Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Ruled Unconstitutional

Remember back in 2011 after the GOP handed Democrats a shellacking of historic proportions and took control in state legislatures for the first time, in some cases, since reconstruction? Back then, while rising the wave of Tea Party enthusiasts this was to be their first step in “taking the country back”. If you remember it like I do, you’d probably laugh like I do at the notion that with a black man as president, everything in America has changed for the worse, when in comes to certain folks who have become suddenly nostalgic.

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott — himself a Tea Party darling — signed legislation in 2011 that made the drug testing of applicants for public assistance (you know, all those welfare-loving black and brown folks who voted for Obama?) a requirement. The law was met with pushback from Democrats and progressive thinking minds like myself. Unfortunatelty for Gov. Scott and the neanderthals who supported this measure, the courts put a halt to the practice pending future litigation. Never mind that putting a stop to the practice would be in Florida’s favor economically. Gov. Scott and crew vowed to fight for this legislation all the way to the top.

This from Raw Story:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that around eight percent of the general population ages 12 and older report using illicit drugs. The high cost of testing applicants and low rate of denial of benefits ultimately meant that Scott’s plan cost the state more to implement than it saved.

During the short time testing was done before it was halted, however, according to Reuters, testing found a much lower rate of drug use among applicants for public assistance than in the population at large. At the time, less than two percent of all applicants for public assistance tested, failed to qualify having tested positive for drug use. Nevertheless, Gov. Scott and proponents of the legislation fought thew good fight by taking it to court. Unfortunatelty for Florida Republicans, a federal judge has ruled against the legislation.

This from The New York Times:

KEY WEST, Fla. — A federal judge on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing, setting the stage for a legal battle that could affect similar efforts nationwide.


Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando held that the testing requirement, the signature legislation of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who campaigned on the issue, violated the protection against unreasonable searches.


“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.


Mr. Scott, who had argued that the drug testing was necessary to protect children and ensure that tax money was not going to illegal drugs, said that the state would appeal the ruling.


“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” he said in a statement. “We should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families — especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”


Florida passed the measure in 2011, and the case was being closely watched by several other states, including Georgia, which passed similar legislation in 2013 but found it dogged by legal challenges. State data in Florida also showed that the measure produced few results. Only 108 out of 4,086 people tested — 2.6 percent — were found to have been using narcotics. State records showed that the requirement cost more money to carry out than it saved.

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