Florida welfare drug test law blocked
A federal judge ordered a temporary halt Monday to a Florida law backed by Gov. Rick Scott that requires those seeking welfare benefits to pass a drug test, the AP reports.
Judge Mary Scriven, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that the law may violate the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Scriven expressed concern that drug tests were not kept confidential, and that they could be shared with law enforcement officers. The judge noted also that the tests can also reveal private information about an individual’s medical issues.
The law’s temporary injunction will remain until the judge can hold a full hearing on the matter, but it is not immediately clear when that will be.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, which teamed up with 35-year-old Navy veteran and University of Central Florida student Luis Lebron, who receives welfare but has refused to take the drug test.
Lebron indicated that he was pleased with the progress of the lawsuit, telling that AP that he’s “happy that the judge stood up for me and my rights and said the state can’t act without a reason or suspicion.”
Scott made the policy a promise during his campaign, and fulfilled the promise by signing the drug testing requirement into law in May of this year.
“Drug testing welfare recipients is just a common-sense way to ensure that welfare dollars are used to help children and get parents back to work,” Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, told the AP. “The governor obviously disagrees with the decision and he will evaluate his options regarding when to appeal.”
Scott had also put into place a new policy that would have required drug testing of new state employees, as well as spot checks of existing state employees. Testing for this initiative was also suspended after the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the policy in a separate lawsuit.
Florida is the first state to enact a law requiring drug testing for welfare applicants in over a decade. In 1999, Michigan passed a random drug testing program for welfare recipients, only to see it later ruled unconstitutional by a federal court after a four-year legal battle.