Opinion

Test candidates for drugs

Prospective employees for many jobs are required to take drug tests as part of the application process. Maybe people filing to run for public office should do the same.

State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, thinks so. He has filed a bill that would require candidates to submit to drug testing before they would be eligible to run in state contests.

Peeler makes no bones about why he introduced the measure. It was a reaction to the indictment of former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel on a federal cocaine conspiracy charge.

Ravenel, an up-and-coming Republican star, resigned as treasurer soon after being charged and pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

"The reason I introduced this bill was in response to my constituents' outcry over our state treasurer and his situation," said Peeler. "It just makes sense to me that elected officials must first pass the drug test."

The bill may run into problems over constitutionality. Past Supreme Court rulings have supported the argument that the Constitution, not legislatures, is the primary arbiter of limits on who can run for public office.

Nonetheless, Peeler and the numerous senators from both parties who signed on as co-sponsors of his bill have a point. If average people have to submit to drug testing to get a job, why shouldn't candidates do the same?

Ultimately, a new state law and a potential constitutional challenge might not be necessary. If voters demanded drug tests for candidates, how could the candidates refuse? And if one candidate were to willingly take a drug test and then challenge his opponent to do the same, the pressure would be even greater.

Some candidates are likely to consider drug testing an unnecessary indignity. But it might prevent an even more undignified scandal down the road.

IN SUMMARY

State Sen. Harvey Peeler thinks prospective candidates ought to take drug tests.

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