Lawmakers hear measure to close drug testing loophole

LEGISLATURE: The Guam Congress Building is seen on Sept. 12 in Hagåtña. Members of the Legislature discussed on Thursday a bill that addresses a rehiring loophole for drug users. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Bill 123-36 would require government employees to submit to drug testing before resignation, if they resigned after the announcement of any government-sponsored drug testing, or give up their employment rights.

No one appeared to testify in person on the measure, but the bill did garner support from lawmakers during a public hearing Thursday. 

Bill 123 adds the drug testing requirement to the section of local law regarding reemployed government employees.

This provision currently states that former classified government employees in good standing at the time of resignation may be hired again at a salary no less than what they earned at their former position if they applied for the same or comparable job at the same department. There is a four-year sunset on this credit.

However, Sen. Tony Ada, a co-sponsor to Bill 123, said there are certain government positions subject to random drug testing and the bill closes a loophole that "few employees use to avoid drug screening."

Sen. Telo Taitague said she supported the proposal and believed the bill to be a "baby step" moving forward. Taitague said she looked forward to additional legislation that would go further "to protect the people of Guam and the people we serve." 

"We have a responsibility. The people pay our salaries through their taxes and we have a responsibility on how we move the government forward on accountability, transparency, and, most especially, the safety of our government," Taitague added.

Sen. Joanne Brown also supported Bill 123.

"I think if you've run a government agency, I think we've probably all come across circumstances where we've had employees, unfortunately, that have been on illegal drugs. And as a result it has hindered their ability to perform their jobs, or, in a number of cases, actually affect the safety and welfare of other employees," Brown said, recalling her time heading the Department of Public Works, in which some school bus drivers tested positive for methamphetamine and other drugs.

"And again, it's always a small percentage, but nevertheless, 1% is 1% too many," she added.

Brown later said she recognized there are individual rights to consider, but certain positions require employees to be in the best state of mind and body, and that she believed all lawmakers are aware of the drug issues on Guam.

Sen. Amanda Shelton said the Department of Administration was invited to the hearing, but no one from the department appeared to provide spoken testimony. She said the legislative Committee on Human Resources will follow up on written testimony, as well as inquire with the Office of the Attorney General for its testimony.

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