. The people have a right.”
Clovis City Commissioner Juan Garza said he would take a drug test if asked.
“If we are working for the public, we should be held accountable for our actions,” he said. “Once you become a public official you have no privacy. Since I don’t drink or smoke, the test wouldn’t matter to me. I think it’s a good thing.”
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, who earlier this month retained her District 42 seat, said she doesn’t have a problem being drug tested.
“We ask that our kids who participate in school activities go through the process of random drug testing. If I was asked to be drug tested, I would do it,” she said.
However, Kernan said she wasn’t sure if she would vote for the measure. She said she needed to learn more about the specifics of the legislation.
Asking elected officials to take voluntary drug tests will hopefully restore some of the public’s trust with officials, Komadina said.
“If government officials make the laws, enforce the laws, we ourselves must uphold the laws,” he said. “The public deserves to know whether we do indeed abide by our own laws. Drug testing will allow elected officials to prove they hold themselves to the same standards they hold members of the public. We need to restore confidence and stop the mistrust.”
Some lawmakers aren’t convinced that drug testing will restore the public’s trust though.
“Much more than this legislation needs to be done to restore the public’s trust in elected officials, but this is a start,” Moore said.
Campos said he doesn’t think the public distrusts elected official as much as Komadina is indicating.
“I think it is few and far between,” he said. “It was his (Brennan’s) personal desire to do what he did and I don’t think we should be judging everyone because of one person’s fault.”
If people don’t trust their officials, Campos said, they can vote them out of office.