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Florida Legislature Passes Welfare Drug Test Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #683)
Drug War Issues

A bill requiring Florida welfare recipients to undergo drug tests passed the state Senate last Thursday. A similar measure has already passed the House. The bill was supported by Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is expected to sign it into law shortly.

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"It’s fair to taxpayers," Scott said after the vote. "They're paying the bill. And they're often drug screened for their jobs. On top of that, it's good for families. It creates another reason why people will think again before using drugs, which as you know is just a significant issue in our state."

Scott has already signed an executive order mandating drug tests for state workers. But Republican senators this week fended off bipartisan amendments that would have imposed drug tests for anyone working for a company that receives public funds and schoolchildren in the Bright Futures program. Those amendments were designed to sabotage the bill by spreading the net uncomfortably wide.

If Scott signs the bill into law, it is almost certain to face a constitutional challenge, and the challengers would have a strong case. The only other state to pass a suspicionless drug testing bill for welfare recipients, Michigan, saw its law thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2003 as an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against warrantless searches. Arizona has a welfare drug testing law, but that law requires probable cause before a drug test can be demanded.

The bill, House Bill 353, requires all adult applicants for or existing recipients of federal cash benefits -- the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program -- to undergo drug testing at their own expense. If they pass the drug test, the cost of the test is reimbursed by the state. The tests would screen for all controlled substances and recipients would have to disclose any legal prescriptions they have.

If recipients test positive, they lose their benefits for a year. If they fail a second test, they lose their benefits for three years. Children whose parents lose their benefits could still receive benefits if another adult is designated the payee on their behalf.

The bill is set to go into effect July 1, provided Gov. Scott actually signs it and no legal challenge has been filed by that date.

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.


darkcycle (not verified)

Yeah, and that rat bastard Governor, Rick Scott will sign it. Don't ya know, he has big interests and lots of good buddies in the drug testing industry.

Fri, 05/06/2011 - 11:40pm Permalink
fletch (not verified)

Stop the prohibition against marijuana. Other drugs, I do not have a problem with.

Sat, 05/07/2011 - 6:45pm Permalink
Gary White (not verified)

This man is a proven thief and his scumbag wife is no better.

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 7:04pm Permalink
somebody who i… (not verified)

I think that there needs to be drug testing on any individual that decides to get on welfare.  Most of the one that are on there are on there for the good of their families to help feed them, but there are those that are taking advantage of the welfare system and can go out an work instead of staying at home or running the street and doing nothing but having babies that they don't want to take care of in the first place.  I think that the drug test should be a manatory thing in all states.  If you plan on using drugs then you don't plan on getting a job to take care of your responsiblities.

Wed, 05/18/2011 - 12:46am Permalink
call me irresp… (not verified)

I have never subscribed to the the idea that drug abuse and alcoholism is a disease. Everyone has at one time or another in their life decided for him/her self weather to make drugs or alcohol a part of their lives.

Society has become the great enabler of the drug / alcohol sub-culture by providing Welfare benefits to these societal misfits who refuse to get serious about the business of living productive lives.

Florida is not saying that you have to quit using drugs/alcohol. They are only saying that you may not continue to suck on the great State's government tit to support your habit.

Grow up and quit the habit. Get help if you need it, OR Go north Homie. Go suck on someone else's tit!!

This country is in an ugly mood, and soon the wisdom of what Florida has done will create a desire on the part of other state legislatures to do exactly the same thing. I don't think that Canada will allow you to emigrate since they, unlike this country, will not allow you entry unless you have money and a job. You could go to the enlightened Middle East-Not a good idea. Maybe Mexico-not unless you have a death wish.  

The ACLU will, no doubt, attempt to vacate this legislation. I think this would go all the way to the Supreme Court. In the mean time, you would have to get a job to support yourself because Florida will enforce the law and not pay you unless you pass a drug test. 








Sun, 09/18/2011 - 12:41pm Permalink
jimbonano (not verified)

A couple notes of clarity -

Walfare, food-stamps (LINK), unemployment, disability benefits, etc. fill a number of roles:

One role is to help those with long term needs - for example the disabled....

Another idea behind these systems is to give a temporary hand and needed assistance to those who have fallen on hard times by filling the gap until they become gainfully employed again or build a new skill-set.

If someone is able-bodied and cognitively able to work, then the system must include a fail-safe which prevents them from becoming a permanent burden on the system - hence the idea of drug-testing. 

Why drug-testing you may ask?

Well in the first place, someone heavily into drugs is not motivated to look for a job.  They are also typically not concerned about improving their skill set and have no incentive (or pressure) to find work especially if we just keep pumping out living expenses to them year after year after year.  Such a gravy train actually provides negative incentive to them.

By insisting they act responsibly, we are actually doing them a favor when say, "Either you check into a drug program, quit using, or else sacrifice your chosen luxury of sitting around high or drunk all day on the government's dime."


Sat, 11/12/2011 - 5:21pm Permalink

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