A new bill, House Bill 89, proposed in the Wyoming Legislature would empower the state to deny unemployment benefits for certain job categories, if the recipients fail drug tests. What those job categories are is yet to be released.
House Bill 89
Last year, Republican Mike Madden sponsored a bill requiring recipients of welfare benefits to be drug tested. While the proposed bill generated much discussion and quite a bit support, it failed to pass because it would cost too much to implement. Madden is also a sponsor of House Bill 89, but this proposed legislation is different. It would give the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services the go-ahead to administer drug tests people within certain job categories. If they don't pass the test, benefits would be cut off. The cessation of benefits would not be permanent, though. The people who fail a drug test would have the opportunity to re-qualify for benefits when the can pass a drug test.
Which job categories would require testing?
This raises the question as to which job categories would be required to pass a drug test. This will not be determined by lawmakers. Instead, the Middle Class Tax Act of 2013 makes the U.S. Secretary of Labor responsible for putting together a list of jobs that regularly require drug testing. This is the list that would be used to single out which unemployed people would be tested. In other words, the same people who would be tested if they were still employed would be required to pass a drug test to receive unemployment. Madden believes the program has the potential to save the state money and deter the use of drugs.
In an interview on KROE 390 AM last Wednesday, Madden explained that he has been approached by many constituents who felt it unfair that they were forced to pay into a compensation fund that pays out to people who were fired for failing and employer's drug test.
"What this bill is designed to do is go as far as you can with the federal standard.” --Legislator Mike Madden Billings Gazette
Awaiting future details
If the bill passes, it will go into effect July 1. Right now the Department of Workforce Services is awaiting the list of occupations Department of Labor that would be tested. Department of Workforce Services spokesman Hayley Douglass said, "…apparently it won't come out until the spring of 2013."
Estimates suggest the law, if it passes, could save the state more than a million dollars a year in the next few years, but it raises questions in some minds as to whether or not the state should be able to deny unemployment benefits to a specific group of people, even if they would have to pass the same drug tests if they were still employed.