Gov. Rick Scott ought to be getting the message by now on the foolishness of requiring welfare recipients to be tested for illegal drugs. A federal appeals court last month upheld a temporary ban on the drug testing and indicated that a legal challenge to the law has a good chance of being successful. Yet Scott vows to appeal all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is a waste of time and public money, and the courts should continue to protect the constitutional rights of Florida's poor.
The 2011 law requires more than 90,000 Floridians who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to be tested for drugs. Luis Lebron, a single father and welfare recipient, refused to take the test on constitutional grounds and challenged the law in federal court with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. A U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary injunction preventing the drug testing in September, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the temporary ban last month.
Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett, a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, wrote: "The state has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug-addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior.''
That's because there isn't any. Scott and the Legislature are striking out on their drug-testing schemes. Drug testing for welfare recipients is stalled, and the federal courts also have blocked a 2012 law requiring drug testing of all state workers. Fortunately, the federal judicial branch is more interested in protecting the constitutional rights of welfare recipients and state workers than the executive and legislative branches in Florida.