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Drug testing bill shields lawmakers from urine tests, passes House

Florida lawmakers approved a plan to allow random drug tests for state employees Friday, while rejecting an amendment that would require similar tests for themselves and the governor.

The proposal, which has been clouded in questions of constitutionality since last year, passed the House of Representatives on a 79-37 vote, with Republicans backing the measure amid outcry from Democrats.

“There were over 141,000 [drug-related] arrests last year,” said Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, who is sponsoring the bill. “This is not to do drug testing because they’re state workers. This is to do drug testing for one problem: Drugs in Florida.”

The bill would allow state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their workforce once every three months. It would also allow agencies to fire employees the first time they test positive. Current law only allows random drug testing for “safety sensitive” positions, and prohibits agencies from firing workers who test positive once, requiring treatment programs instead.

Smith called the push to include elected officials in the drug-testing program “political theater,” and has claimed the Supreme Court has already ruled against the practice.

“It was found to be unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right,” Smith said last week.

That has drawn criticism from fellow lawmakers, who called the position “hypocritical.”

“I have to conclude that this is an elitist legislative body not prepared or courageous to lead by example,” said Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who was behind the amendment. “Shame on you.”

A similar amendment, backed by Republicans in the Senate, is set for a committee vote Friday.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said he supported drug testing for elected officials, but voted to freeze the amendment on constitutional grounds.

“I think it’s sad that a court has ruled that elected officials and the Governor cannot be drug tested, and that’s why that amendment wasn’t put on,” he said. “But I think we should be drug tested.”

But the courts have also questioned whether testing state workers randomly and without suspicion is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits illegal search and seizure.

After Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order last year requiring random drug testing at some state agencies, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued him, and the case is still in court.

Last month, a federal judge in Miami said she had “trouble understanding the circumstances under which the executive order would be valid.”

Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, was among a group of Democrats arguing that the plan amounted to unconstitutional government intrusion, calling it legislative “bullying.”

“Why don’t we just pass a law that says we’ll go out and we’ll go into public workers’ homes, and go in their bathrooms,” he said in a sharp-tongued floor speech to his colleagues. “You’d be okay with that but you don’t want to do it to the governor, you don’t want to do it to us. I’ll tell you what you’re doing, you’re being bullies.”

--@ToluseO

Comments

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Brad

Drug tests are for little people.

Bob B

“It was found to be unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right.”

What First Amendment right is that? And if elected officials, as citizens, have that First Amendment right, shouldn't state employees, as citizens, have that same First Amendment right, whatever that right is?

b sheppard

only a dumbass democrat would want drug violators in positions in our state government. if you can't follow the laws of our state, go find work elsewhere

traveler

B Shepard, the issue here is do as I say, not as I do. If this is such a good bill, then why not have elected officials tested as well. They Run the State Government. Sounds like you are the dumb ass.

Paul

Thank you, traveler. Only an officious, Republican jerk would make a comment like the one above~

don

Politians are all liars ......

Ed

Unreal.

Sarah

If state workers have to be drug tested then so do state officials. This is the only way it should be, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Eric

I hear new stories each day about lawmakers from different states excluding themselves from drug testing. Amazes me!

Mel L.

This is probably the most unfare approach to drug testing I have ever heard of. If your going to insist that state employees take drug tests, then why shouldn't you endure the same scrutiny? This sounds like blatent hypocracy at best.

Drug Test Friend

I think those that write these bills should be subjected to whatever they are in support of. If it's okay to drug test state employees then it should be okay to drug test those requiring such tests.

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