TALLAHASSEE -- Floridians must submit urine, blood or hair samples for drug testing before receiving cash benefits from the state under a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday.
“The goal of this is to make sure we don’t waste taxpayers’ money,” Scott said. “And hopefully more people will focus on not using illegal drugs.”
The new law fulfills a campaign pledge from Scott, but has raised legal questions. The ACLU of Florida has signaled it might sue over the law.
“Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals,” said ACLU of Florida director Howard Simon.
The law, which goes into effect on July 1, will mean about 4,400 drug tests per month, according to the Department of Children and Families. Taxpayers will reimburse welfare applicants for negative drug tests, which can cost between $10 and $25.
Positive tests will carry an immediate six-month ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. A second positive test will result in a three-year ban on state assistance.
Other details in the law:
The Department of Children & Families must inform applicants that they can avoid a drug test if they do not apply for benefits.
The state must assure each applicant “a reasonable degree of dignity while producing and submitting a sample.”
Parents who fail drug tests can get benefits for their children by naming a state-approved designee to collect the money. That designee must also pass a drug test.
About 233,000 Floridians applied for cash assistance in 2009-10, including 114,000 families, according to DCF statistics. This month, 93,170 Floridians received cash assistance, a drop of 8.3 percent from a year ago.
Scott on Tuesday also signed a bill banning fake bath salts that could be ingested as drugs. The legislation was pushed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.