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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Rick Scott’s Drug Testing of Florida’s Welfare Recipients Ruled Unconstitutional

Shortly after Rick Scott was elected Governor of Florida, he began pursuing mandatory drug testing for those who receive welfare.  In Republican controlled Florida, the bill had no problem being passed in June of 2011.  A controversial issue, many in the ACLU and the political Left decried the new law as unconstitutional.  On Tuesday, December 31, 2013, a federal judge agreed that the drug testing law was indeed unconstitutional.
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 [sic] drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.
Governor Scott stated that this was about the greater good, and saving the children.
“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.”
Let’s break Governor Scott’s comments down one by one.  First and foremost, Scott is equating taking a hit of marijuana to beating a child, or worse.  While it is true there are harder drugs out there, and some such as crack cocaine are harmful to be around in any way, that distinction is not made with Governor Scott’s drug testing.
Lastly, and perhaps the most infuriating, is stating there is a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use.  If he wants to follow that belief, fine.  However, how can there be a “zero-tolerance” with the addition “especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”
If Governor Scott believes any kind of drug use is the equivalent of child abuse, why not require drug testing of each and every individual, regardless of income.  No, this is about a deep seeded hatred for the poor.
The largest beneficiaries of welfare programs are children.  Reagan’s attempted to paint a picture of a “welfare queen” as a woman “on the South side of Chicago” that, “has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
From that day forward, it was a free-for-all against the poor.  Governor Scott is just carrying the flag for the Republican Party.  This may be a step backwards for the Party, but they will regroup and attack it from a different angle.  Already, one Conservative group is planning their next offense.
Tarren Bragdon, chief executive of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative group in Naples, Fla., that focuses on health care and welfare policy, said the judge’s decision would most likely result in states around the country adjusting their laws so they could meet constitutional muster.
“I think what we are seeing is Florida pursuing a strategy of protecting kids by testing all applicants,” Mr. Bragdon said. “You’re going to see a shift in strategy of how to best protect kids in a constitutional way.”
For example, some states are now screening applicants and require drug tests only of those who appear to be drug users. “The decision is not that you can’t drug test applicants,” Mr. Bragdon said. “It’s that you can’t blanket drug test all of them.”
Again, it is about protecting children.  Cowards seem to hide behind children to protect their true intentions.  If this is about doing what is best for children, why are they trying to take food off of their tables for the mistakes of their parents?  Why did Governor Scott cut over $1.3 billion from public education in his first year and higher education by $300 million in his second year?
And then there is this little thorn in the side that Governor Scott would rather you forget.  In the time period that the drug testing of welfare recipients occurred, 4086 were tested.  The net revealed only 108 people, or 2.6%, turned up positive for drugs.
When somebody tests positive, they lose their benefits immediately.  They must also pay for the cost of the drug test.  However, for those who are clean, taxpayers must pick up the tab.  Not only does this use more funds that what is being saved, you must also follow the money.  If you thought Governor Scott did not want you to pay attention to the previous numbers, consider this.
If you have a $62 million investment, representing the biggest single chunk of your $218 million in wealth, and you put it in a trust under your wife’s name, does that mean you’re no longer involved in the company?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says it does.
Scott has aggressively pursued policies like testing state workers and welfare recipients for drugs, switching Medicaid patients to private HMOs and shrinking public health clinics. All these changes could benefit that $62 million investment, but Scott sees no legal conflict between his public role and private investments.
And, experts say, under Florida law he is correct.
So, Scott is able to look like a Republican hero by attacking the poor, while simultaneously pocketing over $60 million—and it is all legal.
The federal judge that struck down the decision made the right call.  With no suspicion or grounds for a drug test, and no warrant, the Government has no right to violate your body in such a way.  You would expect Republicans to oppose such a violation of civil right, but instead they laud it.  It is a strange hypocrisy that likely will find it’s way to the Supreme Court.
The Young Turks discuss the failure of Florida’s welfare drug test program.

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