Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

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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  1. katy hansonMay 10, 2011 at 5:29 amReply

    This is NOT about the “poor” this is about the non working leeches that have for far to long been privy to what every working American has to work for…I agree with drug testing for welfare check casher…why not? I have to pass one to work…why should money I provide to folks through my taxes not be subject to the same?

    I’m sick and tired of regular folks being dumped on by people who don’t know what they are talking about…this is a long time coming…If you want anything in life you WORK for it…working does more than provide the basic needs…it provides a sense of PRIDE, accomplishment and self worth.

    On a more basic note, do people not realize that the working class people are tired of hand outs for the folks that could be out working for themselves…You (as an American) must want to better yourself…go out and get not wait on somebody to hand it to you…

    • Brett WilkinsMay 10, 2011 at 10:23 amReplyAuthor

      “I have to pass one to work”… good point. You shouldn’t have to. We’re supposed to be the “freest” country in the world, yet we allow drug testing, an extreme invasion of privacy. They don’t do that in Britain or other democracies.
      There is nothing wrong whatsoever about anything you have written. But don’t you find it a bit odd that Florida’s governor, who champions drug testing for welfare recipients, has a $62,000,000 stake (in his wife’s name) in the company that does drug testing? Don’t you believe the statistics that prove welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than you or I?
      What about people who are too sick to work because they have debilitating diseases that they remedy by using medical marijuana, either legally in other states or illegally in Florida to ease their pain? Ironically, the medical marijuana may make them well enough to start looking for a job again, only to be cut from their welfare because they failed a drug test due to medicine?
      Instead of demonizing the poor, we ought to be addressing the circumstances that lead to poverty. For example, the average CEO “earns” $9 million while the average worker busts his ass and pulls in a paltry $40,500. The CEO of Viacom made $84.5 million last year, 2,086 times the average worker salary! Are you going to tell me that CEO worked harder than the gal cleaning the toilets? Most CEOs make so much because they run their companies efficiently– read ruthlessly– and are constantly downsizing and firing those working class people that you and I care so much about.
      You do seem to be very pro-working class. Strange, because where I live, no working class person I know would ever support drug testing welfare recipients, especially since testing targets people who don’t use drugs any more than anyone else. I know plenty of working class people that do enjoy the occasional recreational drug. But let me tell you this– I know many, many more white collar workers from the most esteemed professions– doctors and lawyers ESPECIALLY– who use marijuana, ecstasy, ketamine, acid and especially cocaine (it’s too expensive for blue-collar folks to afford, after all), and most of them will never be drug tested. Drug test lawyers and you’ll have a lawyer shortage, I promise you that!
      Drug testing welfare recipients is patently discriminatory. It would be like testing Muslim-Americans for terrorism or testing gay Americans for pedophilia– totally based on stereotypes and fearful ignorance. Florida’s move is patently discriminatory.

      • Vince CocksMay 11, 2011 at 4:56 amReply

        When drug testing for welfare recipients was made a campaign point by Rick Scott, it gave the illusion of testing for all recipients.

        The fact is that only a small subset, those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, will be tested.

        Simply stated, this group is an easy target. They consist of mostly young mothers and fathers.

        The state would not tackle recipients of EBT, formerly known as food stamps because of its immensity, as well as diverse group of recipients. The elderly and the disabled are among the recipients. This state is not so evil,(or is it?), to drag grandma out of her subsidized housing to get drug tested.

        Testing our neediest citizens is not only wrong, but morally reprehensible.

        What is worse is that a morally bankrupt GOP legislature picks on the easiest target,(TANF recipients), to prove a misguided point. In 1999, 2000, and 2001 our state, under the leadership of Jeb Bush, did a pilot program testing 8,800 welfare recipients for drugs. Guess what? Only 3.6% failed. That is 335 sad souls who need help with their problem, not ostracization.

        If you are gonna do something bad, don’t be a bunch of wussies about it. Do it to everyone

    • JenniferJune 12, 2011 at 2:06 pmReply

      “leeches” I would love to know who you are referring to. Not every person on assistance chooses to be there. We are mothers, seniors, and the disabled. And tell me what great jobs are out there? There are people with degrees that can’t find a job in Florida. I am a mother that was beaten by her husband. I did the right thing for my children( I have two)and sent their father to prison. Which left me with no income. We owned a small business until the economy collapsed. We are not all leeches as you call us. My God given responsibility is to raise my children. Do you even take the time to know what you are talking about? You know nothing about us leeches. And I guess I could put my children in some daycare and pray nothing happens to them. But wait, I couldn’t afford it anyway. Summer camp is $230.00 a week for my kids. There are programs to help with the cost of daycare.All I have to do is get this dream job that pays enough to pay the daycare while I wait on a waiting list to get a discounted rate. It’s an impossible situation. Or I could leave my 10 year olds at home and hope to not become like Somer Thompson’s mom. I will be one who the state will reimburse the cost.

      • MichelleAugust 26, 2011 at 10:59 amReply

        Uh, let’s see, I am a widow and have been twice. First time when I was 16 years old, and I was pregnant. Second time, I was widowed, I was left two daughters to feed and support by myself. I went down to the local welfare office and was DENIED both times. Why was I denied ? Because I knew who the father of my children were.
        So I had to RAISE them WITHOUT WELFARE ASSISTANCE. I managed to do it. I was a factory worker. I made $6 per hour.
        Plus , had to pay the funeral bill.
        You know , it can be done living without welfare.

    • LuisSeptember 2, 2011 at 9:18 pmReply

      What does this drug policy actually do. Here is the answer. I speak for my people and my fellow brothers and sisters. Black, White, Korean, Spanish, etc……

      It effectively marginalizes the poor and criminalizes poverty.

      It perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces myths.

      It degrades and demeans and shames.

      It lends support to notions linking poverty with immoral behavior.

      It endorses the views of those who say, with the lieutenant governor of South Carolina, that the provision of financial assistance to the poor is equivalent to feeding stray animals because it only encourages breeding.

      The poor are not stray dogs.

      • HmmmFebruary 12, 2012 at 2:55 pmReply

        If the numbers of people fail the test are lower, shouldn’t that be a good thing? It would kinda eliminate the stereotypes.

        • Brett WilkinsFebruary 12, 2012 at 2:59 pmReplyAuthor

          Absolutely. Then again, as some of my conservative buddies point out, some guilty folks will just avoid the testing and forfeit their benefits if they know they’ll test positive, so the 2% number I cited in the other post you commented on could actually be a bit higher.

  2. CharonMay 19, 2011 at 9:06 pmReply

    What I fail to understand is that, if people get public assistance, how are they gonna come up with the 35 dollars to pay for a drug test? All I can say is wow!!! What a government!!!!!!

    • MichelleAugust 26, 2011 at 11:00 amReply

      They can take it out of their welfare check , that’s where it comes from.

      • humanDecember 14, 2011 at 12:22 pmReply

        encase you are oblivious to the issue at hand: Assistance recipients cannot afford $35 for drug testing. You mustn’t understand what it feels like to NEED $35 like it’s a make or break situation.

  3. Patti WarrenMay 31, 2011 at 3:35 pmReply

    I am no longer afraid, or embarassed to say that I am ashamed of being an American citizen. Shame on us, shame on MY “so called government” ever since slick Willy Clinton was in office. We are the laughing stock of the rest of the educated world. We are slowly going toward a “feudal system”, with little to no middle class. SHAME on Florida and the USA. Shame on the great majority of our government officials for NOT taking a belt-tightening decrease in pay and benefits, before asking (no, telling us) to do without. Shame Shame Shame. What idiots we are.

    • BetsyJuly 21, 2011 at 11:34 amReply

      If you are ashamed to be an american then get the hell out of america…go live in another country and see how much you miss being here.

      • Brett WilkinsJuly 21, 2011 at 12:08 pmReplyAuthor

        What an eloquently thoughtful comment. Is running away the American way? Or is trying to raise awareness of problems and bring about solutions? If you went to the doctor and she told you that you’re seriously ill and need to take a certain course of action in order to live, do you follow the doctor’s advice? Or do you label her as “anti-Betsy” and tell her to fuck off to some other profession? You would do well to stop spouting reflexive and mindless ‘love-it-or-leave-it-isms’ and do something constructive to stop your beloved America from going down the drain. And by the way, I have lived in several other countries and do miss being in the States when I am gone. But I don’t miss the racism, the imperialism, the classism, the homophobia, the islamophobia, the inequality, the intolerance, the insularity and most of all, the ignorance (as so perfectly exhibited by your inane commentary). Thanks for reading!

  4. Jealous503June 6, 2011 at 9:09 pmReply

    This is brilliant. I wish they would vote this into law in Oregon. Smartest thing the government has ever done.

    • BetsyJuly 21, 2011 at 11:34 amReply

      Totally agreed

  5. crystalAugust 17, 2011 at 7:08 pmReply

    im sorry but im for this law. i think that if to work i have to pass a drug test then to get govt assistance you should have to as well. I have nothing NOTHING against people who are working and trying to help their family. people who have lost their jobs in this crappy economy need help as well. its the people out there spending what money they do have on horrible drugs then taking advantage of our govt assistance are just doing to much harm! we have to pay for them to shoot up?? i dont think so! i have no problem helping support people who are having a hard time right now but not the people who are just getting this money so they can stay off of work and hang out. i see it to much here where i live. sorry ass mothers who wont work so they get every kind of assistance there is and fathers who wont take care of their kids its pathetic. if i have to pass a drug test to work they aught to have to pass one for free assistance. just my opinion and maybe if i didnt see so many people taking advantage i wouldnt get so worked up

    • MichelleAugust 26, 2011 at 11:09 amReply

      I am also for this law ! I only wish that they would make leaches in North Carolina do the same thing. I knew a woman who had an illegitimate kid and used to get welfare help all the time. The daddy of the kid lived right there in the house with her, and she was always going down to the welfare office, boo-hooing and whining that she could not live off of $10 per hour { I only made $9 per hour and I had 3 children and I am widowed } but she could get all kinds of help because she would say ” I don’t know where my kid’s daddy is, and I can’t make it on my own !” yeah well , where was the kid’s daddy at when she was doing this ? I will tell you. He was at home sitting there all doped up and they used the money to buy the dope from the welfare money. That’s where !
      Yep, it’s time that we put a stop to the leaches that are destroying this country and mooching off the system. now there are a few people out there that need help and they deserve it. But this crap of rewarding women for getting pregnant out of wedlock just so they can get a big, fat welfare check needs to stop ! Hat’s off to Florida.

  6. HypatiaAugust 17, 2011 at 9:46 pmReply

    Who doesn’t use drugs now and then? Our world history is rich with drug use. It is just another way for those hypocrites who call themselves politicians to make a buck. Haven’t any of you gotten the big picture yet? The lawmakers like to create laws to make you buy things or act in ways most cannot live with. They try to govern our bodies and make it a crime or expense to have any freedoms. The rich have no need to worry. They can afford more freedoms. They can buy groceries and get high. This isn’t about saving money for tax payers. I promise this law will cost you money to be in effect. It’s about moving money from the public system into the private. Slowly but surely the trend will unfold before your eyes. When you have tapped all of the resources for income you can, it takes a government to have the power to allow you to tap into the governments own public tax wealth. Large corps own the military, own the fed reserve, own water rights, own school systems, railways, food supply….etc. Why not find a way to exploit it all? We are all footing the bill, right? Oh wait, tax cuts for the rich far outshine our own. This isn’t about drug testing to save public resources, it is about plundering. I find it sick that anyone can argue for this. “Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%. ” compared to “According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in 1999 an estimated 14.8 million Americans (see the chart) were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used some illicit drug during the month prior to the survey”. Doctors make more drug addicts than recreational users. So only those with prescriptions get to have drugs? How many kids do you know are on pharma speed? That’s ok but if you do something a big corp cannot regulate, it is illegal. The lesson here is if it makes someone money, it will somehow find itself with a supportive law making it a mandate for the public to participate in. We fund them all somehow some way. Don’t let them just make you think it is drug using people who cannot afford food. Drug users often use because they cannot cope with the pressures of this world. The world that keeps making laws that repress freedom and humanity. It’s a wonder we all are in some form, be it drugs, food, shopping, whatever – addicts of the age.

    • Brett WilkinsAugust 17, 2011 at 9:49 pmReplyAuthor

      Too right!

  7. Uh HuhAugust 18, 2011 at 1:49 pmReply

    So… Where will these drug users on welfare get their money from after you kick them off benefits? From robbing you say? Oh well, at least they’ll be able to get back on the drugs when they get to prison. Then you’ll REALLY be paying for their upkeep. As you Americans might say – ‘Think much?’

    • MichelleAugust 26, 2011 at 11:11 amReply

      They come to my door trying to rob and it will be the last time they do. They will get shot, and their miserable bodies will be buried in the mountains. Never to be seen or heard of again.

  8. sick of crooked politiciansSeptember 4, 2011 at 4:45 pmReply

    I just want to give up. The American Dream is dead and everyone knows that. 2 people a night commit suicide in my neighborhood and it is considered to be an upscale one. I am disabled. If they drug test me,I don’t smoke weed, but I take prescription pills from the doctor with my name on it. I guess that drug use is OK. I might just move to California so I can smoke out and then when the government goes broke completely and I can’t pay my rent anymore I will just head for the mountains and pull the plug.

  9. dusteeDecember 18, 2011 at 9:27 pmReply

    Get the losers off welfare…..head for disability recipients next….

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 19, 2011 at 4:55 pmReplyAuthor

      What happens when YOU need welfare?

  10. dusteeDecember 18, 2011 at 9:33 pmReply

    Send them all to another country see if they will let em live for free off of them.

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 19, 2011 at 4:54 pmReplyAuthor

      Actually, in most European Union countries, in all of which people enjoy longer, happier, healthier and wealthier lives than do Americans, everyone is something of a “welfare recipient,” since those enlightened nations all have cradle-to-grave universal health care, subsidized education, housing, food, etc… so yes, they will be able to “live free off of them.”

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