Lawmakers take up drug testing state employees, again

By | 01.26.12 | 10:51 am

State Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla (Pic by Senator Hays, via flsenate.gov)

A bill that would that allow state agencies to randomly drug test state employees passed in both a state House and state Senate committee yesterday.

House Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 1358 would give state agencies the option of randomly drug testing their employees every three months using a computer database. State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the sponsor of the bill, said during a health committee meeting that the bill gives state agencies the ability to drug test applicants just like private businesses.

According to the bill’s summary, it:

  • Authorizes agencies within state government to require employees to submit to periodic random drug testing;
  • Revises provisions relating to discharging or disciplining certain employees;
  • Authorizes agency to refer employee, at employee’s expense, to employee assistance program or alcohol and drug rehabilitation program if not discharged;
  • Requires employer to transfer employee to job assignment he or she can perform safely and effectively while participating in employee assistance program or place employee on leave status if such position is unavailable;
  • Authorizes employee to use accumulated leave credits before being placed on leave without pay;
  • Provides that employer remains qualified for insurer rate plan that discounts rates for workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance policies if employer maintains drug-free workplace program that is broader in scope than that provided for by standards & procedures established in act;
  • Authorizes public employer to conduct random drug tests of certain employees under specified conditions;
  • Provides requirements for public sector employer assigning public sector employee to position other than mandatory-testing position;
  • Removes provisions related to collective bargaining rights for nonfederal public sector employers.

The bill would also remove “the definition of the term ‘safety-sensitive position’ and [define] the term ‘random testing.’” It also removes “provisions limiting the circumstances under which an agency may discharge an employee in a special risk or safety-sensitive position.”

Hays said he believes “state employees are not different from other employees,” and should be subject to drug tests just like private workers.

Some members in the committee took issue with the possible constitutional issues the law might bring up — an issue the state faced during its last attempt to drug test state employees.

The House sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, is also pushing for a bill this session that would make it slightly harder for someone with a drug-related felony conviction to receive welfare benefits and food assistance.

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