Missoula legislator proposes expanding workplace drug tests

2013-01-21T12:51:00Z 2013-01-21T21:45:59Z Missoula legislator proposes expanding workplace drug testsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau missoulian.com

HELENA – Representatives of unions and the Montana Newspaper Association lined up Monday to oppose a bill to expand state drug testing law to include all employees, not just those in hazardous jobs and security posts.

Union lobbyists testified that House Bill 197 by Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula, was unconstitutional and violated workers’ privacy. The Newspaper Association lobbyist said expanded drug testing for all workers would be cost prohibitive for employers.

No one spoke in support of the bill except for Edmunds.

The representative told the House Business and Labor Committee he came up with the idea to expand drug testing from a tire shop manager for a company with stores across the Northwest. The tire shop manager said the company does random drug testing everywhere but Montana.

“Why not make it so we can test any employee?” Edmunds asked.

Edmunds also said he took out an exception in current law preventing elected officials from being given drug tests.

“We ought to have to pee in a bottle, too,” he said.

Edmunds said his bill doesn’t require drug testing, but allows it.

“I think the end effect of this will be a reduction in our workers’ comp rates,” Edmunds said. “It also will reduce injuries, even on desk jobs.“

But opponents criticized the bill on several grounds.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional,” said J.C. Weingartner, an attorney for the MEA-MFT union, citing the Montana Constitution’s right to privacy.

That privacy right cannot be infringed upon without a compelling state interest, he said. That’s why airline pilots, railroad engineers, police officers and others can be given drug tests.

“In America, we’re considered innocent until we’re found guilty,” said Keith Allen, representing Local 233 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “Drug tests are intrusive. Most people prefer to urinate without someone watching them."

He added, “This bill will allow every employer to go overboard with drug tests. What’s next? Big Brother testing our blood and our hair. Orwellian policies are not how America should work."

Dan Flynn, representing IBEW Local 44, said utility line workers have been subject to drug tests for 18 years.

“Part of me thinks everybody should share the misery,” Flynn said, but he called it a waste of money.

Representatives of unions representing plumbers, pipefitters, carpenters and Teamsters also opposed the bill.

John Barrows of the Montana Newspaper Association said some newspapers now perform drug tests on employees running their presses. If newspapers wanted to continue to test press operators under the bill, they also would have to conduct drug tests on all employees. That would be cost-prohibitive, he said.

The committee didn’t vote on the bill immediately.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at chuck.johnson@lee.net.

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(31) Comments

  1. Drug Test Lady
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    Drug Test Lady - March 12, 2013 3:12 pm
    I was raised in Montana, but now live in another State. The State I now live in allows drug testing for employers as they see fit. Common sense says that they should test everyone equally within the company... they may also divide up the testing among different classes of employees (e.g.: Office employees in a different pool than laborers, etc.)

    Drug testing isn't as expensive as one would think. The cost savings from this State's Workers' Compensation 5% discount for drug testing more than pays for a company's drug testing program in most cases.

    It isn't self incrimination, no one turns an employee's positive drug test result to law enforcement. No one is prosecuted in a criminal court for failing a drug test for an employer. If you don't want to be subjected to drug testing, then don't apply to that company. It is as simple as that. Companies shouldn't have to shoulder the burden of maintaining the employment of someone high on Meth during work hours. How many of you would want to be working around a heavy equipment operator (who isn't subject to DOT drug testing laws) while he/she is high? Why should the employer take the risk if they don't want to. Nothing forces an employer to perform drug testing. This just gives them the option, that's all.

    The Federal Government passed the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988. Why aren't State and local government officials complying? There is no drug testing program for our elected officials, even though their pay is, in part, provided by Federal dollars.
  2. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 23, 2013 9:59 pm
    Testing should be for illegal substances only, In the event of an accident the person in question should be tested for prescription drugs too.
  3. Janice
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    Janice - January 23, 2013 10:44 am
    I'm a state employee, and I would submit to drug testing without a problem. What would make me nervous is what they would consider OK. Prescription painkillers (although heavily abused), aren't ALWAYS abused. They have a legitimate medical use. While there is NO tolerance for some professions for obvious safety reasons, a painkiller is not going to put one of my clients in danger. The only problem I see is where to draw the line. Are they going to require a note from my doctor? When does my HIPPA privacy rights outweigh my employer's right to know? But as I said, it wouldn't bother me at all, so long as the line was clear.

    As for welfare recipients? My knee jerk reaction is HECK YA, TEST EM ALL! The problem with this is that cash welfare is actually a very small part of the welfare equation. The real cost comes with Medicaid, which essentially has no ceiling.
  4. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 22, 2013 10:05 pm
    What about Nancy Pelosi? http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/09/more-crony-socialism-obama-gives-737-million-to-pelosis-brother-in-laws-solar-firm/, What about Reid? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/11/AR2006101101640.html. There is plenty of dirt to go around, most of the elected officials on the federal level are as crooked as a dogs hind leg. We need to make sure elected officials are held ethically responsible no matter what party they are affiliated with.
  5. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 22, 2013 9:52 pm
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a business wanting to drug test their employees after all they carry the liability of the people they hire. I canned several people in the past when I had employees if they were using drugs, as an employer I will not accept their liability to me, my business or the other employees. All government employees should be drug tested, any person accepting money from the government should be drug tested, those are our tax dollars and we need to hold the people accepting them accountable.
  6. campana
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    campana - January 22, 2013 4:44 pm
    I stand corrected... Pi&& Christ was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. I'm glad you agree the gov't should eliminate ridiculous spending, but I hope you see my point that drug testing is also ridiculous spending.
  7. campana
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    campana - January 22, 2013 3:01 pm
    "You can set at the welfare office on Palmer and watch them come in and watch them go from there straight to the dealers house to get their fix."

    Are they buying drugs with welfare checks?
  8. campana
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    campana - January 22, 2013 3:00 pm
    Do you?... I'd love to see the numbers. I imagine it pales in comparison to the amount we spend on overseas military intervention, homeland security, TSA, and the like.

    Answer me this... what would you accomplish by taking a drug user off welfare? Would that person suddenly stop taking drugs, become educated, and become a contributing member of society? Hell no! They would continue to be a plague on society, possibly costing taxpayers more in the long run. Do you have any plan for rehabilitating users so they can contribute to society, or would you just take away benefits?

    If you test welfare recipients then you would constitutionally have to test anyone who gets gov't benefits, and that would be everyone in this nation. Take a welfare recipient off welfare and their children would be the ones who lose, and they are still a burden and cost to society. I'd rather make a drastic cuts in military spending than take support from the needy, and I say that as a small government minded Libertarian. The economics of draconian drug testing don't make sense unless you want to continue down the road of big government.

    P.S. I'd love to see evidence of "government sponsored artwork that puts a cross in urine", but I suspect you fabricated that. Glad you agree the military costs too much for too little.
  9. Readneck
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    Readneck - January 22, 2013 2:58 pm
    Poor Champ wouldn't pass.
  10. Aberdeen
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    Aberdeen - January 22, 2013 1:24 pm
    Keep in mind folks that this clown thinks he might make a good US Senator. Another elected official who claims to get Big Government out of our lives, but wants to invade our bedrooms, Doctor's offices, and now violate the Constitution clause about "reasonable search & seizure without probable cause" or risk to Public Safety. Let's see his thoughts about doing alcohol breathe tests on our elected officials in Helena when they come out of an after-hours session with the lobbyist groups?
  11. Dub
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    Dub - January 22, 2013 10:53 am
    Come on Champ, is this a real problem?? Don't know--let the employer decided if they need drug testing and keep the government out of it.
  12. Activist2012
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    Activist2012 - January 22, 2013 10:52 am
    Why not test for drugs most companies spend a small fortune on looking at a prospective employees finances before hiring them and the excuse is to see how responsible they are so start pee testing them and get rid of the druggies. And the welfare people should have been tested years ago. Most people on welfare are drug addicts. You can set at the welfare office on Palmer and watch them come in and watch them go from there straight to the dealers house to get their fix.
  13. idiot state
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    idiot state - January 22, 2013 8:53 am
    Montana, the dopiest, most backward and corrupt state in the region, is LOADED with druggies-the "medical marijuana" types and heavy duty drug runners. It's WHY the state's an economic mess in the region, it's why insurance rates are through the roof, it's why crime is as common as deer and auto accidents are a daily occurrence. The BIG LABOR UNIONS and newspapers, loaded with dopeheads, of course would be against the bill. You gotta laugh at Montana..
  14. It's Just My Opinion
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    It's Just My Opinion - January 21, 2013 7:27 pm
    Do YOU have any idea how much it costs us in welfare payments to druggies? If it only cost 1 drug test to get rid of someone on a lifetime of useless welfare payments, just think of the money we would save that we could then use on something else, like government sponsored artwork that puts a cross in urine, or $700 toilet seats for the military.
  15. Hakon Montag
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    Hakon Montag - January 21, 2013 7:23 pm
    I second that...
  16. Hakon Montag
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    Hakon Montag - January 21, 2013 7:21 pm

  17. Hayek
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    Hayek - January 21, 2013 6:21 pm
    This bill isn't big government intrusion! It simply allows private employers to give drug test to their employees. If employees don't like it they can find a new job but its not fair to expect businesses to hire drugees.
  18. campana
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    campana - January 21, 2013 4:55 pm
    You must LOOOOOOVE big government and overspending. Every citizen of this nation receives benefits from the government, whether you care to admit it or not. Your ridiculous proposal would require to the government to drug test literally every citizen of the country. What good would that do, what would that cost, and how do you plan to pay for such a program? Amazingly, you have geniuses like sportscaster high-fiving your idea with an "Amen" without really considering the costs or benefits of such a draconian, expensive, intrusive, and overbearing idea. If you want to reduce government waste and the deficit, you mind want to open your minds and think a little people.
  19. old farmer
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    old farmer - January 21, 2013 4:24 pm
    I worked construction for 37 years before retiring. Drug testing was brought in in the mid 70's. The 3 or 4 years before it was required, construction safety and quality took a nose dive. The drug testing brought the construction trades back. No quality worker want's to have to work with a doper. If someone wants a government check, why shouldn't they show they are clean. I mean everyone, judges, law and welfare. It is still there choice. We will never win the war on drugs as long as those in charge are using. It would help both the U.S and Mexico. Take away the money and starve out the dealers.
  20. LilyVonShtupp
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    LilyVonShtupp - January 21, 2013 4:22 pm
    I met and spoke with Champ Edmunds' opponent in the recent election, Dave Andrews. He's a retired executive from the hi-tech/medical industry with a PhD. He was sensible, intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful. He certainly wouldn't have wasted time and money on this unconstitutional nonsense.
    Give yourselves a pat on the back, voters of HD 100, you really know how to pick 'em.
  21. TourGuide
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    TourGuide - January 21, 2013 4:21 pm
    I would be happy to provide taste test. That's about it.
  22. anonymous201288
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    anonymous201288 - January 21, 2013 3:14 pm
    We need more REAL people in Government who Understand what's going on in the real world.
  23. anonymous201288
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    anonymous201288 - January 21, 2013 3:11 pm
    It should START with the Elected people ." PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH" Then extends it to the Judges, Lawyers and etc: I can guarantee this will NEVER happen, but would really be a start at getting "Sanity " back in Government .
  24. sportscaster
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    sportscaster - January 21, 2013 3:01 pm
    Amen, on all points!
  25. Mojoh
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    Mojoh - January 21, 2013 2:14 pm
    People that PRETEND to believe they HATE BIG GOVERNMENT INTRUSION elect them.
  26. Last Chance
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    Last Chance - January 21, 2013 2:07 pm
    we need random testing of students and teachers !!
  27. Readneck
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    Readneck - January 21, 2013 1:52 pm
    I suggest an IQ test for anyone running for public office. That should make the world safer!
  28. gunner2
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    gunner2 - January 21, 2013 1:48 pm
    Before you can get funds from the Federal government, either loans or grants, you have to sign Drug Free Workplace forms. What is wrong with drug testing? As an employer, we often only find out that an empoyee is on drugs after a workplace injury. It would make more sense to be pro-active and prevent these avoidable accidents.
  29. It's Just My Opinion
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    It's Just My Opinion - January 21, 2013 1:39 pm
    We should allow workplace drug testing, We should REQUIRE our elected officials get drug tested. We should also require drug testing of all welfare recipients. Anyone who the Government is paying with our Tax Money should have to submit to drug testing.
  30. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - January 21, 2013 1:29 pm
    Ah yes. Another Big Government Republican that wants Big Brother controlling every aspect of people's lives (on the taxpayer's dime, of course). I wonder if his wife owns a drug testing company like Republican Governor and Medicare fraudster Rick Scott who implemented an unconstitutional drug testing program that cost the taxpayers/ made him and his wife $millions? Oh. Right. The representative from the party of 'family values' is divorced.

  31. pophouse
    Report Abuse
    pophouse - January 21, 2013 1:14 pm
    Where do we find these people, and why do we elect them?
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