Welfare recipient drug tests being appealed again

Published On: Feb 27 2013 04:17:25 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 27 2013 04:55:16 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Gov. Rick Scott is appealing a federal appeals court ruling against the state's efforts to drug test welfare recipients.

The drug testing was initiated in July 2011 and lasted just more than three months. This marks the second time the courts have told the state it is wrong.

Florida began drug testing parents with young children receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in July 2011. In October, a federal court halted the testing, saying it likely violated a recipient's Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure.

The state appealed. Now a three judge panel has come to the same conclusion.

The case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for a young father.

"People who apply for TANF are just like you and me, and there is nothing about them that justifies suspending the normal protections of the Fourth Amendment," said Maria Kayanan, of the ACLU.

The ink had barely dried on the decision before Scott promised an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Welfare is for the benefit of the child," Scott said. "That money should make sure it goes to the benefit of the child. It shouldn't go to an adult who's using drugs."

A final order has yet to be issued in the case.

So far, four judges have told the governor he doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning.

Juan Simpson is 50 and out of work. He believes if someone has a history of drug use, then testing might be appropriate.

"Person that has never been arrested, never had drug problems or anything, and may need food assistance, I don't think they should be subjected to that," said Simpson, a welfare recipient.

Before the testing was halted, about 2 percent were testing positive. That's far below the 8 percent drug use among the general population.

The judge who made the ruling said the state showed no evidence that applicants who struggle financially and apply for TANF benefits are also more likely to use illegal drugs.

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