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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Drug testing for state workers (but not elected officials) heads to House floor



A proposal to allow state agencies to conduct random tests of employees once every three months passed through a key House committee on Friday, part of the Legislature’s push to crack down on illegal drug use. After surviving its third party-line vote—and a brief death—it moves next to the House floor for a full vote.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, said the proposal would not include state Representatives and elected officials, as that would be a breach of lawmakers' First Amendment rights.

In a pending case against Gov. Rick Scott, a federal judge on Wednesday raised questions about whether or not random drug tests of state workers violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

The implied exemption for elected officials didn’t sit well with some lawmakers, who called the measure “hypocritical” and “disingenuous.”

“I’m very much against drugs, and I don’t have a problem with people taking drug tests,” said Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, adding that he has been taking drug tests for the last eight years as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. “I have a problem--I firmly believe we have to lead by example. The day that I have to go take a [drug] test as a state representative, is the day that I’ll support this legislation.”

Smith said the elected officials work for the citizens of Florida, and if the citizens ask their representatives to take a drug test, they should do it voluntarily.

He said he did just that a few weeks ago.

“My constituents called me and asked us to take a drug test,” he said, adding that he paid for the $40 test with his own money. He said he passed.

But he said he would not accept an amendment to the bill that would mandate drug tests for elected officials.

The issue of whether elected officials should be forced take the same drug test that they ask their constituents came up in a recent Daily Show episode, with correspondent Aasif Mandvi asking several Florida lawmakers to urinate in a cup.

Here’s a link to the video.

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BONUS: Also in the State Affairs Committee on Friday:

--Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne tabled a bill that would scale the retirement age for police and firefighters back to 55. It would also default new workers into a "defined-contribution" (investment) retirement plan rather than a traditional "defined-benefit" (pension) plan. Workman said the Senate "has decided to punt" on the issue, so the bill wouldn't pass this year. Firefighters had expressed opposition, while police were in support.

--Several memorials passed, touching on a host of hot-button political issues in Washington. After partisan debate, the committee sent to the House floor memorials to urge Congress to cap federal spending, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, reduce the federal corporate tax rate and repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform.

--A bill by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, that would end Miami-Dade County's pitbull ban, passed.

[Last modified: Friday, February 24, 2012 3:42pm]


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