Scott orders agency heads to implement drug-testing lawby Dara Kam | March 20th, 2012
State agency heads will begin ordering the state’s 100,000-plus workforce to submit to random, suspicionless drug tests, Gov. Rick Scott said today, the day after he signed into law a measure allowing the drug screens.
Florida’s first-in-the-nation law gives agency heads, appointed by Scott, the discretion to order the urine tests for up to 10 percent of their employees four times a year.
But Scott told reporters this morning it’s not a question of “if” the agency chiefs will require the drug screens.
“Absolutely,” Scott said when asked if he would require his appointees to implement the new law, which goes into effect on July 1. “It’s a bill that I signed and we’ll comply with the bill.”
Scott said he has required the drug tests of governor’s office employees since he took office last year. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, appointed by Scott last month, told reporters this morning he had submitted a urine sample before taking the job – and passed.
Scott issued an executive order mandating the drug tests last year, but backed away from his plan after he was sued by the ACLU and the union representing government workers.
Scott in June limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case in which a federal judge in Miami heard oral arguments late last month.
That case is still pending, but Scott said he’s not going to wait for a decision before moving forward with the drug screens.
“First off, the law passed. And I believe in it. I want to have a qualified workforce. I think all citizens of Florida deserve that and that’s why I signed the bill,” Scott said.
The ACLU and Democratic lawmakers contend the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government. And some lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, objected that workers who drink alcohol the night before could have a positive test result even if they have not been drinking at work. Negron was the sole Republican senator to vote against the measure; three Republican House members also opposed it.
ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon called the new law an invitation to litigation.
“Gov. Scott signed this law in clear defiance of constitutional principles. It’s amazing that the Governor and the Legislature would move ahead with a law that so clearly violates the Constitutional protections against invasive government searches without suspicion – especially while a legal challenge on precisely the same issue is pending in the federal court,” Simon said in a press release. “The Governor’s preoccupation with pushing the limits of government searches is a costly legal gambit for taxpayers and makes a mockery of established Constitutional law. But it says a great deal that, after being such a cheerleader for invasive drug testing, the Governor signed this bill so quietly – almost in secret.”
Lawmakers did not include any money for the drug screens – which could cost between $50,000 and $400,000, assuming 10 percent of the state’s 114,000 workers would be required to take the tests – in the $70 billion budget they passed earlier this month.
Scott said he has not yet decided how to pay for the tests, and rejected objections from libertarians like Negron that the policy was over-reaching.
“I think the way to think about this is this is the goal – to make sure we have a qualified workforce. And that’s the focus of this. It’s’ not a focus on what government’s role should be,” Scott said.