Arkansas pushes forward with bill to drug test unemployed

ALEC-designed legislation is gaining traction in state houses nationwide

Published April 9, 2013 12:43PM (EDT)


Salon reported last year that GOP state lawmakers around the country were pushing ALEC-designed legislation that would force the unemployed to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. According to Reuters Tuesday, such a measure is gaining ground in Arkansas. The Republican-led Arkansas state Senate approved a measure on Monday that would require random drug testing of Arkansas residents who receive state unemployment benefits. Arkansas' governor, Democrat Mike Beebe has expressed concerns about the federal legality of such a law. A similar proposal currently in a proposal under consideration in Texas' state's legislature (and supported by Gov. Rick Perry) would require drug tests for both unemployment and welfare recipients. In previous years, attempts to introduce drug tests for welfare recipients have been deemed violations of the Fourth Amendment. Reuters reported on the Arkansas bill:

The bill, which passed on a 25-5 vote and now goes to a House committee, could affect about 85,000 Arkansas residents currently receiving unemployment benefits.

If the measure becomes law, those seeking unemployment benefits would have to sign a waiver and allow for random drug testing. Those who refuse to sign or who test positive for drugs would not be entitled to benefits.

... Rita Sklar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the group plans to fight the measure if it becomes law. Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, also has issues with the bill.

"We have concerns about whether the bill will put us in violation of the federal unemployment laws administered by the U.S. Department of Labor," said Matt DeCample, Beebe's spokesman. "There are also continued concerns as to whether the cost of implementing such a program would produce any real savings in offset."

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Alec Arkansas Benefits Drug Test Unemployment Unemployment Benefits Welfare