State employee drug testing moves forward

Florida lawmakers are not waiting for a ruling from a Miami federal judge before moving forward with a bill to require state employees to submit to screening for illegal drugs.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos told Historic City News reporters, “I think it’s the right thing to do”.

Governor Rick Scott has already issued an executive order calling for drug testing of state employees; similar to the testing already done by many companies in the private sector and certain “high-risk” public employment, like air traffic controllers, criminal justice employees, and others.

“I think if it is challenged in the courts, once it’s affirmed that it’s legal, we’d be able to implement the policy — as opposed to waiting until next year,” Haridopolos said.

“If this bill is passed and signed into law, it’s an open invitation to litigation,” said Ron Bilbao in a recent news report.

Democrats have lined up against the measure, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida chapter, which brought a lawsuit in federal court against the Governor’s executive order. Oral arguments have already been heard in that suit.

Yesterday, amendments that allow agency heads to implement a drug-testing program, so long as only 10 percent of workers are subjected to tests and those selected are chosen randomly, were adopted by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations. Secondly, state agencies would have to work within their current budget allocations in order to pay for the tests.

“If there’s no money, they won’t be doing it,” said Senator Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who is sponsoring the bill. “If the agency director decides they don’t want to do it, they don’t have to.”

The Senate version of the bill, SB-1358, now conforms to the House version, HB-1205, and both the Senate and House bills are on the way to their respective floors.

Opponents, in the ACLU and Democratic Party, are urging Republicans to resist a push by the governor to pass the bill. They claim the bill is unconstitutional and risks another costly lawsuit that they claim the Legislature is destined to lose.

One Republican rebuttal said, “The ACLU and Democrats can make any claim they like — unfortunately, they don’t also get to decide on the constitutionality and outcome of such claims.”

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