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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Drug test Bright Futures students?

So you want to drug-test public welfare recipients?

 How about students who get Bright Futures scholarships and employees of companies that receive state incentives?

A bipartisan group of seven senators put forward that idea as an amendment to a measure to require adults to pass a drug test before they may qualify for welfare benefits.

“I think we also deal with every other entity that the state of Florida provides grants to,” said Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.

No dice. The amendment was withdrawn after another senator raised a point of order about its relevancy.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross City, would require all adult welfare recipients to under go drug-testing.

If they fail the first time, they lose their benefits for one year. Failure a second time leaves them ineligible for three years. Parents who test positive would designate another adult to receive benefits on behalf of their children.

Recipients who test negative would be reimbursed for the cost of the test.

The measure has one more vote in the Senate. The House has already approved a similar proposal.

Another Siplin amendment, which would have subjected only welfare recipients with prior drug convictions to the tests, failed.

Oelrich said his bill just makes welfare recipients subject to the same requirements as employees of private businesses that require testing.

“The ultimate desire here is to get people off drugs,” he said.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray, said she couldn’t support the proposal in light of 12 percent unemployment. She said that many people who’ve lost their jobs are going on public assistance for the first time.

“Not only does a man lose his job, not only does a man who’s worked his entire life have to go on public assistance, he has to be drug tested?” she said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 4:18pm]


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