Quit wasting money on rulings against Florida law on drug testing welfare applicants

March 2, 2013 

Gov. Rick Scott just won't let go of a failed policy that several courts have now struck down. Mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients sounds like a positive way to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted on illegal substances. In this case, those recipients get funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

But this week, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court's temporary ban because Florida failed to prove the 2011 law serves such a critical need that it should supersede the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches by the government. Scott's reaction? "The court's ruling today is disturbing."

The governor's stubborn position is to double-down on a shaky hand and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Initial state justification for the law hinged on reducing caseloads and welfare costs, but that prediction did not come true. Even before the first ruling against drug testing put the policy on hold in October 2011, only a miniscule number of welfare applicants failed the test, and Florida was left holding the bag on reimbursements for passed drug tests -- paying out more than the cost of benefits for the people who failed.

The governor reiterated the current rationale in railing against the latest ruling: "Drug use by anyone with children looking for a job it totally destructive."

Who could argue against that? But this is a constitutional matter, and Florida appears poised to spend more and more trying to get a hearing before the Supreme Court. It's time to cut the state's losses and discard this doomed policy.

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