Rick Scott Still Wants to Drug-Test Poor People
At this point, Gov. Rick Scott has turned into your embarrassing uncle who won't stop ranting at dinner about how the government should drug-test everyone, no matter how clearly you explain that such a plan definitely violates the Constitution.
Except in this case, it's the federal court system that keeps telling Scott to back off. And Florida's governor is simply not interested. Weeks after the Supreme Court refused to hear his argument for why all state employees should have to pee in cups, Scott has filed a new brief in appellate court asking to re-argue his right to drug-test all welfare recipients in Florida.
The plan was originally halted by court order in October 2011 while the ACLU challenged it, and the U.S. District Court threw out the rule in December 2013 based on the arguments of a Navy veteran who said it violated his right against unreasonable search and seizure.
Scott is now back in appeals court, with a new brief filed this week in Atlanta that argues that because there is a "demonstrated problem with drug use" among welfare recipients, it should be legal to test.
"Drug use impedes... participants' ability to secure employment, [and] drug use harms individuals and families," Scott's lawyers argue.
There are a couple of glaring problems with that case, of course. The courts need only to look at what happened in the four months that welfare testing was in place in Florida to contradict the governor's arguments.
Scott's welfare drug-testing plan was among his core campaign promises when running for governor. And he kept it -- in July 2011 he signed HB 353, which set up the drug-screening requirements to get state assistance.
The plan was a political and policy disaster from the get-go. It didn't help Scott's image that the firm he'd founded before getting elected, Solantic, makes millions of dollars by drug-testing people and that the state law forced poor Floridians to pay for their own drug tests. (Scott divested his interest in the company but gave most shares to his wife.)
On the policy side, the tests mostly proved that welfare recipients don't do drugs very often. More than 4,000 people were tested while the program was in place, and a grand total of 108 failed. That's less than 3 percent.
To top it all off, the plan landed Scott in an immortal Daily Show sketch in which Aasif Mandvi tried to get the governor to pee in a cup at a news conference: