Florida employee drug-testing bill advances through legislature
A bill that would allow Florida state agencies to randomly drug test employees passed its final committee today. The bill passed today on the House floor and is now a step closer to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
Scott has been one of the biggest proponents of the bill and has made a concerted effort behind the scenes to get the it passed through the Legislature. The Senate bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, introduced the bill to members as the measure “Gov. Scott has asked us to approve.”
Proponents of the bill said it would raise state workers to the same standards as private companies, which they claim drug test their employees often.
Hays also said that his bill is a “preventative” measure that would act as an “early intervention program” for workers with drug problems. He did concede, however, that there are currently no problems regarding state workers on drugs.
Democratic members of the panel, including State Sens. Gwen Margolis, Nan Rich, Eleanor Sobel, Arthenia Joyner and Bill Montford, claimed the bill is unconstitutional and unjustly targets state workers.
Ron Bilbao, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, echoed those concerns and warned that the bill was “unconstitutional” and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The last attempt to randomly drug test state employees without suspicion landed the state in court. State officials are currently awaiting a ruling on that case, but the judge who will hear the case has already expressed serious concerns with its constitutionality.
Though there has been confusion as to whether or not the bill would include lawmakers, such as the governor and his cabinet, Hays said that no state worker, including lawmakers, would be exempt.
In the House bill, however, that provision is not as clear. The House sponsor, state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, has said that Legislators would not be included. Earlier today, he stopped consideration of an amendment that would require that lawmakers be subject to the random drug testing policies.
The bill passed largely along party lines, but the chairman of the Senate panel, State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, voted against the bill in a surprising move. Negron said later that he voted it against it because it represents a “current trend in our country for more and more intrusion from our government.” He said he wanted to be a “kink in the hose of progress.”
Negron also said the bill was “bad policy [because] the government has a higher duty than a private company.”