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A Times Editorial

Scott's penchant for invading privacy

It's bad enough that Gov. Rick Scott insists on infringing on Floridians' personal liberty. But he even expects taxpayers to pick up the tab.

On Thursday, a federal judge became the second in a year to deem one of Scott's drug testing schemes an unreasonable search and seizure. And just like before, Scott promised to appeal, proving to be more interested in political posturing than in respecting the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Republican leaders need to abandon this Big Brother obsession and respect Floridians' privacy.

In a 37-page summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro in Miami ruled that Scott's March 2011 executive order that required random drug testing for 85,000 state employees under his supervision is unconstitutional.

Just like an Orlando federal judge did last year in a related matter, Ungaro found Scott provided no evidence of a compelling public interest to mandate random drug testing without suspicion that illegal drugs are being used. She refuted the notion that drug tests that examined an employee's bodily fluids were no more invasive than a financial disclosure form required of some state employees. "The justification," she wrote, "is insubstantial and largely speculative."

In practical terms, Ungaro's decision maintains the status quo. Last year, days after a suit was filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Scott suspended the order until the legal case was completed.

But this marks the second time a federal judge has flatly rejected Scott's drug testing schemes. In September, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven in Orlando issued a temporary injunction to block a 2011 law that required welfare applicants to take a drug test to prove they were drug-free before they could receive cash assistance.

Republican legislative backers claimed the plan would save state money by forcing drug addicts off the roles. But it hasn't. New statistics introduced into that lawsuit in the past month show only 108 of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. And once the savings from not paying those applicants' benefits were applied, the state still lost $45,780 in drug testing costs.

If only this bad idea could die now. But Scott's insistence on appealing just means more taxpayer money will be wasted on defending a scheme that is clearly unconstitutional in a nation that prizes personal liberty. Scott swore to uphold the entire U.S. Constitution when he became governor 15 months ago. It's time to start.

Scott's penchant for invading privacy 04/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 26, 2012 7:27pm]
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