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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

 6:48 PM 

Drug testing for unemployment clears Assembly

A bill that mirrors the guv’s budget proposal to require DWD drug test some claimants of unemployment compensation drew Assembly approval on a 63-32 vote.

Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, voted against the bill, and Reps. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, and Nick Milroy, D-South Range, voted in favor.

AB 192 would establish drug testing and treatment requirements similar to those established for work-training programs in AB 191. As in the work-training bill, AB 192 would allow one additional failed test for those who enter substance-abuse treatment.

The guv attached an emergency statement to the bill. That lets a bill that carries a state expense to pass prior to budget approval.

The bill calls for setting aside $500,000 for the treatment program.

Dems, as they argued during debate on an earlier drug testing bill, insisted the proposal is a waste of money.

“We are spending money we don’t have,” said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “And we are not spending it cost-effectively.”

The testing of unemployment claimants, though, would be limited to people for whom suitable work is available only in an occupation that drug tests as a condition of regular employment and is listed in federal regulations.

The federal government also approved such drug testing, but only for the specific occupations. Those federal regulations have not been finalized, meaning even if the guv signs the bill, implementation most likely would have to wait until the feds release the official rules.

Under the bill, DWD would screen those who fall into those occupations and drug test when there is “reasonable suspicion.” Eligibility for unemployment benefits for those people would hinge on their agreement to submit to a test. If they fail the test, eligibility would depend on their entering a treatment program and not failing more than one more random test.

If someone refuses the test, the benefits would be withheld for at least 52 weeks.

If a state goes beyond federal regulations for drug testing, it risks losing grants for unemployment insurance system administration and tax credits for employers.

AB 192 includes a provision to let the DWD secretary not comply with the law if compliance would create that risk.

Bill author Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, has characterized the bill as an attempt to help people as they prepare to re-enter the workforce. He said that during 30 years in human resources he saw many instances of people who reached the interview process but then lost out on work because they failed a drug test.


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