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Lost Your Job? Bill Would Drug Test Some Texans Looking to Receive Unemployment Benefits

Texas lawmakers looked ata bill today that would require some people to undergo drug testing in order to receive unemployment benefits.

The bill, filed by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), would require drug tests for unemployment applicants who are looking for work in industries that usually require them for new employees.

Williams says the tests would ensure those who receive the benefits are ready to work. He says he hears about problems with the opposite through his contact with chemical and refinery plant managers in his district.

"My plant managers tell me every time that I visit a plant that they want to hire local people [but] the biggest challenge they have is finding someone who can pass the pre-employment drug screening test," Williams said.

Those against the bill say it’s an unnecessary expense. Rick Levy with the Texas AFL-CIO says it also puts a stigma on receiving unemployment.

“I’m here to protect the person who does everything right, has worked somewhere for maybe 30 years, loses their job and the state tells them in order to get the benefits that, I believe, they are entitled to at that point, that they’re going to have to prove to the state that they’re drug-free," Levy said.

Supporters say the bill could save the state millions by making those who failed tests ineligible for unemployment benefits for a period of time. The drug tests would be paid for by the Unemployment Insurance Fund –which is made up of employer-paid taxes.

No action was taken on the bill today. An identical bill was filed in the Texas House.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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