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Gov. Rick Scott signs law requiring Floridians to pass drug tests to get state benefits

TALLAHASSEE — Floridians must 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 Tuesday.

"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."

The new law fulfills a campaign pledge from Scott but has raised legal questions. The ACLU of Florida has signaled it might sue over the law.

"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," ACLU of Florida director Howard Simon said.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, will mean about 4,400 drug tests per month, according to the Department of Children and Families.

Taxpayers will reimburse welfare applicants for negative drug tests, which can cost $10 to $25. Positive tests will carry an immediate six-month ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. A second positive test will result in a three-year ban on state assistance. Other details in HB 353:

• 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.

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

Scott on Tuesday also signed HB 1039, a bill banning a white powder marketed as bath salts that mimics cocaine and LSD when snorted. The legislation was pushed by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

Gov. Rick Scott signs law requiring Floridians to pass drug tests to get state benefits 05/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 10:06pm]
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