WASHINGTON -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has spent nearly $400,000 in taxpayer dollars defending his various drug testing schemes, the American Civil Liberties Union said this week.
The Florida government started making welfare applicants and state workers pee in cups to prove they weren't on drugs in 2011, only to have both programs quickly halted by federal courts on constitutional grounds. In response to a records request from the Florida ACLU, the Scott administration disclosed it has spent $381,654 appealing the unfavorable rulings.
"Every court that has heard Gov. Scott’s argument that the state has the power to compel people to submit their bodily fluids for government inspection without suspicion of wrongdoing has rejected it as a violation of the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, staff attorney for the ACLU in Florida.
"It’s become a costly and embarrassing boondoggle for Floridians," Agarwal added.
Scott argued that drug testing welfare applicants would save the state money. But in the few months the state screened all those seeking aid under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the rate of positive results was so low the cost of the tests likely outweighed the savings of denied benefits.
Republicans in many other states have also sought to drug test welfare applicants, but following Scott's losses in federal court, they opted for suspicion-based testing programs rather than testing everyone who asks for help. Scott's latest welfare testing appeal is still pending.
A lower court ruled that blanket urinalysis of state workers, meanwhile, violated their constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court declined to hear Scott's appeal of that ruling in April.
Scott spokesman John Tupps defended the testing regime in an email.
"Governor Scott will continue to fight for Florida taxpayers, who deserve a drug-free state workforce, and for Florida’s children, who deserve to live in drug-free homes," Tupps said.