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Florida's Welfare Drug Testing Law in Limbo

5:09 PM, Nov 7, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The legal wrangling continues over a controversial state law requiring drug testing for welfare recipients. Gov. Rick Scott is appealing a federal judge's decision temporarily blocking the testing.

This year the Florida Legislature passed a law requiring all applicants for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to pay for a drug test to qualify for welfare.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state and a federal judge ruled the drug tests should stop until the case is resolved. The judge said drug testing might violate a person's right against illegal searches.

Gov. Scott calls it absolutely the wrong decision. He accuses the judge of being more concerned about parents who may be using drugs than the children who should benefit from the cash.

"That welfare money is not unemployment money. It is money for the benefit of a needy child and now we're saying, 'Oh no, we're not worried about that needy child. We're more worried about the parent that might use drugs' when that money could've gone to another parent that doesn't use drugs or to a guardian. That is absolutely wrong."

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who has filed a bill to repeal drug testing for welfare, strongly disagrees with the governor. She says the law is having a terrible effect on families.

"I've talked with some folks in the community and we've had an opportunity to look at both sides and once they understand what's going on, then they want to know why are we doing this. That widely held perception that people who are on public assistance are the main users of drugs is incorrect."

The law took effect July 1. More than 7,000 people took the drug test between July and September and only 32 failed, according to the Department of Children and Families.

That translates to about one-half of one percent testing positive.

But DCF reports another 1,600 people who filled out all the paperwork for assistance decided not to go through with the drug test for whatever reason. Supporters of the law believe it is working to turn drug users away from welfare because they're afraid they'll test positive.

Anyone who tests positive loses state payments for one year. Parents who fail the drug test can opt to have state money sent to another person on behalf of their children.

First Coast News

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