ONTD Political

Florida: Drug Tests Mandatory for Welfare

9:59 am - 06/01/2011
New state law requires drug test for welfare recipients

TALLAHASSEE -- Thousands of the state's poorest Floridians will have to take a drug test if they want to qualify for welfare assistance, under a new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott Monday.

The idea, plugged by Scott and the GOP-dominated Legislature, is that drug tests will root out welfare recipients who are using public dollars to buy drugs. But Democrats and advocates for the poor say the requirement could violate individuals' constitutional rights to privacy, and the American Civil Liberties Union is likely to challenge the law in court.

"While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Scott said in a news release. "This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars."

According to legislative analysts,113,346 people are receiving temporary cash assistance. However, only people 18 and older will be tested, and officials from the Department of Children and Families estimate that will total about 4,400 adults who apply for aid each month.

Officials estimate the initial screenings would cost about $10 per person – refundable if the individual passes – and first-time failures will be disqualified for one year from receiving benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. A second failure disqualifies the individual for three years.

TANF recipients are eligible for cash assistance for a lifetime cumulative total of 48 months, and their eligibility is checked every six months.

Advocates for the poor worry about the cost of the tests – which one DCF official said could go as high as $40 -- and also about the message the new rule sends to people already facing financial problems.

Karen Broussard, director of program development for Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, called the testing "disrespectful … To do this simply by virtue of the applicants being vulnerable economically is so disappointing," she said.

Pastor Scott George, co-founder of the Community Food & Outreach Center in Orlando that helps needy families apply for aid and look for work, cautioned that the cost of the test could be a "real hurdle" for some of the state's poorest citizens.

"At times I feel like there are so many hurdles that they keep genuine people with real needs from getting help… Kids could end up paying the price for parents' irresponsibility," he said. "I wouldn't want that to happen. I wouldn't want them to pay the price for mistakes the parents are making."

However, the new law does allow DCF to designate a person to receive funds on behalf of children whose parent fails a drug test. This could include an immediate family member.

Florida's welfare caseload spiked as the economy tanked and the housing market folded. But it is slowly starting to decline as the state begins to recover. The 52,911 families receiving assistance in May was 6.1- percent below the total 12 months earlier, DCF said.

No other state currently requires drug testing for welfare recipients, but a number of states are considering similar action.

The effectiveness of testing is unknown. A pilot program that tested some welfare recipients between 1999 to 2001 found that there was little difference in employment and earnings between those who tested positive for drug use and those who were clean, according to an evaluation by a Florida State University researcher.

The issue is ripe for a lawsuit though.

The American Civil Liberties Union has indicated that it may challenge the new law in addition to a number of other bills that the governor has already approved or is likely to sign in the coming weeks. The group is slated to announce action today related to a separate order by Scott that mandates drug-testing of all state employees.

In 1999, Michigan began drug-testing all welfare recipients, prompting the ACLU to sue. In 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that universal testing was unconstitutional, and the ACLU and the state reached an agreement that allowed drug tests of welfare recipients only if there was reasonable suspicion that the person was using drugs.

Howard Simon, the executive director of ACLU of Florida, released a statement saying that the governor was ignoring privacy law and treating people who have lost their jobs "like suspected criminals."

"Searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound policy," he said. "Today, that unsound policy is Florida law."

Neither House sponsor Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, or Senate sponsor Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, responded to requests for comment.

In a separate action Tuesday, Scott also signed a measure that would make so-called "bath salts" a Schedule 1 controlled substance, lumping it in with drugs such as heroin. The bill, HB 1039, was a major priority for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who issued a temporary statewide ban on the sale of the hallucinogenic substances earlier this year.

"Bath salts," which could be legally purchased at some convenience stores and smoke shops, are usually snorted, although the crystals can be smoked or swallowed. They can cause increased heart rate, hallucinations, paranoia, seizures and kidney failure.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Fuck you very much, Gov. Prick Scott. Nothing like subjecting hundreds of thousands of people to ridiculous drug tests (which can be easily faked out with vitamins and supplements available at any local health store), but ALSO forcing poor people to PAY for the tests themselves!

This state is on the fast-track to becoming a living hell--drug tests for the destitute, road blocks to abortion, dismantling the growth-management system... GAH! Get me outta here!

EDIT: Breaking news! The ACLU is suing Prick Scott over drug testing state employees! Story @ the Orlando Sentinel This stuff is probably next up!
kitschaster 1st-Jun-2011 05:33 pm (UTC)
Wow. Fuck my current state. I can't WAIT to move out of this fucker as well. I desperately miss my home state of California. =\

Edited at 2011-06-01 05:33 pm (UTC)
dixiedolphin 1st-Jun-2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
I'm in the process of securing a transfer to California. I should be outta this hellhole by December, if all goes well! Just in time too, by the look of things.
we_got_caught 1st-Jun-2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
I didn't know drug dealers accepted SNAP. Do they swipe the ACCESS card through their buttcheeks or something?

What a waste of money and unnecessary vilification of the poor. Because all poor people must be drug addicts, right?
rock_bottom 1st-Jun-2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
off topic but I love your username.
beautifiers 1st-Jun-2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
god's waiting room should be more lenient, wouldn't you say?
aviv_b 1st-Jun-2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Great. So if a parent uses drugs, the children go hungry.
nikoel Not at all condoning this1st-Jun-2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
However, the new law does allow DCF to designate a person to receive funds on behalf of children whose parent fails a drug test. This could include an immediate family member.
curseangel 1st-Jun-2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
I guess people who use drugs don't need to eat or require shelter, right? They must somehow subsist solely on drugs! They're like robots or something, man, they don't need food, and their kids are little androids or something, too, cos they sure as fuck don't need to eat if Mommy or Daddy is using drugs!

(On reading further: Oh, but they can designate someone to get benefits for the kids instead of the parents! Because I'm sure that is a fool-proof way to go about things, and has absolutely no GIANT GAPING FLAWS, such as the question of who gets the benefits, what if they just spend them on themselves, what if the designated benefit-receiver doesn't live with the kid(s), and you know, the fact that the kid might get food but THEIR PARENT(S) WILL STILL STARVE.)

Also, what the fuck ever happened to it being unconstitutional to make laws that punish someone for a state of being (i.e. being a drug user, being a prostitute, rather than using drugs or engaging in prostitution)? Am I misunderstanding this, because I was taught in my Criminal Justice course that you can't make laws that punish people for who they are, only for their actions-- and I don't think "I did coke [x long ago]" counts.

This is completely fucking disgusting, srsly. I hope someone sues them and wins.

Edited at 2011-06-01 05:39 pm (UTC)
bestdaywelived 1st-Jun-2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think this is necessarily criminally punishing these individuals, which is how they can skirt that issue. It's neglecting to give them a benefit, and the government is allowed to discriminate on these things as long as there is some rational basis for it. Not that it's okay, but it's probably constitutionally sound since people don't have to be tested (as they can just not get benefits).
monaes 1st-Jun-2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
i seem to be the odd one out but i don't think it's that bad of an idea
then again there's that whole issue about one's right to food which makes me feel a bit ambivalent
bestdaywelived 1st-Jun-2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
As if being on welfare wasn't humiliating enough, they have to add this extra step. If keeping government funds from funding a drug habit is the goal of this, why not offer rehab to anyone who needs it? Children of addicts have hard enough lives already; taking away their food just seems unjustifiably mean.

Drug addicts are not going to be pushed to get off drugs by this measure, they are just going to avoid public assistance so that they don't get caught.
fishphile 1st-Jun-2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
If keeping government funds from funding a drug habit is the goal of this, why not offer rehab to anyone who needs it?

Exactly. That's why I don't believe this is done in good faith. I think they're just trying to fuck people over.
fishphile 1st-Jun-2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Oh. This post has the potential for bad things.

Anyway, this is a very shitty law.

the American Civil Liberties Union is likely to challenge the law in court

I hope they do.

brewsternorth 1st-Jun-2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
Agreed, I hope this is seen as the half-baked and downright inhumane statute that it is.
erunamiryene 1st-Jun-2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction

Oh sweet, you can use food stamps to get drugs? KICKASS.

oh wait, no, that's FUCKING STUPID.

Officials estimate the initial screenings would cost about $10 per person

decuvieri 1st-Jun-2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
Oh sweet, you can use food stamps to get drugs? KICKASS.

It's like the recent argument made in the Senate that by providing government money to Family Planning and similar facilities - even though it is specifically earmarked not to be used to carry out abortions - the financial aid is freeing up money for the evil doctors to wantonly kill our babies. So yeah, food stamps "free up" the poor's wealth of other income for drugs. Get it?

It seems to me that the better option would be to use all the cash and manpower taken up by the impending hundreds of thousands of drug tests and instead direct it into generating better opportunities and rehabilitation services so people don't end up turning to drugs in the first place.
fornikate 1st-Jun-2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
i want him to take one then
kitschaster 1st-Jun-2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
Fat chance. Which is frustrating as fuck.
c_yo_yus 1st-Jun-2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I think that sometimes we get so detached from circles and situations that aren't our own (like the rich making decisions about what the poor should expect or are entitled to), that we forget that these are people. If you were to give me the choice between helping two families, one that honestly needs the benefits and one that absuses it, or helping neither (punishing one to spite the other), you bet your ass I'd help both.

I wonder how Florida is going to address their brand new growing homeless problem.
dixiedolphin 1st-Jun-2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
I wonder how Florida is going to address their brand new growing homeless problem.

Well, if Orlando's actions are any indication, they'll just make it illegal for nonprofits to help them too. The city has passed ordinances against providing free food to the homeless, making it very difficult for nonprofits like Orlando Food Not Bombs, who risk arrest to help out. It's sickening.
rock_bottom 1st-Jun-2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
Isn't it bad enough the state has to give out welfare? This is REALLY BIG GOVERNMENT now. hypocrites.

As well, Scott's wife is on the board of the pharm company that issues these tests. Solantis or something like that, I think.

My boyfriend is temporarily living in Florida and I want him to GTFO.

Also, I am a proponent of marijuana legalization and I think it is bullshit that someone who might happen to be on some type of assistance can't smoke the occasional joint if the opportunity arose.

Furthermore, there is a huge problem with illegal prescription drug use in Florida. Does that also apply???
dixiedolphin 1st-Jun-2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Prick Scott transferred ownership of Solantic, his medical service company (which, among other things, specializes in drug tests) to his wife just before he bought the Governorship. There's no mention of whether or not Solantic will be the company that gets the contract in this, but this is some shady shit and I wouldn't be surprised.
fornikate 1st-Jun-2011 07:44 pm (UTC)
it stays in your hair, so theoretically you can be tested for just about anything.
supermouse 1st-Jun-2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering what date to put 'read articles about Florida's spiraling rise in crime' on my calendar. When will this come into effect? Because it'll be probably about two weeks after that.
poetic_pixie_13 1st-Jun-2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
Because apparently people on welfare aren't actually, you know, people.
brewsternorth 1st-Jun-2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
Nor are addicts.
sauron 1st-Jun-2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
I hate living here more and more every day.
salienne 1st-Jun-2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
Fuck this state.
nyychick23513 2nd-Jun-2011 12:29 am (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly.
ladylothwen 2nd-Jun-2011 01:12 am (UTC)
I am soooo very pissed at this. I hate this state but am stuck here.
perthro 2nd-Jun-2011 01:22 am (UTC)
Isn't this the same Dick Scott that voted AGAINST having a statewide database of people selling massive amounts of prescription painkillers, so that they could find and keep track of drug peddlers? So, we shouldn't look at who is SELLING the drugs (especially people with actual licenses who are killing people just to make money), BUT we can penalize people who may or may not be addicted to something? Instead of, you know, getting the person help if it becomes apparent that they need it?

Back when I was a kid, my mom had to see the WIC people to get her food stamps. Granted that some drug addictions are less apparent than others, but still... some people, you can tell. I lived with a long-term addict, and you could tell he wasn't sober. Ever. If there is reasonable suspicion of drug abuse, call DCF. Don't make every single poor person get a drug test, or avoid getting benefits altogether because they literally can't take a day off work or don't have transportation to the nearest drug testing centre. That's just bullshit.

I'm glad the ACLU is suing the shit out of him. Why isn't he out of office yet?! Ugh.
dorklord07 3rd-Jun-2011 10:51 am (UTC)
The lesson here?

Drug addictions are for the rich who can afford to doctor shop and have their own AM talk shows, not for people who can't afford food.

wonderpup 2nd-Jun-2011 03:42 am (UTC)
This has already been found in other states to be unconstitutional, Scott is just doing this to look good, the courts are going to strike it down pretty quick.
cyranothe2nd 2nd-Jun-2011 04:20 am (UTC)
"This new law will encourage personal accountability rich douchebag entitlement and will help to prevent increase the misuse of tax dollars."

lastrega 2nd-Jun-2011 08:55 am (UTC)
So addicted people will just commit more crime to stay alive? Good plan.
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