Scott signs latest random drug testing of state employees bill

By | 03.20.12 | 11:40 am

Gov. Rick Scott, signing the budget in The Villages on Thurs., May 26

Last night, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the state’s second attempt to randomly drug test state employees.

A bill passed through both chambers of the Legislature this month that would allow state agencies to adopt policies for randomly drug testing all of their employees. Civil rights and labor groups spoke out against the bill, which was lobbied for by the governor’s office, as it made its way through the Legislature.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida warned state lawmakers that the law violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and if passed, would surely land the state in yet another lawsuit.

Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement today that “Gov. Scott signed this law in clear defiance of constitutional principles.”

“It’s amazing that the Governor and the Legislature would move ahead with a law that so clearly violates the Constitutional protections against invasive government searches without suspicion,” Simon says, “especially while a legal challenge on precisely the same issue is pending in the federal court.”

Scott signed an executive order last year mandating all state agencies to randomly drug test all their employees. Once the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit, however, the governor halted implementation of the order. A judge is set rule on the ACLU of Florida’s lawsuit any day now and has already expressed concerns over the constitutionality of drug testing state employees without suspicion.

Simon said today that the issue was likely headed to court once more.

According to a statement from Simon:

“The Governor’s preoccupation with pushing the limits of government searches is a costly legal gambit for taxpayers and makes a mockery of established Constitutional law. But it says a great deal that, after being such a cheerleader for invasive drug testing, the Governor signed this bill so quietly – almost in secret.

“No one should be surprised if this latest effort ends up in court – just as the Governor’s past efforts to impose urine testing on applicants for government benefits and his Executive Order for state employee testing are now before the courts.

“And when this matter lands in the courts, we expect they will make it clear once again that government cannot subject people to suspicionless searches just because it wants to. People do not lose their constitutional rights just because they work for the state of Florida.”

State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the sponsor of the bill, said during committee meetings that the bill would raise state workers to the same standards as employees of private companies. He has also said that the bill would be a “preventative” measure and would act as an “early intervention program” for workers with drug problems. He did concede, however, that there are currently no problems regarding state workers on drugs.

An effort to add a provision requiring legislators to be subject to random drug-tests died before the House version of the bill passed through the Senate.

The bill, which at one point failed but was resurrected moments after, has been lobbied for behind the scenes by Gov. Scott, who remains one of the biggest proponents of drug testing state employees.

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