Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has quietly signed a bill that would require state employees to undergo random, suspicionless drug testing. His office announced after normal business hours Monday that the deed had been done.
Florida becomes the first state in the nation to pass such a bill, although other states may follow.
The measure, House Bill 1205, authorizes state agencies to require that employees submit to random, periodic, suspicionless drug testing. Under the bill, 10% of an agency’s work force would be tested every three months. The bill strips out provisions in Florida law limiting drug testing to safety-sensitive positions and makes it easier to fire a worker after a first confirmed positive drug test.
Scott had first tried to impose drug testing on state workers via an executive order, but suspended it after it was challenged in the courts. A strong proponent of drug testing, Scott also supported and signed into law a bill last year to require welfare applicants and recipients to undergo drug testing. That law has also met legal challenges and is currently blocked by a federal district court judge’s temporary injunction.
This law, too, is certain to face legal challenges, labor leaders and civil libertarians told the Associated Press after it passed the state legislature 10 days ago. The federal courts consider drug testing a search and thus subject to Fourth Amendment proscriptions against warrantless searches. They have carved out only limited exceptions to the general rule — for safety-sensitive positions, for some police doing drug law enforcement, for some high school students — and have ruled against earlier efforts to drug test elected officials and welfare recipients.
“This is just another attempt to vilify state workers and make them the problem,” said Florida AFL-CIO legislative director Rich Templin. The union represents about 100,000 state employers and has warned this will likely mean more lawsuits for the state.
“State workers don’t trade their constitutional rights for a state paycheck or other benefits,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which is already part of the challenge to the welfare drug testing law. “Unfortunately, the governor and legislature appear to want to re-learn that lesson over and over again.”