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House panel approves bill for random drug testing of state workers

TALLAHASSEE — The Republican-led Florida Legislature is pushing ahead with a bill that would allow random drug testing of state workers and other public employees every three months, despite ongoing questions about the legality of the plan.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered random testing of state workers last year, but he put most of the testing on hold after he was sued.

A House panel on Wednesday voted in favor of a drug-testing bill, which also includes a provision that says public employees can be fired if they have one positive test. A Senate panel was scheduled to take up the measure on Wednesday.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, did not assert that there is a widespread drug problem among public employees. Instead he said he is trying to change what he called society's growing acceptance of drug use.

"It's a tool in the toolbox to fight the drug epidemic," said Smith, who last year sponsored a bill that mandated drug testing of welfare recipients.

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