The Michigan Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to deny unemployment benefits to anyone who fails or refuses a drug test. The state House passed a similar bill earlier, and Gov. Rick Snyder is likely to sign the legislation. He should veto it instead.
There is no excuse for illegal drug use, especially by those who are desperate and poor. But the Senate bill does nothing to address the issue, and may make things worse for everyone by making life harder for people with problems.
Denied unemployment benefits, drug abusers may have more incentive to break the law to get money to support their habit. State Sen. Coleman Young II, one of a handful of lawmakers who openly opposed this bill, accurately told his colleagues: “If you were really interested in people gaining employment, you wouldn’t kick them and their families off unemployment insurance; you would offer them drug treatment so they could live a sober life.” Sadly, he was ignored.
Lawmakers’ hypocrisy is underscored by the fact that two recent speakers of the Michigan House, one from each party, have admitted to severe alcohol abuse problems; one has been repeatedly arrested. No former colleague has suggested taking away their pensions.
Instead of scoring cheap political points, Michigan’s lawmakers ought to work on meaningful legislation.