U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled on Tuesday that Florida’s 2011 change to its welfare program, which mandates recipients undergo drug testing, violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure and is thus unconstitutional. Of course, Governor Rick Scott vows to appeal the decision.
”Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” Scott said in a statement. “We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families — especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”
Florida is not the only state that has passed such legislation either. Their thought goes that welfare recipients should not receive any benefits if they have used illegal drugs. In the Florida law, all applicants seeking “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” — the “poorest of the poor” — to undergo the urine tests. Applicants had to pay for the tests, which cost about $35, up front and were to have been reimbursed if they did not test positive.
This school of thought has crossed into the Food Stamp fight as well. Republicans in Congress have included provisions that anyone requiring Food Stamps must pass a drug test before receiving the benefits. Seems the Republicans believe that anyone who needs assistance must be drug users. Otherwise, they would “get a job and get off assistance”.
Drug testing has become normal in all aspects of life. When I was in the Coast Guard, we were required to take random drug tests. Private companies all across the country require you to pass a drug test before they will even hire you. In Colorado, a man was fired from his job after he tested positive for marijuana use even though recreational use is legal in Colorado.
It is becoming clear that drug testing affects everyone in society. Whether or not you agree with the policies, they are there and have been for a long time. That is, everywhere except politics!
Republican Rep. Terry Radel was convicted in November of Cocaine possession. He was sentenced to one year probation. Luckily for him, Florida apparently doesn’t have mandatory 10 year sentences for drug possession like many other states. Now, after he attended a rehab session, Mr. Radel is returning to Congress. By the way, Gov. Scott did not call for him to resign his seat after his conviction.
In the past, the Supreme Court ruled that government agencies were only allowed to take urine tests of employees working at dangerous jobs or in jobs where schoolchildren were involved. Of course the private sector can test for drugs even if you are simply going to sell cars, or clothes, or whatever.
Now, the definition of “dangerous jobs or in jobs where schoolchildren were involved” seems a bit ambiguous when it comes to politicians. After all, they are the ones who are supposed to decide if we send our troops into combat. They are the ones who are supposed to decide how much money the Education Department gets. They are the ones who are supposed to help determine the future of our country. Yet, they are not required to pass a drug test. And, when they are caught using drugs, they simply go into a short rehab and then go back to Congress.
Yet, Mr. Radel is in favor of drug testing welfare and food stamp recipients. Before his conviction, he even claimed in an interview that “drug users should be sent to jail”. Well, Mr. Radel, why aren’t you in jail if that is what you believe? I wish I had a dollar for every politician who was convicted of various crimes like corruption, bribery, drug use, etc. I wouldn’t need to rely on my pension, I would be one of the 1% group. Even if it was restricted to only those who kept their office after said convictions!
So, the Republicans are hell-bent to make sure that none of the poorest-of-the-poor receive one single dime of assistance if they fail a drug test. Yet, they are more than willing to accept one of their own back into Congress after he was convicted of drug use. At the very least, maybe the Republicans in Congress should make him serve without pay for the remaining part of his term. If the poor can’t eat if they fail a drug test, why should a Congressman get paid after being convicted of a crime of drug possession? As they say, what is good for the goose….