”’The testimony of Samuel M. Slom, president and executive director of Small Business Hawaii, was made before the Senate Committees on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs, Health, and the House Committee on Judiciary on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004, 9 a.m. at the Hawaii State Capitol regarding SB 3233 Relating to the illegal use of controlled substances. Small Business Hawaii is a private, independent, statewide, non-profit business association of more than 2,000 firms, incorporated in 1976. Mr. Slom can be reached via email at:”’ mailto:sbh@lava.net

While we certainly are aware of the drug “crisis” in Hawaii, and the need to “do something,” and appreciate the work of the joint legislative task force, and the authors of this bill, we cannot endorse or support it.

We instead support the administration’s anti-drug abuse measures and fully support the efforts of the Law Enforcement Coalition. Specifically, we endorse the remarks and philosophy of City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle in regard to true prevention of drug abuse.

However, we are extremely disappointed and angered by Part V and sections 17 & 18 regarding your emphasis on forcing employers and non-drug using employees to in effect be criminalized by this bill while further excusing and subsidizing the drug users and expanding their alleged “victimization.”

Let’s remember that the joint legislative task force was just that: politicians, not employers. True, the committee welcomed input and went into the community, but I doubt that there was a strong call or even a weak voice to put added burdens on our already overtaxed and overburdened employers, particularly small employers, except perhaps from those who would benefit financially from mandatory programs.

The report refers to the stat that “74.6 percent of illegal drug users are employed.” And this bill then makes the leap that it is the responsibility — and maybe even the fault — of employers if this datum is true. As an employer who is familiar with substance abuse problems in the workplace, and the heroic efforts by many employers to help solve these problems, I will tell you that if it were not for actions by past legislative bodies in preventing employers from more complete probing in prescreening, drug testing, sharing information, taking meaningful preventive measures and even terminating employees causing workplace problems, the employed percentage would be lower. So, this is a catch 22 — we hire or keep employees who may bring or develop abuse problems instead of adding to unemployment and then are blamed for the result of illegal actions and improper choices. Personally I have been involved in workplace safety, health and early prevention/intervention anti-abuse programs for more than two decades. This bill does not advance the goal of solving problems; it creates more. Interestingly, it exempts government from most aspects of the measure.

Most outrageous is the statement on page 50, lines 15-17, “… that employers who terminated the drug using employee shifted the problem to the taxpayers to bear the societal and financial burden of the employee’s addiction.” ”’Businesses pay taxes; substantial taxes in Hawaii,”’ and the individuals in a business (employers) are doubly taxed. Business also pays medical and other costly benefits. You also want to force employers to continue to pay insurance for drug abusers after termination. To add insult to injury, this bill would then have fines and/or imprisonment for employers in violation. Yes, I am aware that the current measure only affects employers with 15 or more (one section 25+) employees, but the Hawaii trend of past employer mandates (e.g., Prepaid Health, TDI, work comp, ADA, etc.) is clear; the law starts with a cap and the cap is swiftly removed in a year or two to apply to ”’every”’ employer with at least one (1) employee. This is costly, punative, unfair and a shift again from the individual who has little or no responsbility.

Business has and will continue to contribute to ending this scourge in many ways and support training but we will refuse to be burdened further with this anti-business legislation which will not end or lessen the drug programs.

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