Saturday, January 21, 2012
To Pee or Not To Pee
What is up with this legislative push to force anyone who applies for unemployment to be drug tested? The only state that has tried it is Florida, from what I've heard. Florida proposed it for the unemployed, but passed it only for people receiving welfare/public assistance. In Florida, each person was required to pay for the test. The policy lasted four months last year until a federal judge put a stop to it, citing the Constitution's ban on unreasonable search and seizure. Before the injunction, just 2.5 percent of applicants tested positive for drug use. The policy's supporters put forward no credible evidence that the screening saved money for the state, which had to reimburse everyone who passed. This silly measure was one of the black eyes of the delightful Rick Scott's first year in office, contributing to his negatives among voters, particularly since he had owned, and still had ties to, a business enterprise that performed drug testing.
Yet several Republicans, including Sen. Bryant in South Carolina and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), cite the Florida law when pushing for jobless drug testing. They don't cite any data on drug use among the jobless.
Both Newt Gingerich and Rick Perry, of the presidential candidates, have endoresed the practice.
This appears to be part of a continuing political attempt to blame the unemployed for their own personal failings causing their unemployment, so that society doesn't have to help out. As though the reason they are unemployed is probably because they may be a drug user, instead of a logical result of our state's unemployment rate hovering above 10%.
Generally, in most states, you can't get employment if you quit and if you have a drug misconduct (or any other gross misconduct) on the job, you're not eligible either. In 2010, the median household income for the prior year of UE recipients was $55,000, and the extended unemployment benefits helped to keep 3 million + people above the poverty line.
Right now, federal law prohibits states from disqualifying applicants in this way.
But state lawmakers itching to test the jobless are in luck, because Republicans in the U.S. Congress want to change the law. They nearly succeeded in December, when the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that would have allowed states to do all the testing they want. The bill didn't clear the Senate, but the measure will probably return next month when Congress must once again reauthorize federal unemployment insurance programs.
I guess there must be people out there that don't find this suggestion as outrageous as I do. My son was unemployed for nearly a year from construction, when an accident that was not his fault disabled him and he was laid off for being out of work for too long, mending. As you can guess, it was difficult to find another job in construction, and he's working in another field. Without the magnanimous $275 a week paid in Florida, he would have been destitute. He was lucky to have family resources. He had to drug test for both his old and his new job. To be forced to PAY to drug test for unemployment seems a waste of money, much less a needless invasion of privacy voted on by people who don't seem to have to worry about being unemployed. Our politicians. They certainly are out of touch.