PolitiFact: Drug testing bill sponsor wrong about exemption for legislators

By | 03.28.12 | 9:56 am

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

PolitiFact reported yesterday that state Rep. Jimmie Smith’s justification for exempting legislators from the state employee random drug testing bill he sponsored this past session is flat-out “false.”

The bill, which has already been signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, would allow state agencies to adopt policies for drug testing their employees at random and without suspicion. 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. They warned the bill was unconstitutional and targeted state employees — and if implemented, would land the state in another lawsuit.

Besides its possible violation of Fourth Amendment rights for state employees, the bill was also controversial because it left out legislators, the governor and his cabinet: all state employees. Democrats tried to add an amendment to the bill including policy-makers, but efforts were routinely thwarted. One of those amendments was stopped by Smith himself.

During one of the committee stops for the bill in the House, Smith claimed that it would violate the First Amendment for legislators to be drug tested.

“It was found to be unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right,” Smith told his colleagues this past February.

PolitiFact says that claim, however, is just not accurate.

“The defense was novel — and also wrong,” PolitiFact reports. “It turns out Smith confused elected officials with candidates, misinterpreted Supreme Court case law and cited the wrong amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Smith’s bill, which at one point failed but was resurrected moments after, has been lobbied for behind the scenes by Scott, who remains one of the biggest proponents of drug testing state employees. Recently, however, Scott asked agency heads in the state to hold off implementing the policy until a judge rules on last year’s attempt to test employees.

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