THINK PROGRESS: [Pennsylvania’s] unemployment rate has dropped to 7.9 percent, but the “number of people working in Pennsylvania tumbled by about 14,000 in March, following a drop of 6,000 in February.” Private employment has remained flat for 13 months, “growing by a mere 1,000 jobs” and landing the state “49th in the nation for job creation during March.”
During an appearance on a local radio show this week, Corbett sought to explain away Pennsylvania’s less than stellar performance, arguing that the state gained 111,000 private sector jobs since he took office and is “doing better than other states.” But then he grew defensive and complained that “a lot” of businesses are still having trouble filling their ranks because too many Pennsylvanians use illegal drugs:
CORBETT: The other area is, there are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them. And that’s a concern for me because we’re having a serious problem with that.
Earlier this month, a state senator introduced a bill requiring drug testing of all recipients and applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Pennsylvania. The state is currently “conducing a pilot program in 19 counties of testing only those convicted of felony drug offenses.” Since January of 2012, just two people have failed. MORE
THE NATION: The annual Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) conference, held in 2012 in San Antonio, Texas, looks like any other industry gathering. The 600 or so attendees sip their complimentary Starbucks coffee, munch on small plates of muffins and fresh fruit, and backslap old acquaintances as they file into a sprawling Marriott hotel conference hall. They will hear a keynote address by Robert DuPont, who served as drug policy director under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Nothing odd about any of this until you consider that the main subject of the conference is urine. Seventy-seven years old, DuPont adopts the air of a sprightly televangelist as he outlines what he calls “the new battle lines” in the war on drugs, one that “begins with kids.” At the climax of his speech, DuPont offers “the new paradigm” of drug treatment: a program that one controversial Hawaiian judge administers to all drug-addicted probationers he oversees. “If they test positive,” he says, his voice slowly rising into a high-pitched yell, “they go to jail that day! No discussion!… No discretion! To jail that day!” As DuPont finishes his speech, the hundreds of drug-testing company representatives in the audience rise to give him a standing ovation. DuPont is in an expansive mood following his speech. Since the 1980s, he has been in the business of selling drug-testing services to employers. As far as he’s concerned, drug tests should be given to “anybody who receives a benefit,” from unemployment insurance to welfare. “Test ‘em all!” he exclaims. MORE
THE NATION: It was not so long ago that the American Management Association published a survey showing that workplace drug testing was rapidly declining. In 2006, HR Magazine cited human resource professionals and testing experts who explained the drop-off by pointing out that drug testing “shows no demonstrable return on investment.” In other words, there was nothing to gain by spending money to ferret out employees who might be perfectly effective workers. This seemed only natural to Lewis Maltby, who in 1999 wrote an ACLU report titled “Drug Testing: A Bad Investment,” and who sees the decline in private employers’ use of drug testing as proof that “testing never meant anything to begin with.” Nearly 60 percent of the 1,000 companies who responded to a DATIA-funded survey in 2011 claimed to drug-test all job candidates. But the same study found a rise in the number of companies that do not conduct any form of pre-employment testing, with several reporting that they do “not believe in drug testing.” Schools have been similarly reluctant to embrace testing. But industry leaders like DuPont remain optimistic about the benefits of targeting recipients of government assistance. In 2011, Elaine Taulé’s NMS Management Services was one of several companies enlisted by Florida’s Department of Children and Families to inspect the urine of welfare applicants. That year, Republican Governor Rick Scott—whose wife owns a network of Florida clinics that profit from drug tests—signed a law requiring all applicants for cash assistance through the state’s TANF program to take a drug test. Welfare applicants were required to pay the $25 to $30 charged by the drug-testing firms for the tests; those who tested negative would be reimbursed by the state. The courts struck down Florida’s law soon after it went into effect, following a lawsuit by the ACLU. […] Data released by the National Conference of State Legislatures demonstrates that lawmakers’ obsession with drug-testing the poor has shown no sign of abating in the current legislative session. Twenty-nine states have proposed welfare drug testing in 2013. MORE
RELATED: In February 2012, Congress amended federal rules to allow states to drug-test select unemployment applicants. The Drug Policy Alliance dubbed it a “policy [that] broadly expands and subsidizes drug testing in a way that may be difficult to reverse for many years, if ever.” Among the Republican lawmakers who pushed hard for the change was Congressman Dave Camp, who owns at least $81,000 in assets in companies that are major players in the drug-testing industry, such as LabCorp, Abbott Laboratories and Hewlett-Packard. He has also received $5,000 in federal campaign contributions from LabCorp over the past three years. MORE
RELATED: In 2012, South Carolina legislators considered three separate bills to drug-test the unemployed, and the idea has been championed by the governor, ALEC alum Nikki Haley, who exclaimed at a Lexington country club gathering in September 2011, “I so want drug testing. It’s something I’ve been wanting since the first day I walked into office.” The same year, despite a statewide unemployment rate higher than 9 percent, South Carolina lawmakers slashed the duration for such benefits from twenty-six to twenty weeks. “Initiatives like this, [which] scapegoat those who need—and are entitled to depend on—basic social insurance programs, are inconsistent with the unemployment insurance program’s purpose and history, insensitive to the realities of today’s economy, and insulting to millions who are shouldering the greatest burdens of job loss and inability to find new work,” says Rebecca Dixon, an analyst at the National Employment Law Project. But for Republican lawmakers pushing to slash a federal program that has become a lifeline for millions of Americans, scapegoating the victims of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression seems to be precisely the goal. MORE
USA TODAY: Arizona was the first state to impose a testing program. In 2009, it began testing new welfare recipients when there was a “reasonable cause” to suspect illicit drug use. So how many of the 87,000 people subjected to the program have tested positive since then? Just one. That’s right. The much-touted program netted a single drug abuser. MORE
Corbett blames the stoned for the state’s miserable jobs picture at the 48 second mark.
USA TODAY: There is nothing but bad news for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett: A new poll shows the Republican trailing three Democrats. Former congressman Joe Sestak and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz both lead Corbett by double digits in the Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, while state Treasurer Rob McCord has a 9-point advantage over the embattled governor. Corbett has been beset by low approval ratings for months over his handling of the state’s economy. MORE