Bills Would OK Random Drug Tests for State Workers

For the second year in a row, state lawmakers are treading on questionable ground by voting to test state workers for drugs.

The House Friday approved random drug testing for state employees. A similar bill has passed the Senate.

The legislation would allow 10 percent of the state’s workforce to be randomly drug tested four times a year.That’s fifty thousand tests each year.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo of Miami says it will make the workplace safer.

“I think it improves the quality of life of public employees,” he said.

But Rep. Rick Kriseman of St Petersburg says initial evidence has found few positive tests.

“The Department of Transportation, with more than six thousand employees, only had two positive tests of over five hundred that were done,” he said.

The idea unleashed a triad of opposition from many, including Rep. Perry Thurston of Ft. Lauderdale.

“You don’t want to do it to the governor, you don’t want to do it to us," he said. "I tell you, what you are doing, you’re being bullies.”

Thurston referred to an unsuccessful attempt to amend the bill to include the legislature and the executive branch. It failed after lawmakers argued they could already be required under their rules to submit to random drug tests, although no such tests have ever been ordered.

Rep. Irv Slosberg of Palm Beach doesn’t want to do it either.

“It’s all about forgiveness," he said. "People make mistakes in life and we have to forgive them, and we have to try and work with them.”

Last year's legislation ordering drug testing for welfare recipients has been put on hold. That law made Florida a national joke on a comedy news show.

Lawmakers like Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood say they don’t care.

“It is our job to make good public policy that we think benefits all Floridians, and that’s what this is,” he said.

And Ronald Bilbao, the ACLU legislative coordinator, says there is little doubt that if the random tests are signed into law, it’ll go straight to court.

“Random, suspicion-less drug testing, absent a safety sensitive position, by the government, is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment,” he said.

While ordering the tests, lawmakers gave agencies no cash, forcing them to cut elsewhere to carry out the law.

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