Florida is now the first state to pass a controversial law requiring all recipients and applicants for welfare to take a mandatory drug test. On Tuesday, May 31st Florida’s Governor Rick Scott signed this bill that will go into effect on July 1st.
If an applicant tests positive for illegal drugs they will not be eligible for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). The first failed test will make the contender ineligible for a year. A second failed test will result in being banned from the program for three years. The applicants will pay to take the drug test. If the test shows no drug use, they will be reimbursed.
“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott explained. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”
Some oppose this new law, stating that it is unconstitutional. The fourth amendment states unreasonable search and seizures, which some feel this goes against it and is an invasion of privacy.
More than 113,000 Floridians received TANF benefits during the last year. The majority of citizens who participate in this assistance are mainly women and children. It is estimated that only 28 families out of 100 in poverty receive benefits from this program. If they fail the drug testing process, they will lose these welfare benefits.
Other states such as Arizona and Missouri require drug test for TANF recipients but only if there is suspicion of drug use. Florida is the only state to require everyone to take a drug test.
It is likely that the bill will be challenged. ACLU was the first to start attacking Scott’s decision, “Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals,” said Howard Simon, the head of ACLU of Florida. “The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse.”
In 2003, Michigan proposed a similar proposal but was shot down by the Sixth Circuit Court, finding it unconstitutional.