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State workers’ drug-testing bill gets 2nd wind

Update: Tuesday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amended bill allowing state agencies to conduct random drug screens on state employees. The vote was 15 to 8.

The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to reconsider the issue of drug-testing state workers this afternoon, but the version that will come up is slimmer than before.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, sponsor of CS/HB 1205, said he will present an amendment that would pare back the percentage of workers that a public agency would be able to screen for drugs to 10 percent. The names of those to be asked for urine samples would have to be random.

The decision on whether to screen would be  up to the agency. It would  have to do so within its existing budget, he said.

Last week, the Appropriations Committee killed the bill, but then voted to reconsider. A motion to postpone action on it quickly passed.

At the time, Smith told Health News Florida that he thought the bill "still has legs."

Today, he said he is optimistic he can override the concerns of several members on the panel who voiced concerns over the constitutionality of the measure. Smith said he had not had an opportunity to explain why the bill is constitutional at the last meeting.

Smith, R-Lecanto, had originally called for pre-employment and random drug testing of all state workers, but pared back the bill after considerable resistance. Many representatives said they felt "suspicionless" testing for workers who aren't in a safety-sensitive position -- such as a prison guard -- violated the right to privacy and the 4th Amendment.

Gov. Rick Scott has on several occasions mentioned his support for state-employee drug tests.

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to public-service journalism. Comments or questions can be directed to Editor Carol Gentry at 727-410-3266 orby e-mail.


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.