Florida Governor Rick Scott To The State’s Poor: I Want Your Urine!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 7, 2011

    By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington Law School student, NORML legal intern

    Update: June 19, 2011…Florida Governor Scott Backs Down, Suspends His Executive Order For A Massive State Drug Testing Scheme

    On May 31, 2011, unpopular Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that mandates all those seeking public assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (commonly known as welfare) to pass a drug screen. Those that fail the test will not be eligible for benefits for one year. The law will become effective on July 1.

    Furthermore, the law requires those seeking assistance to pay for the cost of the screening. The expense can be recovered if the applicant qualifies for benefits. If you fail the test though, tough luck: your money belongs to the state. Those who are denied may designate another person to receive the benefits on behalf of their children, but they must also pass a drug test.

    In justifying his signature, Governor Scott stated that it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” So instead of supporting effective treatment and prevention, the law will implement a costly and ineffective means to try and deter drug use. Not to mention the law is most likely completely unconstitutional.

    A Michigan law similar to this one was struck down in 2000 and affirmed in 2003 by the 6th Circuit. Michigan lawmakers had enacted a law allowing for suspicion-less searches of welfare recipients. A class action lawsuit was brought by applicants alleging that these drug tests violated the Fourth Amendment. The applicants won.

    Although the Supreme Court has recognized certain situations in which a suspicion-less drug test is allowed (including testing railroad employees, customs agents whose line of work causes them to be directly involved with drug interdiction, and high school athletes and other students involved in extracurricular activities), the testing under the Florida law does not seem to further a special need of the government which outweighs the privacy interest of the individual. In order to demonstrate this special need, the state generally must show that public safety is in jeopardy. The Michigan government made the argument that drug use put children at the risk of abuse and neglect, but this argument was rejected by the district court. (It could be argued that the denial of benefits is more detrimental to public safety than not testing potential recipients). Testing welfare recipients for drug metabolites does nothing to further public safety, and therefore the government will most likely fail to meet the strict test set forth by the Supreme Court.

    Those convicted of drug trafficking charges are already ineligible to receive welfare. Even if you can justify this by saying that they cause harm to communities, this new law places the focus on users. Legal challenges are expected and should come down in favor of the applicants, although with the Supreme Court’s recent Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, if the case were to rise that high there may be cause for concern.

    *          *          *

    Editor’s note: 1) Isn’t it interesting how elected politicians like Rick Scott (often with no legislative hearings at all) are so quick to want to control the living habits of poor citizens who receive state funding, but they never insist on drug testing requirements to issue state funding and grants to rich land developers, corporations, business executives, professional sports team owners or religious leaders–just the poor?

    2) Looks like Governor Scott may have more than ideological reasons to push the state of Florida into using taxpayers’ money on massive drug testing programs for welfare recipients and state employees…as reported in the Palm Beach Post in March:

    “Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace,” Scott said in a statement. “Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees.”

    Until last week, Scott’s communications office in Tallahassee had ignored repeated requests for comment on the potential for a conflict of interest. On Friday, as national media began to call as well, the office issued this response:

    Any perception that the governor’s business interests pose a conflict of interest with his health policies are “baseless and incorrect,” said Scott’s deputy communications director, Brian Hughes.

    Privately, one Scott official acknowledged that every time the governor discusses health policy, his urgent care business would be “the elephant in the room.”

    Shortly before he was inaugurated, Scott’s lawyers met with attorneys at the Florida Commission on Ethics. Subsequently, they moved his Solantic holdings into a revocable trust in his wife’s name, making her the controlling investor in the privately held company. No public records were created from the ethics meeting.

    During the election campaign, he had estimated the worth of his Solantic holdings at $62 million. Jacksonville-based Solantic has 32 clinics statewide, including two in Palm Beach County, and plans rapid growth and an eventual initial public offering, according to company documents.

    Suffolk University Law Professor Marc Rodwin, author of several books on conflicts of interest in medicine, said the movement of Scott’s ownership to his wife’s trust was insufficient to eliminate the ethical issues.

    “He owned the company and transferred it into his wife’s name,” Rodwin said. “It’s a conflict of interest.”

    102 responses to “Florida Governor Rick Scott To The State’s Poor: I Want Your Urine!”

    1. John says:

      OK, I am sure everyone here to some capacity has had to give a urine sample to at least a doctor, but has anyone talked about how perverse that is?!

      I feel sorry for you if you get off on that $hit!


    2. Paul Adams says:

      Hey if the government isn’t going to feed their kids, all they need to do a sharpen a screwdriver and wait by an ATM machine somewhere. Laws like this are stupid, and I have said so every time someone has asked. It really shows you that the vast majority of politicians don’t understand the dynamics of people that are on welfare.

      “Oh, well the government cut me off so I guess I have to go get a job”. Really? Is the government really so simplistic? Morons are running our country.

      The only thing this will do is take nonviolent criminals and turn them into violent criminals. Somebody should check and see if the governor owns stock in the prison industrial complex.

    3. versteckt says:

      Rick Scott is garbage. Always has been, always will be.

    4. Mike says:

      I could care less about this law… I am fortunate in that I make a good living with a career sans drug exams (one of the benefits of earning a good education). No, I’m not from wealth, I’m just almost finished paying off my student loans from college (around $100,000 total paid). People need to make good decisions much earlier than the 30 days it’ll take to get clean to pass these tests. I smoke, I’m a supporter of NORML, but I could care less if crack heads, meth heads and dope heads have a harder time getting my tax money. There are many in financial crisis, but if you can’t pass the test, you need to reevaluate your way of living… Maybe that’s why many of the people are on welfare in the first place.

      [Editor’s note: OK…maybe you missed the points about 1) mass drug testing being unconstitutional, 2) Governor Scott steering state business to his own company, and 3) the duplicity of making poor people who get a few nickles from the state (which they may well be entitled to as previously employed/taxed workers who paid into the welfare system) when the state pays out millions to non-drug tested corporation heads, sport team owners, contractors, etc…no one at NORML cares that you’re too rich NOT to be subject to forced government drug testing to eat, for housing or health.

      Would you have passed Gov. Scott’s drug test when you were on the public dole as a college student sucking up thousands annually in taxpayer subsidized loans?


      Could you?

      Maybe you have more in common with poor people than you think!]

    5. William Archer says:

      Meh I agree with almost every post on Norml, but I kind of think this is a somewhat good thing. I don’t think this is a deterant as much as it is a tool to make sure the people who are getting(essentially) free money, aren’t using it to buy drugs. Nothing in my opinion is wrong with that. People who are in those situations should not be using that money to buy cannabis. They should be looking for a job to be able to buy their own cannabis with their earned wages. I am not even an assisted living advocate anyway, I believe it’s unconstitutional for taxpayers to give poor free cash. I also don’t agree that it is for the safety of the state, it is just being fiscally responsible. Why give free money to people if they aren’t going to use it for the things that matter while you are on welfare, like bills, food, ect.. Although failing a drug test does not prove you are using the money for drugs it is a strong indicator that you might. And as far as the breach of civil liberties goes, if you are using a government program to receive free money then you are giving the government the right to breach civil liberties because you cannot live your life without the help from “big brother”. You don’t want your rights violated, then get a job and contribute to society, or don’t ask for free money. Even though I refer to welfare money as “free” it truly is not, we the taxpayers are the ones picking up the tab and it’s not even an option. Not trying to be rude or unsympathetic but this is just my humble opinion.

      [Editor’s note: Thanks for your extreme anti-collectivism views…which do not at all address the three major points raised about selective drug testing of certain, but not all recipients of taxpayer monies, the larger constitutional questions and the self-enriching of the Scotts by pushing state money towards their private bank roll.

      “Although failing a drug test does not prove you are using the money for drugs it is a strong indicator that you might. And as far as the breach of civil liberties goes, if you are using a government program to receive free money then you are giving the government the right to breach civil liberties because you cannot live your life without the help from “big brother””

      If you really believe this than you should be subject to a drug test (and other govt abuses) right now for using the Internet, driving down a highway, answering a phone, depositing a check, etc…all of these modes of commerce are subsidized by the taxpayer.

      Do you REALLY believe that any person who receives ANY govt support and subsidy should be abused by the govt at will or do you just hate poor people too? Why not recognize the bigger concerns raised, which is not ‘welfare’ in general?]

    6. stella soprano says:

      really? how about random drug tests including testing for alcohol abuse for elected government officials. you are given the privilage of representing THE PEOPLE (you know, your employer) and we need to be sure you’re not a crackheadalcoholic. it’s always the little guy (aka the poor) who take a stick up the ass. boo on you, jerk.

    7. Jeanne says:

      Isn’t this great a Governor of Florida wasnts your urine. Life is hard enough and then have the goverment butting in all the time.These elected officals, think they can do ,what ever they feel like and have no legislative hearing at all. Now, isn’t this a great country!

    8. ck31 says:

      I think id purposely Shit in a cup for them , u wanna see my pee ,here test my SHIT!!!!

    9. Pain Jane says:

      I can not wait until the supreme court strikes down this horrible law that this greedy short sighted cruel man has signed. We all know that given notice anyone can pass a drug test but the ones it will catch will be the marijuana users, and many of those need it for pain. How nice of governor Scott to tell them suffer in pain or starve on the street. What wonderful choices, I’d like to see someone give him those options, but he has no concept of reality or how hard it really is for some people. I hope the ACLU is victorious quickly so that his company does not profit one cent off this bill.