Scott’s legal team comes to defense of state worker drug testing billby Dara Kam | February 24th, 2012
State Rep. Jimmie Smith isn’t an attorney, as House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders pointed out during an “I’m-a-lawyer-and-you’re-not” debate over Smith’s bill that would require random drug testing of all state employees. In fact, Smith, R-Inverness, has a G.E.D.
But Gov. Rick Scott’s crack legal team has come to Smith’s defense on the controversial measure, similar to an executive order issued by Scott last year and argued in federal court on Wednesday. The ACLU and the union representing government workers sued Scott over the drug tests, and he backed away from his “pee in a cup” policy, limiting the drug tests to Department of Corrections workers.
Scott’s office provided a legal analysis for Smith, which he distributed to members of the House State Affairs Committee Friday morning before the panel approved the bill (HB 1205) by a 9-6 vote.
The 13-page memo, written by Scott’s deputy general counsel and Harvard Law School graduate Jesse Panuccio, outlines the legal arguments Panuccio made in the federal court case defending the drug testing, and refers to several cases in which courts ruled that drug testing government employees was acceptable.
Smith referred to the Scott’s packet several times during question-and-answer period and held his own against Democrats, who insisted the random, suspicionless, drug tests are illegal and an insult to state workers.
The requirement would further demoralize state workers, who have gone without a pay raise for six years and last year were forced to contribute 3 percent of their salaries towards their pensions, argued Rep. Dwight Taylor, D-Daytona Beach.
“Now you want them to prove they’re not doing drugs. In other words, you’re guilty. Now prove that you’re innocent. That’s not the way government should operate,” Taylor said.
Smith said he wants to cut back on Florida’s drug problem and that state workers should be treated the same as those who work for private companies, who are allowed to require drug tests.
“Let me be very clear. Drug abuse is a very real problem in the state of Florida,” Smith said. But, he insisted, “This bill does not suggest state workers are more likely to be drug users.”