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Gov. Scott signs into law plan to test state workers for drugs

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Monday a controversial proposal to allow Florida agencies to randomly test state workers for drugs.

The proposal, which has been clouded over questions about its constitutionality, passed the House and the Senate in the final week of this year’s legislative session.

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

It’s the latest bill passed by the Florida Legislature that will likely be decided in a courtroom.

Scott has already been sued for a similar drug-testing executive order, also aimed at state workers. Last month a federal judge questioned the constitutionality of the policy, saying she had “trouble understanding the circumstances under which the executive order would be valid.”

The American Civil Liberties Union called the Drug Free Workplace Act an “invitation to litigation,” hinting that it may end up suing the Legislature. The ACLU argued that previous courts have found that random, suspicionless drug testing of state workers is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizure.

Several other proposals of the Legislature are either tied up in court, or likely to end up there.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases against the Legislature: On tuition, and on a 2011 bill requiring state workers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pensions. A circuit court judge ruled the pension law to be unconstitutional this month, the same week that the Supreme Court rejected the Senate redistricting maps as unconstitutional.

Additionally, the Legislature passed several laws this year that are Constitutionally-questionable and could face lawsuits in the future, including the so-called “prayer in school” bill and a Medicaid billing law that could cost counties millions.

The drug-testing bill faced controversy on the floor of the House, when lawmakers rejected an amendment to require a similar testing policy for elected officials and the governor.

Bill sponsor Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto said: “It was found to be unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right.”