Florida Senate Passes Bill Requiring Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients
Despite government studies that show welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the general population, the Florida state senate has approved a measure mandating drug testing for the state’s welfare recipients. The bill, HB 353, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Scott, who has repeatedly said it was one of his highest priorities.
Scott’s motives are highly suspect since he co-founded an urgent care chain, Solantic, that just so happens to provide drug testing services. During his 2010 election campaign, Scott’s holdings in Solantic were worth an estimated $62,000,000. According to the Palm Beach Post, the governor divested his interest in the company in January. Well, sort of– he placed the controlling shares in the business in a trust in his wife’s name.
HB 353 requires all adult recipients of federal benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to pay for the $35 tests, which screen for all illegal substances. Test positive and you’ll lose your benefits for a year, fail a second time and you’ll lose them for three years.
The bill provides absolutely zero funding for substance abuse treatment programs.
“This is an effort to stop this cycle of drug abuse,” Senator Steve Orlich (R- Gainesville), a co-sponsor of the bill, told the Bradenton Herald.
“It’s fair to taxpayers,” Scott declared after the senate vote. “They’re paying the bill. And they’re often drug-screened for their jobs. On top of that, it’s good for families. It creates another reason why people will think again before using drugs, which, as you know, is just a significant issue in our state.”
Scott completely ignores the high costs of administering such tests. Florida has 113,340 people on welfare. Each drug test costs $35, and anyone who passes– which will be the vast majority– will be reimbursed by the state at taxpayers’ expense.
Scott is also willfully ignorant of the fact that only 10% of welfare recipients in Michigan, which enacted a similar policy, tested positive for drugs, and only 3% of those people tested positive for hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. Most were marijuana users. According to the ACLU, 70% of all illicit drug users between the ages of 18 and 49 are employed full-time.
But none of this matters to Scott and the knee-jerk reactionaries down in Florida. This bill is just the latest battle in the War Against the Poor being waged by Republicans and their corporate masters, sold to the masses using divide-and-conquer techniques and demonization of the swelling ranks of society’s have-nots.
UPDATE: Since Florida began drug-testing welfare applicants in July 2011, only 2% have tested positive for illegal drugs.
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