Drug-Test-Free Zones?



By: Jeremy Alford


Although his legislation is still in the developmental phase, Baton Rouge Rep. Erich E. Ponti is working on a policy change that would exclude certain petrochemical workers from mandatory employment-related drug tests. House Bill 514 aims to remove workers in “the construction, maintenance or manufacturing of any refining or petrochemical facility” from required drug tests. Ponti, a Republican, says knee-jerk reaction to his bill, which consists of only half a page, might be adverse because it’s easily misunderstood. That’s among the many reasons the bill is being repackaged and investigated further by a group of interested parties. “In theory, this would allow employers to place these people in a database so they can easily be tracked from one plant to another,” Ponti says. The legislation could allow workers to stay on the job and be monitored more closely. While it sounds like a radical idea, it’s nothing new. Louisiana already has a similar statute on the books for employees of oil and gas exploration, drilling and production companies. Such employees are expressly excluded from mandatory testing for the presence of “marijuana, opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and phencyclidine,” according to the law. A comparable provision exists in Wisconsin, where commercial pilots are allowed to fly up to four sightseeing flights a year for charity without being tested for drugs. Texas likewise has testing exclusions for certain industries. The bill is on the shelf for now while lawmakers and special interests kick the idea around. It has been assigned to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, but no hearing date has been set. 

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