Texas Governor Okays Drug Testing for Unemployed

Some Texas residents on unemployment may be required to undergo drug testing in order to continue receiving benefits.

In yet another ceremonial bill signing this week, Gov. Rick Perry enacted drug screening legislation in Senate Bill 21.

State Sen. Tommy Williams, of The Woodlands, authored the bill.

He says it requires mandatory drug screenings for people who receive unemployment pay in fields where drug tests are mandatory.

“Telling people that we’re not going to tolerate illegal drug abuse is an important message for us to send as a state. And to those people who fail a drug test, they’d lose their unemployment benefits and they’re also going to have the opportunity to go back and get the help that they need and get back on their feet again and get back into the work force. And ultimately, that’s what we want.”

Last year, Congress granted states the right to enact such laws and designated the U.S. Department of Labor as the authority in determining which employment fields require mandatory testing.

So far, the Labor Department has offered no such guidance.

Gov. Perry says this bill provides some reassurances for companies to know their tax dollars are spent on qualified recipients.

“Those who pay into the unemployment program, that they know that their dollars are being spent appropriately to keep people on their feet who are ready to get back in the work force.”

Texas lawmakers attempted to pass similar legislation requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, but that bill failed.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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