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Scott takes drug testing of welfare recipients to Supreme Court

by Dara Kam | February 26th, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott will appeal a federal court ruling upholding a ban on drug testing of Florida welfare recipients.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that Scott’s lawyers did not make the case for lifting the injunction on the urine tests for people applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. A federal judge in Florida issued the temporary injunction in October 2011, finding the law – pushed by Scott in his first year in office – violated the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

The three-judge panel agreed.

“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy,” wrote Judge Rosemary Barkett in the 38-page opinion.

But Scott issued a statement said he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The court’s ruling today is disturbing. Welfare is 100 percent about helping children. Welfare is taxpayer money to help people looking for jobs who have children. Drug use by anyone with children looking for a job is totally destructive. This is fundamentally about protecting the wellbeing of Florida families. We will protect children and families in our state, and this decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court,” Scott, who is running for re-election next year, said.

U.S. District Mary Scriven has not yet ruled on whether to permanently strike down the law in the case filed by the ACLU of Florida on behalf of Luis W. Lebron. She could issue a ruling on that matter at any time, said Maria Kayanan, the lead ACLU lawyer in the case.

Both today’s ruling and Scriven’s opinion found that the plaintiffs are likely to win their arguments that the law is unconstitutional. Kayanan said Tuesday’s opinion showed that Scott’s administration has a “heavy burden” to prove that the law is not.

“After reading the court of appeals opinion, to ask the Supreme Court to review this decision is political theater based on ideology,” Kayanan said.

The court rejected all of Scott’s arguments that the law is necessary, including that there is a “special” reason for the government to require the drug tests.

And the court rejected Scott’s argument that the tests are needed to make sure that children whose parents receive the temporary cash aid are safe and that “none of the State’s asserted concerns will be ameliorated by drug testing.”

And the court rejected the argument that the urine tests are not an unconstitutional search because TANF recipients must “consent” to the drug tests in order to get benefits.

The mandated ‘consent’ the State relies on here, which is not freely and voluntarily given, runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s long-standing admonition that the government ‘may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests,’” Barkett wrote.

Filings in the case showed that the drug testing done by the Department of Children and Families was problematic. DCF stopped the tests after the Scriven blocked the law in October 2011.

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10 Responses to “Scott takes drug testing of welfare recipients to Supreme Court”

  1. Spanky Says:


  2. no more Says:

    Okay, no drug test..then they need to personally come in with ID and every entitlement they are claiming to get a WELFARE CHECK for!!!! And the CHECK is to be used at the grocery store only!!! It’s too bad they think their freedom is gone, so is mine because I go to work but am forced to pay for their nonsense. Gov. Scott, I want to OPT OUT of paying taxes to subsidize these welfare recipients!! Oh CR@P, that isn’t gonna work for me, is it?

  3. Just the Facts Says:

    The 4.3 million people collecting welfare checks from government cost taypayers $132 billion per year. Get a Job!!(Source U.S. HHS Department.2013)

  4. 2014 Says:

    This can be summed up in 4 words:

    Republican. War. On. Minorities.


    Rick Scott needs to be run out of the state on a rail. He is the worst governor in America and the worst in the history of the state. 2014, we get it done and finally elect someone who actually gives a darn about the people of Florida.

  5. Overtaxed non drug user Says:

    Better yet – summed in 3 words:

    Democrats buying votes.

  6. Ted the Nimble Says:

    Scott…you rock! Test away!

  7. T. J. Ewing Says:

    For all you geniuses out there that think drug testing is a good idea. Remember, so far it has cost the state of Florida more money than has been saved by having removed the drug users from the welfare roles. In the GOP/Teabagger world I am sure that that makes sense. Now, if we could just get the welfare haters to go after all of the corporate welfare and tax loopholes that the rich and corporate America receives maybe our deficit problem would go away. Fat chance. In the GOP/Teabagger world people welfare is bad and corporate welfare is good! Hypocrites!!

  8. Data Guy Says:

    This is a shame because the data purporting to show that hardly any Taniff applicants tested positive for drugs – is critically flawed. The data is based on the number of Taniff applicants who were required to submit to a drug test as part of their Taniff application and subsequently tested positive for drugs. The baseline (denominator) reflects the totally incorrect assumption that everyone who applied for Taniff benefits during the covered was properly made to comply with the law and submit to a drug test as part of their application. (the FLORIDA system was not programmed to automatically comply with the law by requiring the test as part of the application.) The rest of the equation leading to the percentage conclusion (the number of applicants who actually showed up to take the test, submit the application, etc.) is fine. To determine the proper baseline for the analysis, you first need to distinguish between the number of Taniff applications received during the covered period, and then determine how many of those applicants were actually made to submit to the drug test as part of the application process. Now subtract. Big difference! The denominator used to arrive at the low percentage reflects the larger universe and incorrect assumption that all Taniff applicants received instructions to comply with the requirements of the law by submitting to the drug test. If you conduct the same analysis by first confirming number of applicants who actually received the drug testing requirement and were made to comply with the law, the percentage becomes much, much greater. A simple audit of Taniff case referrals during that period will reveal the critical distinction and flaw.
    Regardless of how one feels about the issue itself, the shame is that the court’s decision that, “the state failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a ‘concrete danger’ of illegal drug use within Florida’s TANF population” is based entirely on the flawed data.

  9. Just Wunderin' Says:

    Why is it that the welfare rolls and the list of registered Democratic voters look similar?

  10. Kevin Says:

    I’m not sure what Scott is trying to accomplish with this unconstitutional drug testing law. I believe it’s just another way to enrich his healthcare industry buddies by performing thousands of cheap and profitable urine tests. The GOP is all about the Constitution, individual and religious freedoms as well as personal property rights as long as it’s in line with their corporate welfare, and tax cuts for the wealthy agenda. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to smoke a joint in my own home if my neighbor can own an AR-15? Neither one of us would be infringing on the rights of others. There is plenty of fraud in these public assistance programs that need to be addressed by the program administrators as well as law enforcement. I know of people who have sold their food assistance for $0.25 on the dollar in exchange for cash to be spent on cell phones, hair extensions and acrylic nails. They do this by going through the checkout line with the person buying their food assistance and swiping their snap card at the register. This is a shameful exploitation of assistance given to people who obviously don’t need it that must be eradicated. Pee testing people who know in advance that they will be tested is stupid. Means testing would be much more effective in cutting costs and rooting out fraud in these programs. If baby daddy is on the street corner making $500.00 a day tax free for selling crack, and baby mama’s driving a 2012 coupe Deville with a bling covered cell phone and her hair and nails just so she doesn’t need food stamps or section 8 housing assistance. Many so called “welfare queens” are instructed by multi generational friends and family to sign up for these benefits as soon as they are eligible. It has abecome a right of passage. They are ingrained with the notion that they are entitled to and deserve this “free money”. It’s these people who really hurt the ones in need by creating the stereotypical image that conservatives love to point out when deriding the mere existence of welfare assistance programs in general. There should be an anonymous cash reward offered to people who turn in these posers who are committing verifiable fraud against the system. They are not that difficult to spot and if found guilty don’t lock them up. Fine them to recoup the reward money then ban them for life from receiving any future government assistance. Now that’s a deterrent that’s low cost and effective. I’m so tired of the typical politico’s knee jerk reaction to solving an issue for the purpose of making it look like your doing something while enriching their special interest constituents to the determent of “we the people”.

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