Senate to Consider Drug Testing the Unemployed
At a Little Rock Department of Workforce Service branch, the paint on the door handle has been rubbed off by the hands of the unemployed who are stepping into the building, looking for assistance. It's not a lot of money, but it would be enough for Gina Baity to get by until she finds another job."I've not been unemployed but for a month now. Before then, I've been working all my life," said Baity.Baity put in years at UAMS and then Peabody Hotel while she began work towards a bachelor's degree in drug counseling. Now, a bill making its way through the Arkansas legislature could put folks like Baity at the other end of a drug test."I, as a legislator, don't necessarily care until it begins to impact the state budget," said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. Hutchinson sponsors a bill that would implement a random drug test for folks receiving unemployment benefits."If somebody receiving state unemployment assistance is not able to pass an employment screen, then they're not actively seeking employment," said Hutchinson.Hutchinson's bill would stop payment to folks abusing drugs. He's gotten a lot of support, but also a lot of criticism from folks like Baity who say it would more appropriate for Medicaid and Medicare recipients, not the unemployed who are already jumping through hoops to get a check while looking for a job."It's like an invasion of privacy and also like a penalty or something, for getting money or trying to get money that you've earned already throughout your lifetime," said Baity.Similar laws have been passed in other states only to be struck down by the courts. However, Hutchinson says because his bill calls for only random, rather than targeted tests, and includes a justification he believes - if passed - Arkansas's law could withstand a legal challenge.