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Another drug testing program, this time for state workers, getting attention

State employees could be randomly tested for illegal drug use every three months under a proposal that is making its way through the Legislature.

The Senate’s Government Oversight and Accountability Committee is the latest panel to sign off on the measure, which says employees can be fired or disciplined after just one failed drug test.

The legislation must be approved by one more committee before it is heard on the Senate floor. On the House side, a similar measure has two more committee stops.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who sponsored the legislation, said it gives state agencies the permission to expand drug testing but doesn’t require it. Agencies, including school districts, would have to find money in their budgets to pay for randomized testing of up to 10 percent of their workforce every quarter.

Several Pasco County teachers voiced their opposition to the measure, saying the school district hasn't had the money to award raises in the past five years, let alone pay for drug testing for thousands of employees. The tests would cost $15 to $25 each, Hays said.

Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, chairman of the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, voted with fellow Democrats against the measure. The state already has an employee drug testing program and no one has shown a reason for it to be expanded, Ring said.

“I’m just completely philosophically opposed,” Ring said. “I think we’re kind of driving too much into people.”