Latest attempt to drug test state employees stalled

By | 02.15.12 | 11:08 am

State Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

The latest attempt to randomly drug test state employees in Florida hit a snag in a House appropriations committee today. The bill was voted down during the meeting, but was later reconsidered and then temporarily postponed — effectively squandering its chances of passing this session.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, would allow state agencies to decide whether or not they want to instate a program to randomly drug test their employees.

Pamela Burch-Fort, who spoke on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, pleaded with lawmakers to reconsider the bill or to at least postpone voting on it until next week, when a court in Miami will rule on a pending case also dealing with the state’s efforts to drug test state workers.

“It is unconstitutional,” Burch-Fort said of the bill. “It violates the Fourth Amendment [and] subjects state employee to suspicionless drug testing.”

She said the constitutional issues with the bill were identical to last year’s attempt to randomly drug test state employees, telling members of the committee to consider waiting until next week’s ruling before subjecting “taxpayers to more costs in litigation.”

Many Republican and Democratic members of the committee expressed concern over constitutional issues with the bill, as well as the the costs of such programs. Because an agency could decide to either take up drug testing or not, legislators were concerned that they did not know how much the bill would eventually cost the state.

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