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Bill allowing random drug-testing for all state workers is revived

Today the powerful House Appropriations Committee revived a controversial bill allowing random drug-testing for state employees, only minutes after voting it down.

A priority for Gov. Rick Scott, HB 1205 had been killed in a close vote after many members questioned its constitutionality and said it might cost a lot of money for the state to defend it in court.

But then one of the lawmakers who had voted against it, Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, moved to reconsider. The committee then quickly voted to "TP," or temporarily postpone, the measure.

Since the committee meets again next week, it is possible that the bill will be brought back, presumably after tweaking.

The bill "still has legs," the sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, told Health News Florida.

Committee members did not explain why they had second thoughts.

Scott issued an executive order in March 2011 requiring pre-employment and random on-the-job drug tests for all state employees.  A public employee backed by the American Civil Liberties Union brought suit, alleging that the order violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Both sides have requested summary judgment; a federal judge in Miami could issue an opinion soon.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 in a Georgia case that “suspicionless searches” of public employees in jobs that present no safety risk are unconstitutional. Based on that ruling, federal courts in both north and south Florida have held public agencies’ drug screens unconstitutional.

The rulings do not apply to private employers.

The Appropriations Committee noted that there is no set cost to the drug-testing requirement, since the decision on whether to carry it out would be up to each agency.


Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.