State Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla (Pic by Senator Hays, via flsenate.gov)

A bill backed by Gov. Rick Scott that would allow state agencies to adopt a random drug testing policy passed its last committee stop in the Florida Senate today – moving it closer to a final vote in the Senate.

The bill has been criticized by state employees, labor groups and civil rights groups as it has made its way through both the House and Senate. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and the House version is sponsored by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto.

Ron Bilbao, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, warned a Senate panel today that the bill was “unconstitutional” and reiterated that, if passed, it would be an “open invitation to litigation.” The ACLU has warned lawmakers that the bill would allow state agencies to take part in “random suspicion-less drug testing” of its employees, a violation of the fourth amendment.

Bilbao also pointed out that the bill was “duplicative litigation.” Last year, Scott issued an executive order that mandated random drug testing of state employees. That attempt was blocked and is currently awaiting a ruling from a judge in Miami. Bilbao told the Senate panel that the judge has “already expressed serious doubts” about the constitutionality of the state’s last efforts.

Other members of the panel, including a representative for Pasco County teachers, said the bill would be costly for state agencies. Vivianne Garner argued that, as the county already has a drug testing program for cases of reasonable suspicion, the bill would create “duplicative testing” and would prove “extremely costly.”

Some Democratic Senators warned that, because the bill does not allocate funds for the program, state agencies would have to rely on their already limited funds.

While the questionable constitutionality of the bill remains its most glaring problem, some have argued that it would stigmatize state employees. Most recently, critics have said they did not believe the bill was “truly voluntary” because the governor’s office was so blatantly pursuing its passage.

A couple of weeks ago, a House committee actually voted down the bill, with both Republican and Democratic members expressing concerns over possible constitutional challenges, as well as the costs of such programs. After it failed, however, the bill was resurrected through a procedural move by state Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.

In a complete turnaround, the bill easily passed in a House budget committee this week.

Since the bill cleared this last hurdle, it has moved quickly through both chambers and is now poised to see a final vote in each.

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