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Gov. Rick Scott

Scott still pushing drug-testing program for welfare recipients

From The News Service of Florida

Arguing there is a "demonstrated problem with drug use" in people receiving public assistance, attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott's administration filed a 72-page brief this week asking a federal appeals court to uphold the constitutionality of a drug-testing program.

The state is seeking to overturn a lower-court ruling that barred drug testing as a condition for welfare applicants receiving benefits in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

In December, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven issued a 30-page ruling that concluded the urine tests would violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government and that "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied."

But the state's brief filed Monday in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta disputes Scriven's conclusions.

"Drug use impedes TANF participants’ ability to secure employment, drug use harms individuals and families, there is a demonstrated problem with drug use among the TANF population, and requiring individualized suspicion would be impractical and counterproductive,'' the brief said. The case stems from a 2011 law that sought to require drug testing for applicants to the assistance program.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and single father. The law was in effect for about three months before being halted by a preliminary injunction, and about 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for drugs during that period.

Opponents have pointed to that number to raise questions about the proof of drug use among applicants. But in the brief this week, the Scott administration said 2,306 additional applicants were otherwise eligible for benefits but did not submit to drug testing.

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