Rick Scott's drug-testing talk is unfair, unworkable
Governor-elect Rick Scott comes to Broward on Tuesday for a meeting with our local legislative delegation. A topic I'd like to hear more about is his proposal to drug test all welfare recipients.
It might have made for a good campaign-trail sound bite, but as public policy I think this is a ludicrously bad idea, for a number of reasons.
1) It's unfair. I don't exactly know who Scott is referring to when he talks about welfare recipients. Those on unemployment? Food stamps? People getting Medicaid? People getting Social Security disability? How can the state require and administer drug-testing for those in federal programs?
And more importantly, if you're going to drug-test some people because they're getting taxpayer-money, why not be consistent and test everyone who gets a check from the state government? That includes governors, cabinet members, legislators, judges, prosecutors and all state workers. And how about any company or vendor that gets a state contract?
2) It's unworkable. Even if you want to only drug-test those getting government aid, we're still talking about a lot of people and presumably a big expense. Who's paying for all that drug-testing? And which drug-testing company is getting the contract (hmm, perhaps someone affiliated with Gov. Scott's healthcare companies?)
And how often are these drug tests being performed? Every year? Every six months? Randomly? Are these urine tests, hair tests, blood tests? Which drugs are being tested for, just street drugs or also prescription narcotics? Who checks to see if someone has a valid prescription? Will there be split samples, and what kind of appeals process will there be to guard against false positives?
Again, it seems like it will take a lot of money and a big bureaucracy even to run a limited (and unfair) drug-testing program. Wasn't Scott's platform based on less government intrusion? Or does that only apply to the wealthy and their companies.
3) It might be unconstitutional. Michigan tried to implement drug-testing for welfare recipients, but there was one little hitch. A court found it unconstitutional, saying it amounted to an unreasonable government search. Any drug-testing program here would be sure to trigger a court challenge.
Here's hoping Governor-elect Scott drops this idea like a bad habit.
By Michael Mayo
November 29, 2010 10:02 AM
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