Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Legislators Advances

A medical technician handles and prepares urine sample to be tested for drugs at a small medical clinic in Austin.
A medical technician handles and prepares urine sample to be tested for drugs at a small medical clinic in Austin.

A bill that would require Texas legislators to submit to drug tests and pass the results to the State Ethics Commission was voted out of the Senate Committee on State Affairs on Thursday.

Senate Bill 612, by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, would require state legislators to be tested for drugs the day they take office. The results would be made public only if permission is given by the legislator, and a failed test would result in no consequences.

Lucio says his bill is intended to complement two other initiatives in the Legislature this session that would require drug testing among certain populations.

"This session, we've had at least a couple bills move through the Legislature related to drug testing individuals who accept either welfare or state unemployment dollars,” he said in a statement.

The first, Senate Bill 11, by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would create a drug testing system for recipients of welfare assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Applicants who fail the tests face lengthening lockouts from the program and could be permanently prohibited from receiving benefits.

Another measure, Senate Bill 21, by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would require drug tests for unemployment benefits applicants if their answers to a questionnaire raise red flags that indicate the potential for drug use.

Unlike those bills, legislators who fail drug tests under SB 612 would face no consequences — legal or otherwise. Lucio said in a statement the bill was intended to begin “building trust among Texas voters.” 

Having received a last-minute vote out of committee, the bill faces no shortage of deadlines. Even if the measure passes the Senate quickly, Saturday is the last day Senate bills can be reported out of House committee. Nevertheless, Lucio announced his intent to carry the issue forward.

“I look forward to continuing this discussion with my colleagues on the Senate floor,” he said in a statement, “and set the groundwork for further discussion on this issue next legislative session.”

 

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