Monday, May 9, 2011

Testing, Testing

Speaking of lawsuits, here’s another example of one waiting to happen here in Florida: requiring welfare recipients to be drug-tested on their own dime.

A measure requiring the tests passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who called it one of his legislative priorities.

“It’s fair to taxpayers,” Scott said after the 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 already signed an executive order requiring random drug testing of state workers.

HB 353 requires all adult recipients of federal cash benefits — the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — to pay for the tests, which are typically around $35. The screen would be for all controlled substances and applicants would have to disclose any legal prescriptions.

Recipients who test positive for drugs would lose their benefits for a year. If they fail a second time, they lose the benefits for three years. Parents who test positive must designate another adult to receive benefits on behalf of their children.

Those who pass would be reimbursed by having their benefits increased by the cost of the test.

“This is an effort to stop this cycle of drug abuse,” said Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, one of the sponsors, who added the requirement was similar to one that many employers make of workers.

The measure provides no money for substance abuse treatment.

Rick Scott promised to create jobs in Florida if he was elected governor. So far, the only people who look like they’re going to be fully employed are lawyers.

As for Mr. Oelrich’s claim that this will break the cycle of drug abuse, that is so breathtakingly stupid and naive that all you can really do is gape in wonder that the person who makes such a claim doesn’t fall down when he walks. For one thing, the reason employers test workers for drugs isn’t to break the cycle of drug abuse; it’s to shield them from liability in case one of their employees does something that could expose them to being sued, like driving a bus into a crowd or accidentally blowing up a factory.

Not only that, anyone who has an addiction problem has already figured out how to game the system and get past a random drug test; to them, it’s just another part of the day. And all this new law will do is provide the illegal drug trade with an incentive to diversify: sell the drugs and also — for a small fee — teach their clients how to beat the rap.