70 / 55
      72 / 56
      75 / 61

      Bill passes for drug testing for unemployment benefits

      Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) said 2.1 percent of Americans receive unemployment benefits.

      That TMs 815,000 in Texas alone.

      Oliveira said those who are mainly affected are innocent children.

      "Lets go back to the concept of unemployment wouldn TMt we all rather have a good paying job with some health insurance and a retirement program than be getting a little bit of unemployment," Oliveira said

      Under the current law those fired for cause, including failing an employer sponsored drug test, don TMt qualify for benefits.

      The changes will require workers who lose their jobs to fill out state questionnaires. Answers considered suspicious lead to drug tests.

      Anyone failing their test would lose their benefits.

      Some decision makers believe this bill will maintain a competent workplace.

      "Our system is designed to assist people through a difficult period of their lives not to subsidize those who misuse the assistance to abuse drugs," State of Texas Gov. Rick Perry said

      From the Valley, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Rene Oliveira and Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen) voted against the drug screening bill.

      Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-La Joya) and Eddie Lucio III (D-Harlingen) were absent during voting.

      "If people have a drug problem or alcohol problem then we should be doing treatment. They earned it it TMs their money it TMs just like social security you paid into that system," Oliveira said

      Oliveira said he wants people to think about who is really being affected because this is not like food stamps or welfare.

      Oliveira said it just didn TMt seem right to him and this is money that those who are working have earned.

      Adding he believes the state has never invested enough in mental health or substance abuse.

      Rep. Eddie Lucio III issued a statement to Action 4 News:

      "A bill mandating drug-tests for former employees who have already lost their jobs through no fault of their own would only add insult to injury," said Lucio. "Requiring individuals to prove to the state that they were drug-free is not a fair demand."There is no trend of increased drug use among those on unemployment. Information is lacking to infer that people in need of government assistance are more likely to consume drugs."Quite frankly this bill is in search of a problem that does not exist, and would have a significant effect ona small group of employers," Lucio remarked. "Losing a job is already a very traumatic experience.With the current unemployment rate we should not be

      Rep. Canales issued a statement to Action 4 News:

      I voted no on SB 21 because of concerns about the effectiveness and legality of the bill. In 2011 Florida passed a similar law and it was struck down by a Federal Court for being an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. That outcome echoed a prior 1999 ruling in Michigan that struck down the nation TMs first-ever law requiring drug tests for public aid recipients.

      In the four months that Florida TMs law was in place, only 2.6 percent of more than 4,000 applicants tested positive for illegal drugs " a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of Floridians who use illegal drugs according to a federal estimate. The Florida program actually ended up costing the government $45,000 more than the amount of aid that would have been given to people who failed their drug tests.

      Rep. Guerra issued a statement via phone to Action 4 News:

      He said when the bill came to the House it did not include 'reasonable suspicion', and he felt that to be unfair. He said people are going through hard times as businesses are scaling back, so he didn't feel everyone should be subjected to a drug test. This is why he voted against it.

      Click here to follow Veronica on Facebook Click here to follow Veronica on Twitter