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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Taxpayers charged $190K more in legal bills for Scott's drug testing push

28

December

Gov. Rick Scott’s drug-testing push has racked up even more legal bills, with a federal judge ordering the state to pay $190,000 in attorney’s fees for a case involving state workers.

The ruling, posted Friday, orders Scott—and by extension, taxpayers—to cover the legal fees of the lawyers that took on the governor’s controversial plan to require random drug testing for state workers.

The $190,000 legal tab is in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and costs spent in attempts to defend controversial laws passed by Scott. They include drug testing for welfare recipients, a 3-percent employee contributions for state workers’ pensions, voting law changes and a 2011 law banning doctors from asking patients about guns. In most cases, judges have ruled the laws to be unconstitutional, sparking appeals from Scott and higher legal fees.

Scott ordered the state-worker drug testing plan shortly after taking office in 2011, potentially subjecting the state’s 85,000 employees to random drug tests. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued and U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled in April that the testing plan constituted an unconstitutional search and seizure. Scott immediately vowed to appeal.

"I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and will pursue the case on appeal,” Scott said in a statement that mirrors several others he has made this year.

But while the appeal plays out, taxpayers remain liable for paying the attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs. Those fees ran as high as $312,000—with lawyers billing up to $600 per hours—before a judge ruled that $190,000 was more appropriate.

If those fees are added to the $888,000 legal bills cited in this July article in the Orlando Sentinel, then controversial laws passed by the Legislature and Scott have easily cost taxpayers more than $1 million in the last two years.

Several cases are currently being litigated or appealed, so the legal meter continues to run each day.

@ToluseO

[Last modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 3:00pm]

    

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