Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate OKs Drug, Alcohol Testing Bill

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate OKs Drug, Alcohol Testing Bill

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A bill to regulate drug and alcohol testing in the private workplace passed the Oklahoma Senate 42-5 Tuesday, and now goes to the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 143, authored by Sen. Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa, and Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa, contains recommendations of an interim legislative task force that studied the issue. Its purpose is to set guidelines in law for employers who choose to test for drugs, but it would not require or encourage drug testing by employers.

Senators on Tuesday were given a substitute bill that eliminated a Judiciary Committee amendment by Sen. Ben Brown, D-Oklahoma City, that would have made the bill apply equally to public employees.

"Why wouldn't you want to make the same rules for voluntary compliance by public employers?" asked Sen. Minority Leader Howard Hendrick, R-Bethany. Roach and Muegge have said including public employees would cause legal problems.

Public employees would not be tested for drug and alcohol usage except those employed in "sensitive" positions, Muegge said.

Sen. Majority Leader Darryl Roberts, D-Ardmore, said he supported the bill because Oklahoma is an "employment-at-will" state, and employers can fire an employee for any reason. Roberts said an error in a drug test that showed a false positive for an innocent worker could ruin the person's life.

Senate Bill 143 would improve the accuracy of the tests, he said.

"There are employers using drug testing in the workplace," he said. "I say, if they do that, they do it at their peril."

Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, said the bill is needed because "drug testing is an unregulated jungle."

Voting against Senate Bill 143 were Sens. Hendrick; Larry Lawler, D-Comanche; Don Rubottom, R-Tulsa; Mike Fair, R-Oklahoma City; and Mark Snyder, R-Edmond.

The title was stricken, so the bill probably will go to a House-Senate conference committee. …

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