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Byrne votes to repeal Obama rule limiting states’ ability to drug test for unemployment benefits

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, February 14, 2017, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) announced that he voted in favor of overturning an Obama era regulation severely limiting the ability of states to drug test people receiving unemployment benefits.

Congressman Byrne said on social media, “I believe states should be able drug test people receiving unemployment benefits. What do you think? The House voted today to overturn a regulation that would limit the ability of states to drug test and revoke unemployment benefits of people on drugs. Drug testing those who receive government assistance makes sense and is the responsible thing to do. The Federal government certainly shouldn’t be blocking states from doing so.”

The House passed the resolution to repeal the Obama Administration rule that allowed states to drug test only certain people applying for unemployment benefits. The vote to overturn passed 236 to 189 under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Labor Department rule which was finalized in August. Under the rule, states could only drug test individuals who are applying for unemployment benefits if the work they are suitable for is a job for which workers are regularly drug tested.

The Trump Administration announced support for overturning the controversial rule. In a statement the White House said, “The Administration strongly supports the actions taken by the House to begin to nullify unnecessary regulations. The regulations that the House is voting to overturn under the Congressional Review Act establish onerous reporting requirements and other constraints on States, local communities, and institutions of higher education.”

The White House statement said that, “H.J. Res. 42 would nullify the Employment and Training Administration’s Federal-State Unemployment Compensation Program; Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 Provision on Establishing Appropriate Occupations for Drug Testing of Unemployment Compensation Applicants 81 Fed. Reg. 50298 (August 1, 2016), promulgated by the Department of Labor. The rule determines the occupations that regularly conduct drug testing for use by States when determining which unemployment insurance applicants may be tested. The rule imposes an arbitrarily narrow definition of occupations and constrains a State’s ability to conduct a drug testing program in its unemployment insurance system, as authorized in Public Law 112- 96, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.”

Democrats opposed the overturning of the rule and argued that it could be unconstitutional.

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D from Texas) said, “Suspicion-less drug testing of government benefit recipients likely violates the Fourth Amendment, and it is cruel and inhumane treatment of individuals.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. Byrne previously served the state of Alabama as head of the state Two Year College System. Byrne has also been a state senator and a member of the state board of education. Byrne ran for governor in 2010 unsuccessfully.

(Original reporting by The Hill’s Linda Wheeler contributed to this report)


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.


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