The Florida Senate has passed a bill that would allow state agencies to adopt a policy for random drug testing their employees. The bill, which already passed in the state House, passed the Senate this morning in a 26-14 vote and is now headed to the governor’s desk.
The bill has been a priority of Gov. Rick Scott’s office but has been criticized by labor and civil rights groups that warn it is unconstitutional.
A 2011 executive order issued by Scott, requiring state agencies under his control to randomly drug-test their employees, was eventually halted and is now in court. A judge is set to rule on that case any day now and has already expressed concerns over the constitutionality of the law.
During a debate this morning, Libertarians and Democrats in the chamber spoke out against the bill, claiming it was “intrusive” and unnecessary.
State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, an influential conservative member of the Senate and an ardent libertarian, said he has “heard no evidence” of a rampant drug problem among state employees.
Negron said that “urine and…blood is personal” and drug testing employees “with no suspicion [goes] completely beyond the right of an employer.”
“This is intrusive and violates the privacy rights of our employees,” he said.
State Sens. Jeremy Ring, Eleanor Sobel, Chris Smith, Bill Montford, Maria Sachs, and Oscar Braynon (all Democrats) expressed great concern over the law’s costs and intrusive nature.
Smith said that the proponents of the bill were ”talking less personal freedom [and] more government intrusion,” while Sobel said that the bill was a move toward creating a “nanny state”.
“Simple little drug test here, simple little drug test there,” Sobel said, “that’s how we lose our liberties.”
Braynon said the radical nature of the bill was “pushing interesting bedfellows together.” Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, even quoted a message popular among the Tea Party to defend his point.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, maintained that it was a way of addressing the fact that “drug use is rampant in our society.”
“Just because someone is working for the state doesn’t make them less likely to have a drug problem,” he said.
He said that if the bill did not pass, state jobs would “create a haven for [drug] abusers.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has warned during committee meetings that the bill is unconstitutional and would surely land the state in court once more.