Governor Perry today will sign a bill that mandates that recipients of unemployment benefits pass a drug test before receiving them, 1200 WOAI news reports.
This is a good example of how a lot of people feel about the accomplishments of the regular session of the Legislature, as neither Democrats nor Republicans like the measure Perry is about to sign.
Democrats point out that to receive unemployment benefits, a person has to have been working, and if that individual is fired for failing an employer-mandated drug test, the worker is not eligible for unemployment benefits anyway.
They also point out that a similar program when it was tried in Florida in 2011 cost taxpayers more than $175 million, and resulted in fewer than 2% of all benefit applicants being disqualified due to drug use.
Taxpayer money will pay for the Texas drug testing as well.
State Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), the chief sponsor of the bill, says people on unemployment benefits are there only briefly until they get a new job, but if they are taking drugs, they are not eligible for employment in many fields, and as such are violating their part of their agreement to receive the benefits.
Republicans are not satisfied with the bill either. They wanted every recipient of every state cash benefit, including recipients of welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Lone Star Card food stamp benefits to have to pass a drug test as well. But Democrats managed, in a chaotic end of session debate, to remove welfare recipients from the list.
There are also numerous loopholes in the bill. Unemployment benefit recipients will first have to fill out a questionnaire, and only those whose answers indicate a 'propensity toward drug abuse' will be required to take the drug test to begin with. The law doesn't specify how that determination will be made.
Conservatives asked that Perry include a tougher drug testing law in the agenda for the current special session, but he refused.