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Drug testing state workers soon to become law

Friday, March 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to submit to random drug tests after the Senate signed off on a bill pushed by Gov. Rick Scott, certain to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1205) by a nonpartisan 26-14 vote, rejecting concerns that suspicionless, random drug testing of government workers is unconstitutional, intrusive and demeaning to the state’s 100,000-plus workforce, most of whom have gone without a pay raise for six years.

“There’s been no predicate laid whatsoever on why we need to have this bill,” said Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican and self-described libertarian, adding that he has been in the legislature for more than a decade.

“I haven’t been running across drug-addled employees who are unable to do their jobs,” he said.

And the measure is overly intrusive, Negron said, because “your urine and your blood are extremely personal body fluids.”

But the bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, argued that public and private sector workers should be subjected to the same requirements and that the screening could help prevent addiction.

And, he said, not requiring the tests could be dangerous.

“What you’re going to create then is a haven for abusers,” Hays said. “Then drug abusers will know they’re safe if they come to work for the state of Florida.”

Scott’s legal team has helped the bill’s House and Senate sponsors persuade lawmakers that the drug screening will be upheld even as they defend the policy in court. The governor is being sued over a drug-testing policy he imposed on state workers last year. After the ACLU and the state workers’ union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.

Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”

The measure would allow Scott’s agency heads to decide whether they want to institute the policy and require that they use money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests, which range from $5 to $40.

State worker drug testing bill headed to Senate floor

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Hours after the House signed off on a measure that would require state workers to submit to drug tests, the Senate Budget Committee sent an identical measure to the floor for a full vote.

With Scott’s legislative affairs director Jon Costello in the room, the Senate Budget Committee approved the measure with a 12-6 vote this afternoon.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart lawyer, cast the sole Republican “no” vote on the measure.

The measure is indicative of “more and more intrusive activities of our government,” Negron said after the meeting.

“It’s gotten out of hand. The government is just getting more and more into our personal business,” he said.

The proposal (SB 1358) would allow agency heads to fire state workers who fail their first drug test and does away with a requirement that workers who have drug problems receive employee assistance.

Democrats in both chambers have objected that the bill does not include lawmakers in the drug screening. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, already have the authority to order members of their chambers to submit to the drug tests, but neither leader has done so.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said he sponsored the bill at Scott’s request to rectify the problem created by the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately in today’s society, this is a bill that I feel is very wise public policy,” he said.

But Ron Bilbao of the Florida ACLU said the bill remains unconstitutional, noting that Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”

Florida on brink of nation’s strictest parental notification abortion bill

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida lawmakers are poised to make the state’s parental notification of abortion laws stricter, making it more difficult for a minor to get a judges’ approval for the procedure.

By a 20-19 vote today, the Florida Senate rejected an amendment that would have kept the current law allowing minors to get a waiver from a judge anywhere in the appellate circuit in which she lives. The bill (SB 1770, HB 1247) instead would limit girls seeking the waiver to the circuit court.

That’s problematic for minors who live in rural communities or small counties whose family members are likely neighbors of or on close terms with courthouse workers or observers, argued Democrats and some Republicans, putting her confidentiality at risk. Many of the young women seeking the judicial permission for the abortions are victims of rape or incest, they said.

“I’m sorry that some people in here don’t understand that there are families where if a young woman goes to them she could be beaten or even killed because of…incest or rape,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston. “We should not be doing anything to place further barriers in front of these young women…There is no need to change this.”

But Sen. Alan Hays, who sponsored the bill, said that young women have plenty of opportunity to see a judge in their own community and should not be allowed to judge-shop.

“I find it preposterous that a young lady…might be put in a vehicle and transported all the way from Escambia County to Duval County just so she can get an abortion without her parents knowing about it,” Hays, R-Umatilla, said.

Abortion rights advocates contend that the measure, already approved by the House and expected to be passed by the Senate tomorrow, would make Florida’s parental notification laws the strictest in the nation.


UPDATE: Cretul reins in abortion debate, nixes Holocaust talk

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: The House passed the abortion ultrasound amendment after a three-hour debate with a 72-46 vote.

House Speaker Larry Cretul cut short some of the more heated debate on the controversial abortion bill passed by the Florida Senate yesterday that would require all women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound.

Cretul stepped in when Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, likened abortion to the Holocaust.

“Everyone is aghast and embarrassed” about the Holocaust in which at least 5 million Jews were killed, Hays said.
“What are we going to say as a society about the killing of more than 50 million…,” he went on before Cretul cut him short.

“Members, I know this is a very sensitive issue and I really ask for your cooperation in keeping it within the bounds,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said.

Rep. Richard Steinberg spoke shortly after Hays.

“As a Jew in this House I am deeply disheartened” about the analogy, Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, said.

“Rep. Steinberg, we’re going to keep it within the bounds,” Cretul replied.

Earlier, Cretul gave Democrat Adam Fetterman equal treatment.

While others were surprised the abortion measure even came up, Fetterman said he was not.

“See there’s no bacon to bring back home. But you sure can bring the red meat.
This is a side of beef for some fundamentalist people. It is designed to coerce a woman to change her mind if not scare her away from the doctor’s office,” said Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie.

Fetterman went on to say that some fundamentalists support the assassination of doctors is acceptable because they are such staunch abortion opponents.

Heck part of me is afraid to leave this chamber today without the protection of the sergeants…because of my beliefs,” Fetterman said.

“Rep. Fetterman, if you could temper your remarks just a little,” Cretul chastised.

The House is expected to vote on the measure (HB 1143) shortly.

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