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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill authorizing drug tests for state employees gets unfavorable vote



 A bill that would have allowed random drug tests for state workers died in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

[3:00pm UPDATE] The bill has been brought back to life, by an unexpected Rep. Read more here.

Sponsored by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, the bill (HB 1205) faced bi-partisan opposition on grounds that it violated the Constitution and would invite more lawsuits for a state already swimming in litigation.

“If I think if something is blatantly unconstitutional, I have a duty to vote against it,” said Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West.

Republican Reps. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater and Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, were among Republicans who joined Democrats to vote down the measure.

The bill was a priority of Gov. Rick Scott and is the latest Republican-leadership initiative to fail this year. On Wednesday, several Republican Senators joined Democrats to vote down a massive prison privatization plan.

Critics of the bill called it Constitutionally weak, because the Supreme Court has already ruled that, in most cases, random, suspicionless drug test by the government constitute a violation of the fourth amendment, which covers unreasonable search and seizure.

“Unless it’s changed, I won’t be able to vote for it” on the House floor, said Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, who voted for the bill in committee. “I think it’s an invasion of privacy.”

The bill's failure deals a blow to the unprecedented Republican-led crackdown against drugs and those who use them in Florida.

It comes after last year’s measure to require those receiving welfare benefits to take drug tests in order to qualify. That measure led to a lawsuit still tied up in court.

The same committee did advance a measure that would disqualify those convicted of drug-related felonies from receiving federal temporary cash assistance, unless they complete a rehab program. That measure also faced criticism from Democrats.

“This reminds me of a further attack on the unemployed, on the low-income,” said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who voted against the measure. “I favor rehabilitation…. But we have systems in place.”



[Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 3:16pm]


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