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

The state’s latest attempt to randomly drug test state employees in non-safety sensitive positions passed in the Florida House today with a 79-37 vote, despite warnings from critics that the bill is unconstitutional.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, said his bill was a way to say that “drugs are bad” and ultimately make “a difference for the entire country” by changing attitudes about drug use in the state of Florida. He said, if passed, his bill would make Florida “a laboratory” for changing drug culture in the state.

Civil rights attorneys and labor groups have warned that the law would be a violation of the fourth amendment that would likely lead to another lawsuit against the state.

The state’s last attempt to randomly drug test state employees without suspicion landed the state in court. State officials are currently awaiting a ruling on that case, but the judge who will hear the case has already expressed serious concerns with its constitutionality.

Democratic state Reps. Alan Williams, Jeff Clemens, Cynthia Stafford and Perry Thurston were among the legislators criticizing the GOP-led House for targeting state employees. Labor groups have also denounced the bill for singling out state employees.

“We ought be supporting state workers instead of constantly kicking them,” Thurston said today.

While Gov. Rick Scott has not publicly championed the Legislature’s current efforts, legislators have said that the governor’s office has been lobbying them to support and pass the bill. It is unsurprising, then, that the bill has moved quickly through the Legislature.

A few weeks ago, a House committee actually voted down the bill, with both Republican and Democratic members expressing concerns with possible constitutional challenges, as well as the costs of such programs. Because an agency could decide to either take up drug testing or not, legislators were concerned with how much the bill might eventually cost the state.

After it failed, however, the bill was resurrected through a procedural move by state Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and has since moved quickly through the House.

This afternoon, the Senate version of the bill will be considered in its last committee stop before it heads to the Senate floor.

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