Florida's New Drug-Testing Law: Other States To Follow?
Florida has become the first state in the nation to adopt a law mandating random drug screenings for state workers. The unprecedented move may result in similar efforts among lawmakers in other states, setting the stage for battles with labor unions and others opposed to drug testing by the government.
The new law, which exempts elected officials from testing, was quietly signed by Gov. Rick Scott (pictured at left) on Monday after normal working hours. It is sure to result in a legal challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement this morning in which it described the law as being in "clear defiance of constitutional principles."
Though drug testing among private employers is routine, such practices when conducted by government may run afoul of the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, some legal experts contend.
Known as the Drug Free Workplace Act, the statute allows -- but doesn't require -- state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their workers every three months for illegal drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol. Failing a single test could result in dismissal.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, state workers in Florida aren't known to have greater substance-abuse problems than those elsewhere. Rather, the law appears to be part of a nationwide effort to hold accountable those who receive taxpayer funds -- whether they are public-sector workers, welfare recipients or those collecting unemployment benefits.
No state yet requires drug testing of those collecting unemployment benefits, but four states -- Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah -- are considering such laws for the jobless, the Monitor notes.
A similar drug-testing policy aimed at Florida's state workers, which Gov. Scott signed into law by executive order a year ago, is now being scrutinized by a federal court, The Miami Herald reports.
Last month, the judge reviewing the case questioned the constitutionality of the policy, saying she had "trouble understanding the circumstances under which the executive order would be valid."
Exempting elected officials from Florida's new law led Herald columnist Carl Hiassen to characterize lawmakers' efforts as hypocritical.
"So now the clerk down at the DMV gets to pee in a cup," he writes, "but not the knuckleheads in [the state capital] who control $70 billion in public funds."
Hiassen adds, "Who do you think is more dangerous to the future of Florida?"
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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