Bill allows drug tests for unemployment benefits

2013-01-13T23:45:00Z Bill allows drug tests for unemployment benefitsBy LAURA HANCOCK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 13, 2013 11:45 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — A proposed bill in the Wyoming Legislature would allow the state to deny unemployment benefits to people in specific, yet-to-be-announced job categories if they fail drug tests.

House Bill 89 would direct the state to deny unemployment benefits when someone in a job category is fired for failing a drug test. Also, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services would begin a program to drug test people in the job categories. If they fail, they are cut off.

Reps. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo; David Miller, R-Riverton; and Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, are the bill’s sponsors.

Madden sponsored the bill as an answer to last year’s legislation that would have required welfare recipients to be drug tested. Last year’s bill prompted lively debate, and ultimately failed because lawmakers thought it required spending a lot of money to catch a small number of drug users.

”It’s along the same lines of that bill we had last year, the welfare one,” Madden said. “I was never really hot on that one because when you get involved in that, you deal with people with little children who suffer.”

Madden’s bill allows people to re-qualify for unemployment once they pass a drug test.

The exact job categories haven’t been worked out yet. The Middle Class Tax Act of 2013 orders the U.S. Secretary of Labor to compile a list of jobs in which people are regularly drug tested.

The list may include jobs like truck drivers and pilots.

“We are awaiting guidance from the U.S. (Department of Labor) of the list we will be provided of which occupations,” Department of Workforce Services spokeswoman Hayley Douglass said. “But apparently it won’t come out until the spring of 2013.”

HB89, if passed, would go into effect July 1.

If people who use drugs pre-qualify for jobs but fail drug tests, they are wasting employers’ money, Madden said.

“What this bill is designed to do is go as far as you can with the federal standard,” Madden said.

Although the new Workforce Services drug testing program will cost money, Madden believes that by kicking people off unemployment, the state will ultimate save money.

The bill is estimated save the state nearly $1.2 million each in fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“It’s a rough estimate,” Madden said. “So many of these fiscal notes are speculative in nature.”

Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said Wyomingites need to take a close look at the bill.

“We’re always concerned when there’s a push to put limits on people’s access to their unemployment,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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