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After Spending $300,000 in State Funds, Gov. Scott Quits Fight to Drug-Test Welfare Recipients

| March 6, 2015

Rick Scott gives up on drug-testing.

Rick Scott gives up on drug-testing.

After spending at least $300,000 of taxpayer money on legal expenses, Gov. Rick Scott is abandoning his fight to force welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug tests.


A federal appeals court ruled in December 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.

Tuesday was the deadline for Scott to ask for an “en banc” review from the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld previous court decisions that the Florida law is unconstitutional, or to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We chose not to appeal this case. The governor is continuing to protect Florida children any way he can and create an environment where families can get jobs so they are able to pursue their dreams in safe communities,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement Wednesday evening.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the challenge on behalf of single father and Navy veteran Luis Lebron shortly after the law went into effect in 2011, hailed the end of the drawn-out legal battle over the drug tests, an issue Scott campaigned on during his first bid for governor in 2010.

“This law was always about scoring political points on the backs of Florida’s poor and treating them like suspected criminals without suspicion or evidence. It not only offended the dignity of families who are struggling to get by and need temporary assistance, but it also offended constitutional protections against invasive government searches,” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement.

In December’s 54-page opinion authored by appeals-court Judge Stanley Marcus, the Atlanta-based court rejected Scott’s arguments that the drug tests are needed to ensure that children in poor families grow up in drug-free homes. The state also argued that TANF applicants would 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, however, has not totally abandoned a separate effort to drug test state workers.

The governor was forced to capitulate on an executive order requiring all state employees to submit to urine tests. The federal appeals court ruled last year that Scott 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 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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8 Responses for “After Spending $300,000 in State Funds, Gov. Scott Quits Fight to Drug-Test Welfare Recipients”

  1. Obama 2015 says:

    His wife must be mad.

  2. confidential says:

    The Governor became wealthy by swindling our Medicare System…so now he needs to refund us taxpayers back for the expense he had to defend his Machiavelic bill against the needed of our state.
    We want to see our funds back man, as you are rich!

  3. Rick Gardner says:

    Halleluiah finally Scott sees reality. Sorry about the loss of revenue to his wife’s drug testing company… so sad..

  4. Footballen says:

    He should have stood strong on that one. If you are a junky or pot head I should not have to pay to support you.

    • John Smallberries says:

      Might want to look at the stats on how much it cost versus how many people were affected. Hint: it cost way more to test that what it “saves” through dumping people off of welfare. Likewise, a positive drug test does not mean what you think it does. If you actually do the statistics, a positive on most tests when combined with actual usage rates means that the person in question has maybe a 50-50% chance of current use.

  5. confidential says:

    Scotty became wealthy by swindling our Medicare System…so now he needs to refund us taxpayers back for the expense he had to defend his Machiavellic bill against the needy of our state. We want our funds back, as you are rich!

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    What a complete waste of taxpayers’ hard earned money. . . all in an “unconstitutional” quest to deny basic assistance and stick it to the underprivileged, while lining the pockets of his wife’s drug testing company!

    • YankeeExPat says:

      wife’s drug testing company!………………Bingo!

      Check out InnoVida Holdings, LLC, where Jeb Bush sat on the board of directors.

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