Drug screening bill tests positive in House

This Friday, March 9, is the last day of the regular legislative session; and with time running out, random urine testing of state employees for evidence of illegal drug use is looking like it may be enacted in this term.

Two pieces of legislation advanced last Friday that pave the way for all state agencies to provide a “drug free workplace” for their employees and the citizens who interact with state workers on the job.

“The word is on the street,” according to the bill’s sponsor — Republican House member Jimmie Smith from Inverness. “People are starting to realize it — drugs are bad.”

HB 1205 allows state agency directors to test 10 percent of their workforce at random. The agencies, however, must use money from their existing budgets in order to pay for the tests.

SB 1358, the Senate companion bill, passed the Budget Committee Friday and is headed to the Senate floor.

The safety of the state’s sober employees when they come to work, and the public liability for actions of illegal drug users who have access to mountains of confidential information about the citizens of the state, have been two of the top concerns in rigorous debate so far. Those concerns, objections and support, have run closely along major party lines.

“Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace,” Republican Governor Rick Scott told reporters. “Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees.”

Democrats, like House Minority Leader Perry Thurston of Plantation, say Republican lawmakers are merely “bullying lesser workers” because the screening is not required of the governor and his cabinet members, lawmakers, and senior staff — typically the department heads who will select the employees that will be screened.

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