States Move Toward Drug Testing Unemployed

Tuesday, 09 Apr 2013 10:47 AM

By Cyrus Afzali

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Arkansas’ state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would require drug testing of residents receiving unemployment benefits, despite a warning from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe that the proposal may violate federal law.

The bill passed by a 25-5 vote and will now be taken up by a House committee. If ultimately approved and signed into law, 85,000 Arkansas residents currently receiving benefits may be affected.

The legislation would require benefit recipients to sign a waiver granting the state the right to conduct random drug testing. Anyone refusing would be denied benefits.

Texas is considering similar legislation but it has yet to be considered by either legislative chamber.

The Arkansas bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, said it was designed as an enforcement mechanism and is designed to complement policies in place at 80 percent of the state’s employers requiring a drug test.

A Beebe spokesman expressed concerns over both legal issues and cost.

“We have concerns about whether the bill will put us in violation of the federal unemployment laws administered by the U.S. Department of Labor,” Beebe spokesman Matt DeCampie told Reuters. “There are also continued concerns as to whether the cost of implementing such a program would produce any real savings.”

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