| Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond thinks it's "unconscionable" that the U.S. Labor Department is delaying a Texas' law that would drug test some individuals before receiving unemployment benefits -- even those who were not fired for the use of illicit drugs.
Hammond also touts "unanimous support" in the Senate, calling out Wendy Davis by name even though she spoke out against the bill on the floor and offered an amendment that was eventually accepted. The bill had zero Democrat authors, or co-authors in the Senate and zero Democrat sponsors in the House.
Senate tradition holds that many bills pass the upper chamber with unanimous consent, even some of those that are hotly debated. A bill passing the Senate chamber with 0 nay votes is no indication that the bill did not have objectors. TAB's press release also fails to mention that the House vote was 104 to 42, far from unanimous.
See what Davis said during the debate on the Senate floor below the jump...
|Davis' amendment offered 10 days of privacy with regard to results of a failed drug test as to provide time for an individual to appeal and retake the test assuming a false positive result. It also ensures that individuals be provided a notice of possible reasons why a false positive may have occurred and requires, "full payment by the commission of the costs of the retaking of failed drug tests by any individual who contests the individual's failed drug test as a false positive result and passes a subsequently taken test."
During the floor debate Davis said the bill was a "solution looking for a problem," before speaking on her personal experience receiving unemployment benefits.
"I've been on unemployment for four months when I was 18 years old and seven months pregnant. I was laid off as part of a workforce reduction ... and I just can't imagine, Senator Williams, what it would have felt like for me to have been subjected during that period of time to a drug test simply because I was on unemployment benefits," Davis said.
Davis also argued that the bill was a waste of taxpayer resources saying,
"What I find interesting about it is that we would be expending resources of the workforce commission to do these tests when these are people who've been tested in their previous line of work, are going to be tested prior to going into employment in a new job, and in this brief period of time that the find themselves on unemployment, they come under a microscope for drug testing,"
Hammond's argument actually supports Davis' claim when he says, "This is what many businesses in Texas already require as part of the employment process." If that's the case, it seems like Hammond is asking the government do a job that businesses see as their own responsibility. Taxpayers should not have to pay to drug test individuals when it's, by admission, something "many businesses" already require, not to mention it has been proven to be ineffective and a wasteful use of public resources. The Atlantic did a great story on how a Federal Judge struck down a similar law in Florida as "unconstitutional."
The consistently conservative 11th Court of Appeals concluded, "that, on this record, the answer to that question of whether there is a substantial special need for mandatory suspicionless drug testing is "no." The Atlantic article concluded that, "What is remarkable is not that every federal judge who has ever looked at this law has found it unconstitutional but that Florida officials-led by the indefatigable Governor Rick Scott-defended it as long as they have."
Hammond said, "This will be a positive for the applicants because it will show employers that these folks are not abusing illegal drugs and are ready to go back to work." Excuse me, but being unemployed is not probable cause for "abusing illegal drugs." Besides being a slap in the face to someone who may have been laid off, or had their hours reduced due to economic conditions, or even because of poor management policies by their employers, anyone who is fired for using illicit drugs is already ineligible for unemployment benefits.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, "Examples of misconduct that could make you ineligible include violation of company policy, violation of law, neglect or mismanagement of your position, or failure to perform your work adequately if you are capable of doing so." Yes, being fired for getting caught doing illicit drugs will disqualify individuals from receiving unemployment benefits, and yes this completely negates Hammond's best argument for pushing drug testing.
Drug testing potential employees is not what "business friendly" should refer to. It should represent an educated workforce and solid infrastructure, not government subsidies in the form of extra employer benefits, especially regarding a program entitled "unemployment benefits."
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