Economy & Budget

Texas unemployment benefits may soon be tied to drug tests

Texas unemployment benefits may soon be tied to drug tests

If Governor Rick Perry approves Senate Bill 21, those seeking unemployment benefits in Texas may have to take a drug test.

Republican Senator Tommy Williams introduced the bill in February, and on May 22 it passed in the House with a 104-42 vote. On Saturday, May 25, it passed in the state Senate. Now it is in the hands of the governor.

The bill calls that adults applying or reapplying for benefits, even if only on behalf of a child, must submit to a drug “use screening assessment”. If assessment results provide evidence of possible drug use, the person will have to submit to a drug test.

All first-time positive drug tests are confirmed before eligibility is denied.

If a person has been convicted of a felony drug offense ,or after being denied eligibility one time for all applications thereafter, the assessment is skipped and the person is automatically given a drug test.

The first time a person tests positive on a drug test, they will be ineligible for assistance for six months. Test positive a second time and they will be ineligible for a year, unless they provide evidence of “abuse treatment.” If a person tests positive on their drug test for the third time, they will be “permanently ineligible” for financial assistance.

Three strikes and you’re out.

There is more- If a person tests positive for an unprescribed drug other than marijuana, the commission may even report to the Department of Family and Protective Services “for use in an investigation.”

The Health and Human Services Commission will pay for the use screening assessments and drug tests with funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant funds.

Though the current bill itself says

The commission shall use the most efficient and cost-effective marihuana and controlled substance use screening assessment tool that the commission and the Department of State Health Services can develop based on validated marihuana and controlled substance use screening assessment tools…

it does not state the specifics of what the assessment will consist of, though a “questionnaire”  has been reported.

Senate Bill 11, a similar bill designed to require drug screenings to receive welfare benefits, was killed earlier this month along with about fifty other bills.

According to Statesman.com, “By raising five points of order, filing amendments and drawing out debate, Democrats chewed up more than two hours of precious time on a night when all Senate-approved bills would die without an initial vote before midnight.”

Caroline Mahony is an editorial intern with Human Events.

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