Tommy Williams and Wendy Davis reminded us how quickly politics can turn personal on Wednesday when the two spent more than fifteen minutes sparring over SB 21, a bill by Williams that would make drug testing mandatory for certain individuals wishing to receive unemployment benefits.
In the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Davis and Williams clashed over the cost of the bill, the overall usefulness of the measure, and the means by which “certain individuals” would be selected to be drug tested. According to the bill’s fiscal note, the measure could cost the state $670,455 over the next biennium. Williams, however, argued that the program has the potential to save the state some $15 million over five years by preventing drug users from receiving unemployment benefits.
Who are these “certain individuals” who would be drug tested under the law? Only people who worked in fields where drug testing is standard (such as aviation, mass transit, or health care) or those who failed a pre-screening questionnaire. Those who fail a drug test because they were taking prescribed medication or participating in a drug treatment program would not be barred from receiving benefits.
Davis voiced concerns about the pre-screening questionnaire, which would include questions about a claimant’s lifestyle and work habits in the vein of “how often are you late to work?” According to Larry Temple, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, the answers to the questionnaire would be scrutinized to see whether they indicated a person might be using drugs.
“You’d be surprised how many people self-disclose