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Taxpayers’ Bill for Rick Scott’s Losing Battle to Drug-Test Welfare Recipients: $307,000 and Rising

| December 8, 2014

It's other people's money.

It’s other people’s money.

Taxpayers are on the hook for at least $307,000 — and perhaps much more — to cover legal expenses in Gov. Rick Scott’s repeated failed efforts to convince courts that a onetime campaign pledge to drug-test welfare recipients is constitutional.

A federal appeals court last week ruled that the state’s mandatory, suspicion-less drug testing of applicants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program is an unconstitutional violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.


It was the fourth court decision against the state since the law — something Scott campaigned on during his first bid for office the year before — went into effect in mid-2011. A federal judge put the law on hold less than four months after it passed, siding with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Luis Lebron, a single father and Navy veteran.

Thus far, the state has racked up $307,883.62 in legal fees and costs in the case, according to Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Michelle Glady. That does not include potentially hefty charges for legal fees from the ACLU.

Scott has not yet said whether he will appeal the unanimous ruling last week by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The governor could seek an “en banc” review by the full appeals court or take the issue directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republican legislative leaders said Monday they support Scott on the drug-testing issue.

“I think it’s appropriate to defend the law that was passed by a bipartisan majority of members of the House,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said. The law was approved 78-38 in the House and 26-11 in the Senate, with support from two House Democrats and no Senate Democrats.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, “supports the policy and the governor’s defense of the law, which was passed by a democratically elected legislature,” Gardiner spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

But ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon, who blamed the governor and the Legislature for the cost to taxpayers, blasted Scott for refusing to back down.

“The governor trapped himself into this problem by making a campaign pledge when he was a candidate for governor in 2010, in my view shamelessly exploiting ugly stereotypes about people needing temporary assistance,” Simon said. “It is just a shame that the taxpayers of the state of Florida end up paying that much money and perhaps a lot more for the governor’s ill-conceived, unconstitutional crusade. … Someone needs to send him an e-mail and tell him that the election is over. He’s been re-elected and there’s no reason to waste taxpayers money anymore on clearly unconstitutional crusades.”

In last week’s 54-page opinion authored by appeals-court Judge Stanley Marcus, the Atlanta-based court again rejected Scott’s arguments that the drug tests are needed to ensure that children in poor families grow up in drug-free homes. Also, the state has argued that TANF applicants give up privacy rights by consenting to urine tests to be eligible for benefits.

The law “offends the Fourth Amendment,” Marcus wrote, and relied on the state’s own evidence showing that, during the short time that the law was in effect, fewer than 3 percent of TANF applicants tested positive for drugs.

“Of course, citizens do not abandon all hope of privacy by applying for government assistance. By virtue of poverty, TANF applicants are not stripped of their legitimate expectations of privacy — they are not employees in dangerous vocations or students subject to the (power) of the state,” Marcus wrote.

Scott, meanwhile, has been forced to capitulate on an executive order requiring all state employees to submit to urine tests. The federal appeals court ruled last year that the governor could not constitutionally justify drug testing for all types of state workers without a reason. Scott and lawyers for the ACLU of Florida, which represents the state workers’ union, haggled for months before reaching consensus on the classes of jobs that could be eligible for the tests. The U.S. Supreme Court this summer refused to hear an appeal in the case, which is pending before a federal judge in Miami.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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21 Responses for “Taxpayers’ Bill for Rick Scott’s Losing Battle to Drug-Test Welfare Recipients: $307,000 and Rising”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s no never-mind to Rick Scott. It’s other people’s money paying for a legal battle that stands to make lots of moolah for himself and his wife. But. folks,doesn’t he deserve all those breaks (let alone the benefit of anypone’s doubt?) After all, he’s a JOB CREATOR.

  2. downinthelab says:

    That’s chump change compared to what the state of Florida is paying out to drug users…

  3. hello says:

    HEY IF THEY ARE NOT DOING DRUGS THEN THEY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. LOL

    • Nancy N says:

      Actually they do.

      First, the state is making welfare recipients pay UP FRONT for the tests and then reimbursing them for the tests. Do you think that a lot of welfare recipients have that kind of money to “loan” to the state until the state gets around to approving their application and paying them back?

      Second, there is such a thing as a false positive. Legal medications can show up as illegal ones, tests can get contaminated, all sorts of things can go wrong.

      And third, I enjoy my constitutional right to protection from warrantless government searches. The constitution isn’t something that we only follow when it is convenient or easy. Our true measure as a country is that we follow it when it ISN’T easy or popular.

  4. confidential says:

    No discrimination… get it? That test discriminates against recipients of benefits only and is costly to us all.
    Totally and wholly unconstitutional!! Also benefits Scotts personal interest. All those bozos legislators and Scott should refund us back the $307,000 plus tax payers funds wasted so far!

  5. confidential says:

    Scott is rich by making his fraudulent millions bilking Medicare while head of Columbia HCA and he wants to prevent fraud by the needy having to them pee in his managed cups to make him more $$$.
    What a shameful and racist travesty!

  6. Rick Gardner says:

    Yes this is what Florida needs fiscally conservative Republicans… First Thrasher with his let’s cost the taxpayers $1 Million special election and now Scott with his willful intent on smashing the 4th Amendment so his wife can make money. That’s $1.3 Million that could have been put to better use.

  7. hello says:

    How is peeing in a cup racist. What bunch of bs. Why should people get free money if their buying drugs. Hello.

    • Cella says:

      We gave AIG 148 billion dollars. We bailed out the banks with billions. We pay farm subsidies to sitting members of Congress while earning 174 thousand bucks and they do not have to P in the cup, and the banks and AIG did not have to P in a cup. Always the poor people who are suffering the most. The welfare has gone to the top for so long, it has become quite laughable.

    • Nancy N says:

      “peeing in a cup” isn’t racist. The assumption that someone must be on drugs if they are poor and in need of assistance IS.

  8. Brian says:

    If you are not smoking crack, shooting heroine, smoking pot, or any other illegal drug, you should have no proble, with peeing in a cup. My only complaint is that the cost of tge test be deducted from your benefits. If you fail the test, not only do you NOT get food stamps, you should get arrested for attempting to defraud the state. When I apply for a job, they inform me that I must consent to a drug test and background screening to remain employed. These tests are usually conducted every year, and at random. If you fail either one, you lose your job and your money! Why should someone get FREE money from the taxpayers (who have already submitted to mandatory testing by employers) to buy drugs? If you are just outright too damn lazy to get off your ass and mow lawns or wash dishes or flip burgers because you can get more from the Government, something has to change. Either the Government needs to reduce what you can get for being a complete leech on society, or the minimum wage go up to $10.05 like President Obama wants. If you wish to use drugs rather than work, honestly, in my opinion, m you should starve. I am sure that I can find a homeless Veteran who would be more than thankful to receive your food stamps so he can eat……not trade them for his next fix!

    I absolutely abhor Governor Rick Scott, but I must say that this is the only idea to come out of his empty skull
    that makes any sense. If you want free money, you need to be drug free.

    • sw says:

      I am with u Brian

    • Nancy N says:

      First off, most people on welfare aren’t “too damn lazy to get off your ass.” You need to stop watching Fox and learn some real numbers about who uses the program. The vast majority of welfare recipients are children, permanently disabled, or senior citizens. A large portion of the rest are working families that earn so little that they still qualify for benefits despite working in some cases multiple jobs. This group includes many, many families of our men and women in uniform. One of the biggest locations that food stamps are used are exchanges on military bases! Walmart is controversially also a big offender is this area – a large segment of their employees are on food stamps. (I won’t go into what a travesty it is that our military is being paid comparably to Walmart cashiers…that is a whole other issue.)

      Before you go around thinking that people are living large on welfare you should check out the amounts that can be received in the program. They are tiny.

      Your knowledge of constitutional law is sorely lacking. There is from a legal standpoint a huge difference between a random employer like McDonald’s conducting a drug test and the legality of blanket drug tests being conducted in a government program. Why? Because when McDonald’s does it, it’s just a test. When the government does it, that’s a SEARCH. And it is unconstitutional for the government to commit warrantless searches of mass groups of people. That’s an important constitutional protection granted to us to protect us from the government.

      Your post reeks of hatred for poor people that you obviously consider to be lesser than you. Try educating yourself about the reality of the situation, and finding some compassion. Poverty isn’t a character flaw, no matter how much you would like it to be so you can justify not reaching out a helping hand to people.

      • Lancer says:

        Your premise is utterly false. I have had to take random drug tests at work. That’s a condition of my employment. You see, I choose by my own free will to work and they, as a contractual right, want to ensure that I am not impaired when I represent them.

        If you are signing up to receive taxPAYER dollars of your own free will, you are now representing taxPAYERS. Therefore, as a condition of this representation, I want to know that I am not promoting drug use, that they are furthering education and seeking employment.

        The recidivism rate for entitlement programs is 61%, Nancy. This means that once a person receives welfare benefits, there is a 61% chance they will be back on the taxPAYER backs.

        At what point are you willing to acknowledge the difference between a “run of bad luck” and irresponsible, bad decision making??

  9. barbie says:

    Oh for God’s sake, the whole point here is that it is a racist assumption that if you’re poor and in need of assistance you just must be on drugs, And the very idea that one must produce pure urine in order to make a living is a joke. Anyone who still thinks that is okay needs to go back to secondary school and refresh themselves on the Constitution.

  10. Ted Manwalking says:

    Here , I’m gonna tell you what to do , and your going to do it… You don’t have a problem with that do you ?
    It is harmless (for now) and noooo your not being singled out because soon if you do as I say I will make it
    So EVERYONE will be doing as I say … Won’t it be great !!!
    How can it be discrimination when EVERYONE obeys my will ?
    Now get ready Heres your cup piss where and when I tell you to.
    Ok ?

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think Rick Scott should be the first to come forward and voluntarily exempt his wife, himself, or any member of his family from any activity that what result in his (and family members) profitting in any way from this proposal…and write it into the bill. So that we can nail his a** later when he gets caught breaking that part of the law himself.

  12. Lancer says:

    I have had to take random drug tests at work. That’s a condition of my employment. You see, I choose by my own free will to work and they, as a contractual right, want to ensure that I am not impaired when I represent them.

    If you are signing up to receive taxPAYER dollars of your own free will, you are now representing taxPAYERS. Therefore, as a condition of this representation, I want to know that I am not promoting drug use, that they are furthering education and seeking employment.

    The recidivism rate for entitlement programs is 61%, Nancy. This means that once a person receives welfare benefits, there is a 61% chance they will be back on the taxPAYER backs.

    At what point are leftists willing to acknowledge the difference between a “run of bad luck” and irresponsible, bad decision making??

  13. Anonymous says:

    No one can accuse Rick Scott of being “irresponsible.” He is quite good at, and deliberate about, looking out for himself, thanks to the greedy interests and blind prejudices of the people who support him.

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