Rick Scott’s drug testing of state employees reaches Supreme Court

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Three years have passed since Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order calling for the drug testing of all state employees.

Now the controversial movement has made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the SCOTUS online docket, justices will privately discuss on Friday whether to take up a petition by Scott, filed in response to a lower court ruling that the idea was too broadly drawn, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, challenged the governor’s drug-testing policy, arguing that it violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.

Last year, the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mandatory drug tests for Florida’s 85,000 state employees is unconstitutional, and remanded the case to the district court. Scott filed the appeal in January.

Saunders writes that Attorneys general in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas each filed a brief supporting Scott’s legal argument.

In the January petition, the governor’s attorneys maintained that appeals courts are “deeply divided” about issues in the case, and the SCOTUS have not yet resolved the matter.

“The constitutionality of Florida’s drug testing policy is not only unsettled — it is an important issue the court should decide now,” according to the petition and supporting documents in the case, which Saunders says is posted online at the SCOTUSblog website. “The Eleventh Circuit has intruded upon Florida’s sovereign right to ensure the general welfare of its citizens and regulate its workforce.”

Attorneys representing the state-employees union countered that governments must show a specific need to conduct drug tests without suspicion, such for workers whose jobs present safety risks. The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case to a Miami district court for an analysis which of job categories are eligible.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.