Controversial Welfare Drug Testing Law Halted By Florida Governor

| by Ethan Brown
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has ceased appeals that would have reinstated a controversial law mandating drug testing for all welfare recipients. 

Scott had until Mar. 3 to seek a review from the U.S. Supreme Court, but did not act. The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Howard Simon said that current court rulings on the law, which had declared the drug tests unconstitutional, will continue to stand.

“This law was always about scoring political points on the backs of Florida’s poor and treating them like suspected criminals without suspicion or evidence,” said Simon.

The law had already been ruled unconstitutional by two courts previously and was only in effect from July to October 2011. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Scriven declared the law unconstitutional based on its unlawful use of search and seizure actions. A second court later upheld Judge Scriven’s decision.

During the four month period the law was in place, 2.6 percent of those who applied for financial assistance failed their drug tests, or 108 of 4,086 applicants. Due to the law stating that applicants must be compensated for the cost of taking the test, at $30, the state of Florida would then be billed $118,140, a number well over the payments that those who failed the test would have received.

Gov. Scott’s spokesperson, Jackie Schutz, said about the decision not to appeal, “The governor is continuing to protect Florida children any way he can and create an environment where families can get jobs so they are able to pursue their dreams in safe communities.”

While groups like the ACLU celebrated the decision, others may have felt differently.  A poll taken after the governor’s announcement found that 80 percent of all participants believed drug testing should be mandatory for welfare recipients. 

The controversy surrounding Scott and the law didn’t affect his re-election bid last November. He was re-elected over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, a well-known Florida politician and the favorite to win the race.

Sources: the New York Times (2), Fox News, Click Orlando / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr