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Unemployment drug testing bill could face opposition next week

If you lose your job, should you have to take a drug test to receive unemployment benefits? One Arkansas legislator says “yes”. But that effort could meet opposition when it goes before a committee next week.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - If you lose your job, should you have to take a drug test to receive unemployment benefits? One Arkansas legislator says “yes”. But that effort could meet opposition when it goes before a committee next week.

If you are out of work and file for unemployment, you are supposed to show you are looking for a job.

State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, wants to add another requirement.

"It's my contention that if you're unable to pass an employer's drug test, which most employers require, then you are not actively seeking employment,” Hutchinson says.

SB38 would do just that, requiring random drug testing for unemployment beneficiaries.

Cordarral Lewis says he has a job but came to the Little Rock office of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services on Thursday to look for a better one.

"I think they should do it because if you use illegal drugs and you can't get a job and you're on unemployment that's not fair," Lewis says. “If you're really serious about going for it in life you shouldn't be doing things like that anyway.”

The ADWS, which administers unemployment benefits, says it does not have a stance on the bill as it stands right now.

Darren Merriweather, who told FOX16 News he lost his job as a chef doesn’t agree with the idea.

"For your own right to have your money for unemployment you shouldn't have to test," Merriweather says.

Hutchinson admits he's not sure how big the problem is, but believes drug testing could actually save the state money.

"Hopefully with that threat of being drug tested, they'll get clean, at least long enough to get employment," Hutchinson says.

He expects to learn next week if his fellow legislators agree with him.  The bill has 17 co-sponsors.  A bill requires 18 votes to pass out of the Senate.

Hutchinson says he does expect some opposition, but he says that might not come until he tries to get his bill passed out of the House.
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