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Florida Welfare Drug Testing Bills Advance

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #680)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Bills that would require new applicants for temporary welfare assistance to undergo suspicionless drug tests -- and pay for them themselves -- are advancing in the Florida legislature. On April 13, House Bill 353 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee. That same day, the Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 556, won approval from Senate budget subcommittee. Both votes were party-line votes in the Republican dominated legislature.

Welfare recipients are the latest targets of Florida politicos. (Image via
Under the legislation, applicants who fail a drug test would be barred from receiving cash assistance for one year. Failing a second drug test, would mean a three-year ban. Children of rejected applicants could receive benefits if they can find another adult who can pass the drug test to be a payee.

Republicans voting for the bills argued that since many taxpayers must endure drug testing on the job, it was only fair that welfare recipients be tested as well. They also argued drug testing would provide an incentive for drug abusers to seek treatment.

Democrats and their supporters retorted that suspicionless drug testing would likely be found unconstitutional. They also argued that it would be unfair to force people seeking assistance because they're poor to pay the estimated $35 cost of the drug test.

"We believe it is not quite reasonable to expect folks who are applying for temporary assistance to undergo drug testing that they must pay for," said Michael Sheedy of the Florida Catholic Conference, who testified against the bill.

"It may seem a little onerous telling folks they need to get drug tested," conceded Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah). "But at the end of the day, I want to help people who want to help themselves."

"We're heading into a court challenge with this," warned Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood).

The only state to pass a suspicionless welfare drug testing ban was Michigan, but that law was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2002. The court held that testing without particularized suspicion violates privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment's protection against unwarranted searches.

That hasn't stopped drug testing bills aimed at welfare recipients, unemployment seekers, or other convenient scapegoats from being a perennial favorite of pandering politicians. Although no state has passed a bill since the 2002 court decision, bills have been filed in at least 16 states this year.

The House bill now awaits a floor vote, while the Senate bill goes before the Budget Committee Friday, and then, if approved, on to a floor vote.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Rookie (not verified)

Florida is like many Political bodies out of Control. Please some one come protect us from the elitists that have exempted themselves from drug testing but pass laws to make the common and poor undergo this obscenity on a routine basis.

The thought process that workplace testing is common so why not test those in need of assistance is flawed on so many levels that I will only bring up one..






Sun, 04/17/2011 - 11:57am Permalink
Fireweed (not verified)

In reply to by Rookie (not verified)

I totally agree with you about drug testing being an obscenity.  I was molested as an adolescent and when our workplace went to random drug testing I felt a cold chill.  Drug testing solves nothing and ignores the personal reasons why some people might be significantly uncomfortable with having to expose themselves, however "behind a closed door" it may be,  and deliver up intimate body fluids to a stranger.

This all favors big business, as this practice is much costlier for small businesses, even with the discount they get in workman's comp (level 3 drug testing site) and the law is supposed to be that random is based on public safety but obviously it's not closely monitored.  I'm just pushing papers. What's gonna happen?  Paper cut? 

And with all the budget cuts lately thanks to the republicans in office (the same ones that justify welfare drug testing because "we're already testing in the workplace"), it's just one more thing my job has taken from me in terms of quality of life.  I'm working longer hours for essentially less pay (thanks to the "market driven" health care system we have and increased local taxes) and what little free time I do have I can no longer enjoy as I have for the past 25 years.  I feel like an indentured servant.   Time to take my chances on starting my own business. Fuck employment.    

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 11:37am Permalink

Why not insist on Mandatory drug testing for all those who serve in the Florida State Legislature. I would expect a few positive results. I don't know if Florida randomly tests it's police but it should be a given that all police, prosecutors and judges should undergo random drug testing.

Sun, 04/17/2011 - 2:05pm Permalink
Rookie (not verified)

As I stated above.. The lawmakers have exempted themselves, all cabinet members and all Court Officials from testing...

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 10:48pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

In reply to by Rookie (not verified)

Next election, exempt them from a job. It says in the constitution, that any law contrary to the constitution is void, and any elected official that supports such a law, no longer represents the US government. No trial, no jury, no lawyers, no job, period. Simple. Those remaining in office after committing such acts, are impersonating a government official, a felony in some states. If, "private" institutions can violate constitutional rights, such as drug testing without cause, they can violate all constitutional rights. What's to stop your employer from searching your house, from chaining you to your work station, from torturing you? Using a persons urine as evidence against them, is no different than self incrimination, no different than an unreasonable search, no different than extortion. The constitutional rights guaranteed us, are applicable not only to government, but, to everybody.  The forth amendment doesn't state "shall not be violated by government", it say's, "shall not be violated", leaving no confusion as to what shall not be violated, or by whom. It doesn't say, "except by employers", or, "except by police", or, "except by anybody", it does say, "but upon probable cause", "supported by oath or affirmation". Meaning, if someone swears an oath to an act committed by someone else, and that act turns out to have not been committed, we have a whole new criminal act to be dealt with, false testimony. So, not swearing an oath, in effect, eliminates all possibility of a violation of rights of the accused, while granting the accuser the opportunity to violate the rights of the accused, not granted by the constitution, random searches. It doesn't matter who violates the constitution, government, or, private individual, it does matter that a violation has been committed. The constitution doesn't grant certain powers to the government, it limits the power of the government to that granted by it.

Thu, 04/21/2011 - 3:59pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

When these people can't get assistance from the state, what do you think they'll turn to for survival? If they can't get a job, and can't get food, they'll take it, given no other choice. Yeah, that'll fix those druggies, it will also endanger the rest of the population, raise crime rates, incarceration costs, court costs, and other positive results are sure to emerge.

Thu, 04/21/2011 - 4:11pm Permalink
Fireweed (not verified)

One more way the "elite" are gouging at the quality of life for the restivus. 

I don't know what happened to my last comment but I didn't see it post, and I think this is an important point about workplace random drug testing. The first poster who described it as an obscenity was right.   I was molested as a child and when our place went to random it sent chills down my back.  I think the Powers That Be are completely insensitive to the possible reasons why someone would be significantly uncomfortable about being drug tested, however "behind closed doors" it may be, and handing up intimate body fluids to a stranger.  Fortunately my number hasn't yet come up, but already I feel more like a piece of livestock than a person.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do but I won't stay here for much longer.

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 11:44am Permalink
cookie (not verified)

Its a shame when it comes to this. Making our poor get drug tested!! Do we drug test other countries and company's when they get our tax dollars? If my tax dollars are giving to anyone, let it be my fellow country men and women. Let us take care of our people 1st. Lets rebuild our country by putting people back to work. Bring jobs home for people to have. Then and only then should we stop caring about our people of this great country.

Tue, 04/26/2011 - 3:36am Permalink
cookie (not verified)

In reply to by cookie (not verified)

I didn't mean to stop right there. We should all ways care about our people of this country. But when we can't put people to work. Let us not turn our backs on the ones who need us most. Wow in the time of war, i don't think i would ask the person next to me ..."have you ever got aid from my tax dollars"... Lets stop fight each other in this country.

Tue, 04/26/2011 - 3:46am Permalink

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