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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott signs bill forcing drug tests on welfare recipients

drugtest.jpgFloridians will have to submit urine, blood or hair samples for drug testing before receiving cash benefits from the state, under a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law today.

"The goal of this is to make sure we don't waste taxpayers' money," Scott said. "And hopefully more people will focus on not using illegal drugs."

Taxpayers will reimburse welfare applicants for negative drug tests. Positive tests will carry an immediate ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for six months. A second positive test will result in a three-year ban on state assistance.

Other details in the new law:

• The Department of Children and Families must inform applicants that they can avoid a drug test if they do not apply for benefits.

• The state must assure each applicant "a reasonable degree of dignity while producing and submitting a sample."

• Parents who fail drug tests can get benefits for their children by naming a state-approved designee to collect the money. That designee must also pass a drug test.

ACLU Florida has suggested they might sue the state over the new law. A statement from the group's state director today did not mention legal action, but said they would have an announcement tomorrow about Scott's executive order forcing drug tests on state employees.

"Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals," Howard Simon said in his statement. "This wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug use."

About 233,000 Floridians applied for cash assistance in 2009-10, including 114,000 families, according to DCF statistics. This month, 93,170 Floridians received cash assistance, a drop of 8.3 percent from a year ago.

Scott today also signed a bill, HB 1039, banning fake ban salts. The legislation was pushed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 3:48pm]

    

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