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  1. Florida Politics

Florida Gov. Rick Scott drops appeals in welfare drug testing case

Published Mar. 4, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will not seek U.S. Supreme Court review of a law that would have required applicants for welfare benefits to submit to mandatory drug testing

The law, a top priority of the Republican governor's first term, was ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts. Scott's administration did not ask the Supreme Court to consider the case by a Tuesday deadline.

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said that means lower court rulings invalidating the 2011 law will stand.

"After nearly four years of litigation, this ugly attack on poor Floridians has finally come to an end," Simon said Wednesday. "This law was always about scoring political points on the backs of Florida's poor and treating them like suspected criminals without suspicion or evidence."

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven in Orlando originally declared the law requiring urine tests for the applicants to be an unconstitutional search and seizure, a ruling upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December. Scriven and the appeals judges found no evidence of a pervasive drug problem among Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program applicants.

The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of Luis Lebron, an Orlando Navy veteran and single father who refused to submit to a urine test. The 11th Circuit found that only about 2.6 percent of Florida welfare applicants failed the drug test during the four months the law was in effect, almost half for marijuana use.

"We chose not to appeal this case," said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz in an email. "The governor is continuing to protect Florida children any way he can and create an environment where families can get jobs so they are able to pursue their dreams in safe communities."

Another of Scott's drug-testing priorities, an executive order requiring random drug tests for thousands of state workers, was also struck down by a Miami federal judge. The 11th Circuit, however, reversed part of that ruling, concluding that some categories of workers in sensitive jobs could be subjected to such tests.

State officials and a union representing many of them are currently working toward agreement on those categories, which would again go before a federal judge.

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