The Louisiana House sidelined legislation Thursday morning that would add a new check-off box on tax forms allowing contributions for drug screening and treatment pro-grams.
The measure came up five votes short of the 53 vote majority needed for House passage when 48 House members voted for the measure and 34 voted against it.
House Bill 460’s sponsor state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, can bring the bill up later for another vote.
The legislation ran into trouble at the outset with the Louisiana House deciding that the special fund would go away if companion legislation requiring random drug testing of 20 percent of Louisiana welfare recipients does not become law. State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said there would be no point in having the fund without the program LaBruzzo proposed.
Then, state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, noted that the first $250,000 raised through the voluntary contribution would be earmarked to defend lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the drug testing program.
Barrow said LaBruzzo was “not being transparent about what the fund does,” noting that he never mentioned in his opening comments anything about fund dedicated to lawsuit defense. She said people would be mislead thinking they were donating to drug treatment programs.
LaBruzzo said people can read the legislation to see where the funds are going.
“I’m trying to save the state some money if there is a lawsuit,” said LaBruzzo. He said otherwise the lawsuit money would have to come out of the general fund.
The House rejected Barrow’s attempt to take the dedication for lawsuit defense out with 38 voting for it and 41 against.
LaBruzzo initially told the House that the money raised would go to help defray costs of the random drug testing and treatment program in his House Bill 7, which is pending in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
“We all are aware of budget cuts and how that is effecting our treatment of drug dependent individuals,” said LaBruzzo. “It will provide more funds for treatment.”
The money donated would be split evenly between testing and treatment, he said.