Random Drug-Testing Bill Dies in State House
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill allowing state agencies to randomly drug-test employees was voted down Wednesday by a House committee, but the measure's sponsor said he'll try again after addressing fellow lawmakers' questions about legality and cost.
An analysis done for the House Appropriations Committee said it wasn't clear how much random drug testing would cost taxpayers. Individual tests vary from $10-$40. The analysis also said testing without a reasonable suspicion of drug use has largely been found unconstitutional, another sticking point for both Democrats and Republicans.
A few minutes later, the committee agreed to reconsider its vote in an apparent face-saving move to bill sponsor Jimmie T. Smith, an Inverness Republican who said he was surprised fellow Republicans weren't in support.
After reviving the bill, committee members indefinitely postponed any further consideration. With the legislative session past its halfway point and budget deliberation starting in earnest, its future is unclear.
Smith said he just wants to ensure a drug-free state workplace. Last year, he also sponsored a law that mandates drug testing of welfare recipients. That law is now being challenged in federal court.
"My intention is to keep it moving forward," he said of this year's bill (HB 1205). "We'll address what concerns we can."
Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who opposed the bill, joked that lawmakers should be included in the testing. No problem, Rep. Rich Glorioso said - he's used to drug testing from the Air Force.
"Give me the cup; I'm ready anytime," the Plant City Republican said.
The current version of the bill would allow - but not require - state agencies to randomly test all workers every three months. It makes it easier to fire those who show positive for drugs after a first test that has been confirmed.
Pamela Burch Fort of the American Civil Liberties Union warned the panel that "suspicionless, universal drug-testing is unconstitutional."
The staff analysis notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled suspicionless drug testing constitutional in four situations: students in extracurricular activities, student athletes, certain U.S. Customs employees and railroad employees after a major accident.
Drug testing invokes the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizure. A separate executive order by Gov. Rick Scott requiring random drug testing of state workers resulted in a lawsuit and now is being litigated in federal court.
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