Bills to drug test welfare, unemployment applicants up for debate
POSTED: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 11:33am
UPDATED: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 12:01pm
AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — Lawmakers have filed nearly a dozen bills this session that would create new standards, including drug testing, for Texans applying for unemployment benefits and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
While lawmakers have filed similar measures in the past, this time around, the effort to require drug testing of those who receive state benefits seem to be gaining steam. Two of the measures will be heard in a House committee on Wednesday, while two measures in the Senate have already passed out of committee.
Senate Bill 11, by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require adults receiving TANF benefits to submit to a drug screening questionnaire and, if necessary, a drug test. That bill has made the most progress so far and is expected to reach the Senate floor for debate soon.
The Nelson measure includes a protective payee provision that allows the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to designate someone else to receive benefits on a child’s behalf if their parent tests positive for drugs. The payee would also be subject to a drug test.
John Colyandro, executive director of the Texas Conservative C
oalition, is among the proponents of Nelson's measure. He said he believes similar language will be added to the House versions.
House Bills 1281 and 1583, which would require applicants for unemployment benefits to submit to drug testing, will be heard Wednesday in the Economic and Small Business Development Committee.
State Sen. Tommy Williams' SB 21 — which would subject Texans' eligible for unemployment compensation benefits to a drug test — passed out of that chamber's Economic Development Committee, but it has not yet been placed on the Senate calendar.
In the last two legislative sessions, five bills related to drug testing for welfare applicants were filed. None made it out of committee.
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