Welfare recipients must test for drugs

Governor Rick Scott kept a campaign promise yesterday when he signed into law a measure requiring drug tests for those receiving welfare, according to an announcement received by Historic City News.

HB 353 would require everyone receiving assistance from the state’s “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” program, or welfare, to pay for a drug test and pass it.

Those who pass the test would receive a refund for the cost of the test along with their benefits. But those who do not pass are barred from the program for one year, rising to three years if they fail twice. If someone fails the test, the money is then given to an appointed recipient close to the family.

“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said in a statement. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”

The bill, however, was blasted by Democrats and others who claimed that it was not only wrong to force a financial burden on those in need of assistance, but also unconstitutional.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the measure is based on an ugly stereotype of those receiving welfare. He also pointed to a 2003 federal court ruling that ruled a similar law unconstitutional by violating the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches.

At the same time, the governor also signed a bill banning so-called “bath salts” which have been used as a hallucinogen.

Two weeks ago in St. Johns County, Historic City News reported that five teenage boys, between 15 and 17 years of age, were transported to Baptist South Hospital after exhibiting violent symptoms believed to have been caused from eating “bath salts” that were ordered over the Internet.

The drug from the salts, MDPV, has been known as fake cocaine and was criminalized in January when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an emergency order against their use and sale.

Florida became the second state to ban the drug in January, as it had the second-most cases of reported abuse in the country with 61 cases.

“Since the temporary ban in January, we have seen a decrease in the number of reported medical emergencies related to this drug,” Bondi said in a statement.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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