Under the Dome

Dome: Drug testing unemployment applicants could be next

July 6, 2013 

Unemployed workers who want state benefits must verify each week that they have searched for a job. Now some state lawmakers want to add a new requirement: pass a drug test.

Such a bill has yet to be introduced but Sen. Jim Davis, a Republican from Franklin, said that everyone he’s talked to about the idea has responded positively.

“If you have to pass a drug test to get a job and you lose that job, then we think that drug testing should remain a component of getting unemployment compensation,” Davis said.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican, emphasized that the bill isn’t finalized but said she is working on it with several other attorneys.

“(Davis) talked about (drug testing for) unemployment benefits, for, one, those people who lost their job as a result of being drug tested, or, two, asking them to be drug tested under whatever circumstances would be constitutional,” Stevens said.

To receive unemployment benefits in North Carolina, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own. If you were fired for “just cause” such as using drugs, you would typically not be eligible, although applicants are allowed to make a case for why they should receive benefits.

Davis was also behind Senate Bill 594, which called for drug testing Work First applicants. That bill passed the Senate, but has since been gutted and its content edited and transferred to a related House bill that is still awaiting a vote.

The merging of those bills left open Davis’ original Senate bill. He wanted to do more drug testing of aid applicants, so he proposed his idea to test unemployment recipients to Stevens. She has backed him on both drug-testing mandates.

It may not make it to the floor during this session, though. Stevens said it depends on how quickly staff can get the bill ready. Among the details to be worked out is, of course, how to pay for the drug tests. More than 400,000 are still unemployed in North Carolina.

Giffords in area to tout checks

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, will wrap up their seven-day, seven-state tour across the country in Raleigh on Sunday.

The couple will go shooting at a local sporting clay range Sunday morning, followed by a roundtable discussion with gun owners at The Pit BBQ in downtown and then attend a picnic with local members of their gun-control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Giffords, who was critically injured by a gunshot to the head during a 2011 shooting that killed six people, and Kelly have targeted states to generate support for expanded background checks for gun purchases. The Washington Post reported that they are visiting states to thank congressional representatives for their position on the issue, or to put pressure on them to support the checks.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, earlier this year voted for a bipartisan bill that would have strengthened background checks. The measure failed to pass.

Giffords and Kelly are spreading the message that polling shows large majorities of Americans favor expanded background checks, regardless of party affiliation. Their group promotes Second Amendment rights but stronger laws to prevent gun violence.

A February Elon poll showed that 93 percent of the North Carolinians surveyed supported requiring background checks on all firearms purchases. The state Senate has approved a bill that would eliminate the current requirement that county sheriffs conduct background checks and issue permits before anyone can buy a handgun. The House has not yet considered the Senate’s version of the bill.

NC, UK team up on motorsports

Four wounded active duty U.S. soldiers are in the United Kingdom participating in an exchange program involving motorsports, in which North Carolina is involved.

The exchange was created as part of the North Carolina Military-Motorsports Consortium which has teamed up with Mission Motorsport, a nonprofit organization with the British Armed Forces to involve soldiers wounded during the Afghanistan war.

The American delegation arrived in the U.K. on Friday and will stay until July 14. A British delegation will visit the United States for motorsports in October.

The consortium has worked in conjunction with the offices of Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis as well as legislators, local elected officials, the UNC system and representatives of the N.C. Motorsports industry.

House to take up abortion bill

The sweeping new abortion restrictions will be considered Tuesday by a House committee. The House Committee on Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building.

The Senate passed the omnibus anti-abortion bill on Wednesday, drawing a large group of protesters, mainly women, who chanted “shame, shame, shame” when it passed.

The measure would require abortion clinics to meet standards similar to those for outpatient surgery clinics. It also requires doctors to be present when women take pills that induce abortions. Opponents said only one abortion clinic in the state could meet the new standards.

Staff writers Annalise Frank, Craig Jarvis and Rob Christensen

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