2013 Legislative Sesssion
3:19 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Lost Your Job? Bill Would Drug Test Some Texans Looking to Receive Unemployment Benefits

Texas lawmakers looked at a bill today that would require some people to undergo drug testing in order to receive unemployment benefits.

The bill, filed by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), would require drug tests for unemployment applicants who are looking for work in industries that usually require them for new employees.

Williams says the tests would ensure those who receive the benefits are ready to work. He says he hears about problems with the opposite through his contact with chemical and refinery plant managers in his district.

"My plant managers tell me every time that I visit a plant that they want to hire local people [but] the biggest challenge they have is finding someone who can pass the pre-employment drug screening test," Williams said.

Those against the bill say it’s an unnecessary expense. Rick Levy with the Texas AFL-CIO says it also puts a stigma on receiving unemployment.

“I’m here to protect the person who does everything right, has worked somewhere for maybe 30 years, loses their job and the state tells them in order to get the benefits that, I believe, they are entitled to at that point, that they’re going to have to prove to the state that they’re drug-free," Levy said.

Supporters say the bill could save the state millions by making those who failed tests ineligible for unemployment benefits for a period of time. The drug tests would be paid for by the Unemployment Insurance Fund – which is made up of employer-paid taxes.

No action was taken on the bill today. An identical bill was filed in the Texas House.