It looks like Texas will not meet the February 1st deadline set by lawmakers to implement a new state law mandating that people pass a drug test before receiving unemployment benefits, if they work in a field where drug testing is required, like nursing or truck driving, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The reason, according to Mark Laverne of the Texas Workforce Commission, is the feds first have to sign off on exactly what professions will be involved.
"Right now, we are awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor in the form of rule making, as to which occupations would be allowable for drug testing," Laverne said.
Republicans in the Legislature pushed through the law last year, and it was signed by Gov. Rick Perry in July. Supporters say taxpayers should not be subsidizing drug use or helping to supply money to drug dealers. The bill was watered down to mandate testing only at the first application for unemployment benefits.
Supporters say unemployment benefits are a 'contract' between the state and the workers. The state, through a fund paid for by employers, provides benefits as a 'bridge' to help the unemployed make it until the next job comes along. But the employee has to agree to look for work and if the employee is using illegal drugs and would pass a mandatory job drug test, the employee is not ready to take a job and is violating the contract.
Democrats in the Legislature also deleted a provision of the law which would have required welfare recipients to also pass a drug test.
Laverne says the delay may be lengthy before the new law is enforced.
"Once we have our proposed rules, those rules will go into the Texas Register and there will be a thirty day public comment period," he said.
Opponents say by the very act of receiving unemployment compensation presupposes that the individual was working, and was not using illegal drugs in the workplace, because people who are fired for 'cause,' are not eligible for unemployment compenstion..and illegal drug use on the job is one of those causes.
They also point out that when this has been tried in other states, fewer than 2% of applicants have been found to be using illegal drugs.