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Dallas Morning News: Trump signs Cruz-Brady bill to expand drug testing of unemployment benefit applicants

By: Jamie Lovegrove

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation backed by two Texas Republicans that will allow states to expand the pool of applicants for unemployment benefits who can be drug tested.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, nullifies a Labor Department rule that went into effect in September limiting drug tests to applicants who had a job that does regular drug screenings.

“Under the previous administration, the Department of Labor undermined the ability of states to conduct drug testing in their programs as permitted by Congress,” Cruz said in a written statement. “This rule was yet another example of executive overreach by the Obama administration, and I commend President Trump for signing this resolution into law.”

The measure traveled down a partisan path in Congress, passing through the Senate earlier this month with a party-line vote. Four Democrats in the House voted in favor of the bill in February, but no Texans.

“After 5 years of battling with the Obama Department of Labor, states like Texas will now be allowed to drug test folks on unemployment to ensure they are job ready from day one,” Brady said in a written statement. “This is a win for families, workers, job creators, and local economies.”

The bill faced stringent opposition from civil rights groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on ending the war on drugs, who called the move “shameful.”

“They said it’s about helping states save money, but this would actually set up states to waste tremendous amounts of money,” the group wrote in a letter to lawmakers signed by nearly 50 groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also argued that the measure may be unconstitutional, setting up a potential court battle.

Despite the uproar, Cruz argued in a Senate floor speech before the bill passed that the Labor Department rule infringed on states’ rights. In some states, like California, unemployment insurance applicants do not get drug tested before receiving benefits.

“This regulation is overly prescriptive, removes state discretion regarding implementation, and ignores years of congressional concern on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

Cruz further made the case that drug testing ends up helping applicants for unemployment benefits in the long run.

“We are not helping anyone by leaving them in a position where they are dependent on and addicted to drugs,” Cruz said.

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