Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients Unconstitutional in FL
Published January 1st, 2014
North Central Florida residents who receive welfare checks won't have to pass a drug test first.
A Florida law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug testing has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
The ruling doesn't sit well with many people here.
Governor Rick Scott campaigned to pass this measure in 2011 and succeeded.
But yesterday's judgement not only put this law into question here in Florida, but in many other states as well.
"I think they should be drug tested," said Gainesville Resident Jason Pennington.
It's a widely debated issue that has proponents on both sides.
"There's people who sell their food stamps for drugs and stuff," said Alachua County Resident Varian Osteen.
"I think it's an invasion of privacy actually, that's what I believe," said Jon Polk of Gainesville.
A judge of the United States District Court in Orlando held that requiring drug testing those on welfare violates their constitutional rights, particularly their protection against unreasonable searches.
Governor Rick Scott argues drug testing is necessary to protect children and ensure tax money was not going to illegal drugs.
"Giving money to families, government money, without assuring the money is being used properly, is just not a great thing to do without protecting the tax payer dollars," said Chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party Stafford Jones.
State data shows that of approximately 4,100 welfare recipients tested for drugs, 2.6% came back positive.
"Of course, not all welfare recipients are drug addicts, some welfare recipients are people that are desperately looking for jobs and need jobs. But the state still has a right to protect our money," said Jones.
"Most people's priority is not to buy drugs, and we know this. The general population, it's not a huge percentage of people and this is a population that has even less drug users,"
said Robert Prather, Chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Party.
The National Conference of State Legislatures say nine other states have passed a drug testing requirement into law and some 29 others debated enacting it.
Some say it's unfair to require this drug testing without probable cause.
"If we allow the government to search our bodies and our homes without any sort of checks and balances, then that is the most "nightmareish" situation that we can imagine," said Prather.
It's a ruling that has people talking and states looking to adjust.
"I'm paying their salary to sit around their house. So, I see it as, I'm their boss. And if I was their employer, they would be doing a drug screening, just like every other business in Gainesville does," said Pennington.
A similar ruling was made in Michigan in 2003, with a federal judge saying that drug testing welfare recipients would be an illegal search.
The judge's ruling yesterday struck down this law permanently and Governor Scott says the state will appeal it.
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