Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – A Florida federal judge has stopped one of Governor Rick Scott’s signature pieces of legislation requiring welfare applicants to pass a drug test.
The drug testing requirement was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on grounds that it was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The ruling comes just days after the first figures for the mandated welfare drug tests showed that less than one percent of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs since the state started the program in July.
Thirty-two applicants failed the test, 7,028 passed and 1,597 didn’t take it, according figures from the Department of Children and Families. A majority of the positive tests were for marijuana.
Proponents of the law suggested applicants would be deterred because they knew they would test positive, meaning the law is preventing taxpayer funds from being spent on drugs.
Critics said applicants may not have taken the test because they couldn’t afford the $25-$35 test fee or didn’t have easy access to a testing facility. People who decline to take the test aren’t required to explain why.
Lawmakers in more than two-dozen states have proposed drug-testing recipients of welfare or other government assistance, but the ACLU said Florida was the first to enact a law since Michigan tried more than a decade ago.
Michigan’s random drug testing program for welfare recipients lasted five weeks in 1999 before it was halted by a judge, kicking off a four-year legal battle that ended with an appeals court ruling it unconstitutional.
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