Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday defended recent legislation that requires adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screenings, saying the law provides "personal accountability."
"It's not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody's drug addiction," Scott told CNN's T.J. Holmes on Sunday. "On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability. We shouldn't be subsidizing people's addiction."
But the ACLU of Florida, which has already filed suit against Scott over a measure requiring government employees to undergo random drug testing, disagrees, and may sue over the welfare law as well.
"What (Scott) is doing is giving ugly legitimacy to an unfortunate stereotype that has been in this country for a couple of decades -- that all welfare recipients are a bunch of drug abusers," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.
Scott told CNN he wants to ensure that welfare funds go to their primary target -- to disadvantaged children -- and provide people with an incentive not to use drugs. He signed the measure on June 1, calling it "the right thing for taxpayers."
Under the law, which takes effect on July 1, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services will be required to conduct the drug tests on adults applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The aid recipients would be responsible for the cost of the screening, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify.
Those who fail the required drug testing may designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of their children, and do not receive a refund for the test.
The probable cause issue is unfortunately moot. The courts have long stipulated that random drug testing of all of a group, such as employees of a company, is permissible. The third issue too will almost certainly pass muster. It's the second issue, "where do we draw the line at testing just welfare recipients" that's likely to get Florida in real trouble.
Shortly after the bill was signed, five Democrats from the state's congressional delegation issued a joint statement attacking the legislation, one calling it "downright unconstitutional."
"Governor Scott's new drug testing law is not only an affront to families in need and detrimental to our nation's ongoing economic recovery, it is downright unconstitutional," said Rep. Alcee Hastings. "If Governor Scott wants to drug test recipients of TANF benefits, where does he draw the line? Are families receiving Medicaid, state emergency relief, or educational grants and loans next?"
If the courts side with Florida here, you can expect anyone who receives any sort of government aid or subsidy of any type to be drug tested. That would, in my mind, include states demanding that any business that receives tax breaks or any subsidy to then drug test all workers, arguing that state dollars should not go to businesses that don't drug test.
But that of course won't happen, as the point of Florida's law is not to drug test people in order to limit drug use, but to make Rick Scott and the Florida medical community craptons of money at taxpayer expense. The last thing Scott and his fellow Republicans want to do is force businesses to drug test. It's a scam.
Depending on how the courts treat this, we'll see where it goes. I foresee this going all the way to SCOTUS.
But remember, Republicans want smaller, less intrusive government. Unless they can clearly profit from it.