Two bills that would encourage student drug testing are moving in the Florida legislature. A bill introduced by Rep. Ed Homan (R-Tampa) would give school boards explicit state approval to require drug tests of all students participating in extracurricular activities. The US Supreme Court has already ruled that school boards may do so, so the measure is largely symbolic, but that hasn't stopped the bill, HB 113, from winning an important committee vote in the House on March 30. A companion measure is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Homan said his bill was directed at two constituencies: school districts and student athletes. The bill would relieve school districts' worries about lawsuits, he said. "I'm just saying 'Yes, you can do this,' " Homan said. "I'm trying to lessen the concern of school districts that say it's a good idea, but don't want to go to court over it."
Passing the bill would scare student athletes straight, too, he added. "This bill works on the fear factor," said Homan. "It will discourage serious athletes who want to go to college from doing drugs."
A legislative analysis found only six Florida districts had student drug testing, and cited fear of lawsuits and cost for the relative lack of interest. While Holman's bill encourages districts to resort to drug testing, it explicitly forbids the use of state funds to pay for it. According to the legislative analysis, the tests could run from $15 to $56 per student, a cost the districts would have to bear themselves.
A second bill, HB 861, is more than symbolic. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcelo Llorente (R-Miami), attempts to attack steroid use. It would require schools to test 5% of student athletes for performance enhancing drugs annually or lose their membership in the Florida High School Athletics Association. It passed the House education committee on a 5-0 vote on March 22.
Unlike Homan's bill, HB 861 would impose a large cost, estimated at $1.2 million by state legislative analysts, on school districts without allocating funds to pay for it. "School districts would have to provide funding to pay for the test or require students to pay for their own test, as some school districts do for the required medical evaluation," the analysts noted. Steroid testing would run about $110 per test, they reported.
For complete online information about the bills, including legislative analyses, go to http://www.myfloridahouse.com/bills.aspx and enter the bill numbers in the search box.