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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Politicking: Florida's Welfare Screening Kicks In, Gov. Scott Underestimates Applicants

A controversial law requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screening has gone into effect in Florida. Saying it is "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation in June.

"It's the right thing for taxpayers," Scott said after signing the measure. "It's the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don't want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs."

Under the law, which went into effect on Friday, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services will be required to conduct the drug tests on adults applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The aid recipients would be responsible for the cost of the screening, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify.Those who fail the required drug testing may designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.

Shortly after the bill was signed, five Democrats from the state's congressional delegation issued a joint statement attacking the legislation, one calling it "downright unconstitutional."

And the ACLU has filed suit against the state for requiring all state workers to take a drug test and is considering suing the state for drug-testing welfare applicants.

Controversy over the measure was heightened by Scott's past association with a company he co-founded that operates walk-in urgent care clinics in Florida and counts drug screening among the services it provides.In April, Scott, who had transferred his ownership interest in Solantic Corp. to a trust in his wife's name, said the company would not contract for state business, according to local media reports. He subsequently sold his majority stake in the company, local media reported.

On May 18, the Florida Ethics Commission ruled that two conflict-of-interest complaints against Scott were legally insufficient to warrant investigation, and adopted an opinion that no "prohibited conflict of interest" existed.Florida is not the first state to pass such legislation. Michigan passed a similar law that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found unconstitutional in 2003 since it violated the U.S. Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search.

The court said the law would set a dangerous precedent by allowing the government to conduct drug searches for the safety of the public without prior suspicion.
C'mon Florida! I guess I understand the reason behind the policy change but don't you have attorneys who can come up with a better way to reach your goal? I know people will have to choose between puffin on Mary Jane and getting their TANF benefits but from the looks of things its only a 1 time test. Sadly, I don't see this serving as much of a deterrent. Unless the drug tests will be random, it won't actually serve any real purpose except to make people go through an extra step. People will go through that step and then go back to using drugs after they are approved. 

I don't think Gov. Scott understands how serious people are about collecting their benefits. This applies to both recipients and new applicants. Let's be clear: People SELL their foodstamps to get cash. There are people who get as much as $800/month in TANF benefits and they sell 1/2 or all of them for cash. Governor Scott is underestimating these people. Granted, every welfare recipient is not like this but enough of them are to warrant mentioning. I'm not looking down or them or anything, just sharing what I know. There are people who do not have a job and have 0 work experience but they have learned how to work the welfare system.  As a matter of fact, they have a job and that job is a professional welfare recipient. Through government assistance programs they are living carefree with all of their bills paid. To put it bluntly, they sit on their all day and collect checks while the rest of us go out and earn a living. Now I know there are people who genuinely need government assistance, I am not speaking about those folks.  I am criticizing the  people that are able bodied citizens who choose not to work in favor of collecting their benefits.  I don't think a drug test is going to affect the professional welfare recipients but it may save the state a few dollars when dealing with amateur welfare applicants. In my opinion, if it is not ruled unconstitutional, it will simply force drug users to stop using for a while when they know its almost time for them to be tested. Just my thoughts...

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