Municipal Government, National

House OKs Drug-Testing Unemployment-Benefit Applicants

February 20, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Washington, DC – The U.S. House voted 236-189 Feb. 15 to overturn a Labor Department rule that limits states’ power to drug-test applicants for unemployment benefits.

A 2012 federal law lets states test them if they lost their last job for illegal drug use or are looking for work in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing. The department defined those occupations as those with a public safety concern, such as flight crews and armed security guards. The Trump administration said that was “arbitrarily narrow” and that states should be able to conduct broader drug-testing. House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said the change would “help unemployed workers in their quest to find a good-paying new job.” It’s appalling that instead of helping people who have lost their jobs, the Republican leadership in Congress is choosing to drug-test them,” responded Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance, a generally antiprohibition group. Mississippi, Wisconsin, Texas, and other states are trying to expand drug-testing in their unemployment insurance programs, and some Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, want to extend it to everyone receiving public assistance. The resolution now goes to the Senate. Read more

February 19, 2017

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