The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to tell the Legislative Emergency Board that it cannot legally use gas tax and other highway revenue for the program, which is scheduled to start March 1. The program is projected to cost about $375,000 a year.
One of the bill's sponsors doesn't agree with the DOT's interpretation of the law. Sen. Marylin Shannon, who was chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee when the bill was being debated last year, says the issue was never raised during the hearings. She has asked for separate legal advice on the issue. After all, she says, the DOT administers federally mandated drug and alcohol relations with highway funds. However, the state constitution basically limits the use of highway funds to road construction and repair.
The law was intended to close a loophole that made it easy for a driver to fail a drug test with one company but get a job with another. Although trucking companies are required to do background checks, drivers who have had positive tests for drugs often don't supply the names of previous employers when they're applying for a new job.
The Ohio Department of Transportation had asked the governor to veto the bill, claiming it is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The issue was discussed extensively at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in New Orleans last month. In the aftermath of a tour bus crash that killed 22 people last May near New Orleans, the driver was discovered to have been fired from two jobs for positive drug tests and turned away from a third for the same reason. Yet he was able to get a job because he did not disclose those previous employers.
Under the Oregon law, the results will not be available to employers without the driver's written permission. The driver also has the right to an administrative hearing before the test results can be put on his or her driving record.