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Government/Politics

State Lawmakers Tasked With Finding A Way To Drug Test Unemployed

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A Texas senate committee has been tasked with finding a legal loophole so that the state can drug-test people receiving unemployment. Committee members have been told to find a way the state can bypass the adoption of federal regulations.

Senate Bill 21 was passed during the 2013 legislative session set to take effect at the beginning of 2014. But the U.S. Department of Labor still hasn’t approved a new set of rules regarding unemployment drug-testing. 

The Senate’s Economic Development Committee Chair, Greenville Republican State Sen. Bob Duell, read one of the key tasks before the committee concerning drug-testing the unemployed.

“Investigate options to begin implementation of the rule without relying on U.S. Department of Labor regulations.”

But before the committee could explore that option it had to understand how much groundwork had been set.   The Texas Workforce Commission’s Chuck Todd says they are working to integrate existing software with the drug-screening application, but until there is some movement by federal regulators, not much else can be done.

Todd said,  “Since those regulations will tell states what the programs must require, vis-a-vis drug-testing and the occupations that can be drug-testing, the Texas Workforce Commission hasn’t begun implementation of Senate Bill 21.”

Stephan Minick with the Texas Association of Business, a group supportive of the state law, told the committee they didn’t feel this was a priority for federal officials.

Minick said, “I’m not so sure if it’s a 'when' issue as an 'if' issue. It may not happen anytime soon. I don’t think they are disposed to do that.” 

The program is estimated to cost nearly $170,000 a year for the next four years.