House Set To Vote on Omnibus Anti-Drug Bill

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WASHINGTON--The House is expected to vote soon on an omnibus anti-drug bill that will include new drug-education programs and requirements that recipients of federal funds provide a drug-free workplace.

The House measure would not, however, make drug offenders ineligible for student aid, as proposed by some Republicans.

House consideration of the bill will follow a summer of policy recommendations from advisory groups and political coalitions.

Weighing in most recently were the Administration's Drug Policy Board, the White House Conference for a Drug-Free America, and a group of Senate Democrats. Among the groups' suggestions were proposals to cut off aid to schools and colleges not tough enough on drug users.

The House Education and Labor Committee approved its section of the anti-drug bill in late June, after rejecting repeated bids by Representative E. Thomas Coleman, Republican of Missouri, to attach a student-aid provision.

His amendment, defeated on a vote of 19 to 13, would have made anyone convicted of two drug-possession offenses or one drug-selling charge ineligible for aid for five years.

Mr. Coleman and other conservatives have argued that the only way to deter drug use is to make users fear the consequences. Their opponents have noted, however, that most convicted drug offenders would be unlikely to apply for Pell Grants, and that denying them educational opportunity would do nothing to steer them away from crime.

Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, is among the most outspoken critics of such proposals.

"So, you can rape and murder and still get student aid,'' the California Democrat said at his panel's session on the drug bill. "There is a distinction because we currently have a war on drugs and not one on rape and murder.''

The panel's bill includes:

  • A new $30-million program for drug-abuse-prevention projects targeted at youth gangs, to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • A new National Youth Sports Program, also under H.H.S., which would provide sports instruction and drug-abuse education to disadvantaged children.
  • Authorization for $30 million in grants to states to help them develop more effective juvenile-justice programs targeted at drug abuse.
  • A provision allowing drug-education funds to be used in the development of innovative alcohol-abuse programs and related training.

The drug-free-workplace provisions, approved in late June by the House Government Operations Committee, would require aid recipients to establish an anti-drug policy and to impose unspecified sanctions on employees convicted of on-the-job drug offenses.

Federal funds could be cut off if the guidelines were not followed, or if a "number of employees'' were convicted of violations in the workplace.

The provision is a milder version of language that has been attached to a host of appropriations and authorization bills by Representative Robert S. Walker, Republican of Pennsylvania.

Contrasting Senate Proposals

These education and employment provisions, together with law-enforcement measures approved by the Judiciary Committee, will be incorporated into an omnibus bill by the House leadership and brought to the floor later this summer.

The Senate has scheduled no action on a companion measure, but both Democrats and Republicans in that chamber have unveiled proposals.

The Republican plan, echoes of which were found in the recommendations made by the Administration's Drug Policy Board, calls for such stiff measures as the denial of drivers' licenses to drug offenders, widespread random drug testing, and the restriction of drug-education funding to schools with tough suspension and expulsion policies.

In contrast, the nucleus of a plan offered by a Democratic work group consists of aiming 60 percent of drug-related funds at education and treatment programs and increasing federal spending on the problem by $3 billion a year.

School Funds Linked to Results

The White House Conference for a Drug Free America concluded that the continuation of federal aid for school-based drug education should be linked to measurable decreases in student drug and alcohol use.

"School-based prevention programs that cannot demonstrate reduction of drug and alcohol use should be modified, or their funding should be discontinued,'' the conference recommended.

The proposal was among a number of controversial education measures endorsed by the panel, which was set up under the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

The conference report urged school officials to screen prospective employees for drug use before hiring them and called on states to make knowledge of alcohol- and drug-related issues a requirement for teacher certification.

It also incorporated criticisms of the quality of some drug-education programs already in place that have been advanced by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

"We found that the concept of 'responsible' drug use was an underlying message in many education programs, leaving a tremendous contradiction for our children to understand,'' said Lois Haight Herrington, chairman of the panel.

Vol. 07, Issue 39 Extra Edition

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