Congress is considering a comprehensive anti-drug abuse bill with a price tag of $6.1 billion. Included in this legislation are provisions targeting both the supply and use of drugs.
One provision is a section that, by Congressional Budget office estimates, will cost the federal government less than $1 million annually to administer and yet will provide an effective deterrent to drug use.This inexpensive, but effective, concept will require recipients of federal grants and contracts - including cities and states - to certify that they are maintaining a drug-free workplace in order to remain eligible to receive federal funds.
Illegal drug use in the workplace is a growing national problem, a fact dramatically illustrated by last year's Amtrak collision in which 16 people were killed.
Accidents among drug abusers are estimated to be at least twice the rate among other workers, thus endangering both themselves and those around them. A survey of callers to a cocaine abuse hot line revealed that 83 percent of the callers had used cocaine on the job, 64 percent said that drugs had adversely affected their job performances, and 18 percent admitted that they stole from co-workers to support a drug habit.
Defense industry officials not only fear that drug use by employees will produce substandard work, but that drug abusers will sell national security secrets for drug money.
For this reason, I introduced legislation making the receipt of the federal grant or contract contingent on the recipient's guarantee that he is maintaining a drug-free workplace.
The final version of the bill, as approved by the House Government Operations Committee has several requirements.
An employer must:
- Publish a statement notifying employees that the manufacture, distribution, possession or use of controlled substance in the workplace is prohibited and ensure that all employees are informed of the policy.
- Notify the contracting or granting agency of any employee convictions.
- Establish a drug-free awareness program for employees.
- Impose a sanction on any employee convicted of a drug offense in the workplace; and make a continuing effort to maintain a drug-free workplace.
Placing restrictions on the use of federal money is nothing new. Using it as a way of fighting the drug battle is new.
Congress regularly sets conditions on the use of federal monies, as demonstrated recently by passage of the Grove City bill, which requires recipients to maintain a discrimination-free workplace or risk the loss of federal funding. My proposal to stop drug abuse in the workplace uses a similar approach.
When this legislation was first proposed, some suggested that the standard set was too stiff. I am pleased to say that after several months of discussions and hearings involving colleagues from all across the political spectrum and individuals from the business community, a bill has emerged which is tough on drugs in the workplace, but gives employers the leeway to develop a policy that best suits them.
For instance, testing, a highly controversial policy, is not addressed in this legislation, leaving firms to adopt or reject a testing policy as they see fit.
In addition, the legislation calls for sanctions against employees convicted of drug use of the job, but permits the employers to choose between termination and a drug treatment program.
If we are serious about combating the drug epidemic that is sweeping this nation, we should not hesitate to use every legitimate weapon at our disposal, including the power of the federal purse.