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Thursday, April 24, 2014

‘Bills to fund DPS random drug tests remain pending’

House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee chair Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan) said yesterday there are already House bills—and some of them are just waiting for Senate passage—that would be the source of funds for random drug tests among Department of Public Safety personnel.

“These include changing jail time to penalty fines for some of the violations considered now as misdemeanor. Portions of those fines would go toward funding DPS random drug testing. These bills are pending at the Senate,” Leon Guerrero said.

For example, one of Leon Guerrero’s bills is to treat possession of less than a pound of marijuana as a non-criminal infraction, making it subject of only up to $100 fine, with no formal arrest and no imprisonment.

He said as a payable offense and not a criminal violation, possession of small quantity of marijuana shall be adjudicated like a traffic citation.

Leon Guerrero, a former police officer at DPS, said that putting people behind bars for minor infractions costs the government more to house and feed them.

A drug test costs some $30 per person.

Another of Leon Guerrero’s bill proposes up to $1,500 penalty for loitering instead of jail time. He said a portion of these fees can be funneled into random drug tests among law enforcement personnel.

Leon Guerrero’s statement comes a day after Gov. Eloy S. Inos said his administration will reprogram funds to ensure government random drug tests will be administered this year, following reports that not even law enforcement personnel got randomly tested in at least a year as required by law because of lack of funds.

“Besides the reprogramming or as alternative to reprogramming, we can pass these bills that could become sources of funding for DPS personnel random drug testing,” Leon Guerrero added.

Office of Personnel Management director Isidro Seman said OPM needs “at least $14,000 to $15,000 a year” to administer random drug tests.

The governor believes the amount estimated by OPM is a “drop in the bucket,” and not funding the program is not worth the risk, especially among law enforcement agencies.

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