Buddy Carter looks to drug test recipients of unemployment benefits

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Then-state Sen. Buddy Carter signals which way his fellow Republicans should vote on a bill to require drug testing of some food stamp recipients during the last day of the legislative session on March 20, 2014. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter is reviving a fight over drug testing that could have major implications in Georgia.

The Pooler Republican introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday that would let states screen unemployment insurance applicants for drug use if they so choose.

“Unemployment Insurance recipients should be drug-free and ready to reenter the workforce and my legislation works to make that happen,” Carter said in a statement.

Under Carter’s legislation, an applicant would be denied unemployment benefits for 30 days if they test positive for drug use. A second positive test would bar people from receiving the federal perk for the rest of the year.

Carter’s bill could prompt renewed debate over the ethics of drug testing the impoverished in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal in 2014 signed a bill that would have drug tested some recipients of welfare and food stamps, one of the strictest of its kind. At the time he also hinted he would like to extend the screenings to applicants of unemployment benefits.

But Deal’s food stamps initiative was thrown into limbo amid a federal legal fight over a similar law in Florida. Then-Attorney General Sam Olens later argued that federal law barred Georgia from drug testing people on food stamps.

Carter, who was in the state Senate during Deal’s food stamp push in 2014, introduced similar legislation related to unemployment benefits in the U.S. House in 2015. It won the support of four other Georgia Republican lawmakers but never advanced through the Republican-controlled House. A similar effort to drug test food stamp recipients was also side-stepped by the GOP Congress.

Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Donald Trump later signed a bill undoing an Obama-era rulemaking that forbade the drug testing of most unemployment applicants. Their effort was seen as an opening that could later allow states to screen for drug use among applicants.


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