Responding to Republican Governor Rick Scott’s announcement Thursday that he would appeal a federal court ruling striking down as unconstitutional his executive order requiring mandatory drug testing of Florida state employees, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich (D-Weston) and Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tem Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) called on Scott to stop wasting taxpayer money.
“The governor’s cavalier use of taxpayer money to defend clearly unconstitutional policies and laws is unconscionable,” said Senator Rich. “He took an oath to uphold the constitution, not trample it.”
“The governor’s ‘my way or the highway’ attitude might work in the private sector where the Bill of Rights does not apply, but not in government where it most certainly does,” said Sen. Joyner. “If investors want to throw good money after bad to enable a personal crusade by a company’s CEO, that’s their choice. But taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to do likewise.”
Both Senate Democratic leaders applauded the decision by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro earlier in the day which found that blanket drug testing of state employees without cause or whose jobs are unrelated to public safety was a violation of the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. It was the latest setback to the governor and Republican-dominated Legislature involving questionable bills they pushed during the past two legislative sessions and later struck down by the courts.
Last year, for example, Senator Joyner was a staunch critic of Scott’s similar attempt to mandate drug testing of welfare recipients. The law was later temporarily suspended after a federal judge found it unconstitutional.
Refusing to accept the judge’s decision, Governor Scott filed an appeal. And Sen. Joyner faulted both Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi for challenging the judge’s ruling based on wrong data manufactured by one of the governor’s friends and putting taxpayers at risk. Despite his claims that such welfare recipient drug testing would save the state as much as $9 million per year, the latest numbers show that the testing is actually costing Florida tens of thousands of dollars due to the low number of positive tests. The state must reimburse those applicants who do not test positive – about 97% of those tested.
“I hope,” said Senator Rich, “that this latest defeat sounds an alarm bell to the governor and his like-minded Republicans in the legislature. You cannot continue to pass bad legislation and expect it to withstand judicial scrutiny guided by the constitution. And you should not expect taxpayers to continue paying for your unconstitutional mistakes.”