Bill Filed to Drug Test Certain Welfare Recipients, But Does it Go Far Enough For Rick Scott?

Categories: Politicks
Among Governor Rick Scott's cavalcade of controversial ideas is a plan to drug test all recipients of welfare in the state. Now Republican legislators have filed a bill to carry out a version of the plan, but it would only require welfare recipients with a felony drug conviction in the past three years to submit to testing. Will that go far enough to meet Scott's political agenda?

HB 353 and SB 556 have been filed, and would require welfare applicants with a prior drug conviction to pay for their own testing.

Reports Politifact:
Applicants for temporary cash assistance who have a felony drug conviction in the previous three years would be required to submit to a drug test as part of the application process. If they pass the test and begin receiving aid, recipients would be subject to additional testing for up to three years.

If a person fails the initial test, they would not be eligible to receive funds for three years. If they fail a test while receiving aid, they would be removed from the program.
The bill, as filed, side steps criticism that such a program would profile all welfare recipients as potential drug users (in fact, there's little difference in rates of drug use between those on welfare and those not) by only applying to drug convicts.

Though, common sense makes us wonder what a drug convict who suddenly finds him or herself without any source of income will do to get their life back in order and just to get by. Perhaps go back to the things that got them that conviction in the first place?

The idea of making low-income people pay for their own drug tests is also worrisome.

Though, this bill would be far less controversial than Scott's plan to drug test all welfare recipients, and it's not clear if he's on board. Scott has said time and time again he wants to drug test all recipients, though it's not clear how all of the tests would be paid for or how the government would account for the fact drug tests are not 100 percent accurate.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, has not talked to Scott about the legislation.

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Andrea Gilbert
Andrea Gilbert

Something that none of this, including the bill language, deals with, is, what is the disposition of the welfare recipients' drug test information? Will their be protections in place to ensure privacy of their files? I presume the information can not be turned over to law enforcement, yes? (or am I wrong about that?), In any case, that doesn't seem to have been addressed.

What is the administrative cost of keeping up the paperwork on this? I like the idea better that only persons with a drug convictions of three years or less would be tested (that probably satisfies ACLU on the 'unwarranted seizure' because the conviction would allow it to be warranted) but I am flatly against having them not be able to apply for another three years! If you just send someone away who is knowingly using drugs to some extent, and cut them off from aid, the chances are high that that person will resort to crime, and will actually end up costing the taxpayers even more money. It's no good for them and it's no good for us - it doesn't solve the problem. If there were some sort of sending them to rehab clause or some other creative option, I might get on board with this version, but as I see it, or at least this much of it as reported, I think it is highly flawed and will be urging my sens. and reps. NOT to vote for it unless reasonable changes are made.


Not to mention the cost of the product used to mask the drug test!

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