Associate Legal Director, ACLU of Florida
There’s trouble in Tallahassee. That’s Tallahassee with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Pee in a cup.”
It’s true — Tallahassee’s gone crazy over drug testing.
While a federal judge in Miami mulls over the constitutionality of Gov. Scott’s 2011 Executive Order subjecting all applicants to and employees of agencies within the Governor’s purview to suspicionless drug testing, both chambers of the Florida Legislature are poised to pass sweeping legislation that actually expands drug testing even more broadly.
The bill “debated” in the Florida Senate today (I use that term loosely, because there was no real debate as the bill was rushed through the committee) would allow all agencies to impose random drug testing of all employees and require all job applicants to state agencies to be tested. The legislature can’t wait until our challenge to the Governor’s order is decided before it goes all-out and requires random testing of all state employees and job applicants.
Why this frenzy over drug testing? Is it something in the water? There’s no evidence of reefer madness in capitol elevators; nobody’s cooking meth in the cafeteria.
One answer may lie in who’s lobbying for the bill. It’s no secret that Gov. Scott has a missionary-like zeal for collecting and examining the urine of poor people and State workers; lawyers from his office have been bending the ears of skeptical legislators, but have shied away from defending their legal analysis at the committee hearings themselves.
The State doesn’t get it: state agencies are not private employers. The U.S. Constitution sets the bounds for what government can legally demand of its employees – not the Governor or the Legislature. And it can’t demand their urine without reasonable suspicion that the employee is using or abusing drugs, or holds a safety-sensitive position. We’re not making that up: it’s the law of the land, as spoken by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Tallahassee doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about the Fourth Amendment; it doesn’t care that taxpayers keeping paying for expensive litigation required only to learn the same civics lesson; and it sure doesn’t care about casting a net of suspicion around the hard-working men and women who do the State’s work.