TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – A bill that would allow the State of Florida to randomly test many state employees for drugs passed a key House committee Friday, even though the idea may not meet constitutional requirements.
The House State Affairs Committee cleared the bill (HB 1205) by a straight party-line vote of 9-6.
If the measure becomes law, state agencies would be given the authority to randomly test workers every three months, but it would not make such tests mandatory. Workers who fail the test could have that included in any effort to fire them.
Tests will be paid for out of the agencies’ existing budgets, a change that addressed some legislators concerns when a previous committee vote rejected the proposal.
The version approved Friday, an outside organization would create a random group of employees to be tested.No more than 10 percent of an agency’s employee roster could be tested at any time.
Rep. Alan Williams, a Democrat from Tallahassee who represents thousands of state employees, said the bill would do nothing to help the already depressed morale of those constituents.
“It’s the wrong direction at the wrong time,” he said. “‘Just say ‘no’ to this bill.”
But Rep. Scott Plakon pointed out that employees of private companies already work under the possibility they’ll be tested.
“I don’t see why state workers should be treated any better than the private sector,” he said.
Civil liberties experts and public worker advocates continue to oppose the bill as unconstitutional and unfair.
Drug testing invokes the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizure.
Courts generally frown on drug testing without a reasonable suspicion of employee drug use.
A separate executive order by Gov. Rick Scott requiring random drug testing of state workers resulted in a lawsuit and a hearing in that case was held this week. Scott supports this bill.
The bill exempts many state employees, most notably the Legislature, the Cabinet, and their staffs.
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.