Florida and Missouri have passed into law, bills that require recipients of welfare to submit to blood, urine or hair sample tests in order to claim their checks. Thirty-six states have bills pending and many Republican dominated state houses are eager to test those that are “living off the generosity of the real taxpayers.” I’ve been told that as the taxpayers, we are, in effect, their employers and as such, demanding drug tests should be no different than those demanded by many employers in the “real work force.” Or so goes the reasoning for these tests. And so goes thousands of posts and comments on websites by conservative supporters with mini-celebrations announcing the states that have passed these testing requirements: “Two down, 48 to go.” Florida won the race for passing the first Welfare Recipients Pee in a Cup law and then became the first to face a challenge on the constitutionality of it.
These bills are directed strictly at welfare recipients (aka “the poor” or the purportedly poor) and exempt those receiving student loans or individuals employed by the government at the local, state or federal level. They also exempt homeowners who claim a deduction for their mortgage interest, which in all fairness, is welfare. (I enjoy that deduction and would like to think that I’m not using a “welfare” feature but all-in-all, deductions of this kind are a federal and state “gift”–aka “welfare” to help homeowners deflect the costs of home ownership.) Additionally, contractors that bid and receive state contracts that are subsidized for many reasons such as helping minorities or women seeking small business loans are also exempt from peeing in the cup. Corporations, although “people” under Citizens United as well as farmers and Big Oil, who receive subsidies are exempt as well. Basically, only the poor seeking welfare assistance are peeing in cups.
Numerous polls (or at least those posted by the Republican governors in the states with or contemplating said Welfare Peeing Laws) would indicate that taxpayers are “FED UP!” with the lazy, drug addicted, crack dealing, drug smuggling welfare recipients in their states and want an immediate end to this practice and support drug testing. (This is not an endorsement of Rick Perry’s book and while I understand that there is no bill pending in Texas, a group calling itself “The People of Texas” has been circulating a petition to present to Governor Perry upon his return to the state–said petition demanding drug testing of welfare recipients).
Well the day of reckoning has come and Governor Rick Scott has been told to go pee in his own cup. Or words to that effect. According to Mother Jones:
[L]ate Monday night, federal court Judge Mary Scriven put a halt to the tea party Republican’s marquee plan, concluding that “the wholesale, suspicionless drug testing of all applicants” for Florida’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) constituted an unreasonable search in violation of the 4th Amendment.
The article went on to quote Judge Scriven:
“Though the State speaks in generalities about the ‘public health risk, as well as the crime risk, associated with drugs’ being ‘beyond dispute,’ it provides no concrete evidence that those risks are any more present in TANF applicants than in the greater population,” Scriven wrote in her ruling against Florida’s government. “It is not enough to simply recite a governmental interest without any evidence of a concrete threat that would be mitigated through drug testing.”
The suit was filed on behalf of Luis Lebron by the Florida Justice Institute and the state’s ACLU. Mr. Lebron, according to the ACLU website , wasn’t concerned about testing positive, but did not believe he should have to submit to this invasive test when he qualified for the program.
Luis, 35, is a U.S. Navy veteran and a single father who fought to establish paternity of his son. He goes to college full-time and cares for his disabled mother. Recently, his veterans’ benefits ran out; he was living day to day on student loans and grants, teetering on the brink of poverty, so he asked the state of Florida for a helping hand and qualified for food stamps and Medicaid.
Luis also qualified for TANF, but there was a catch.
Under a new Florida law, Luis had to pay for and pass a drug test before he could get TANF. He would have to give a sample of his urine to a lab and acknowledge that the state would share any negative results with Florida’s Child Abuse Hotline. Luis knew he’d test negative because he doesn’t use illegal drugs, but that wasn’t the point: he also knew that he shouldn’t have to submit to an invasive search to prove it.
The USDC opinion, in its entirety, has been made available by the ACLU (PDF).
“One down, 37 to go.”
Edited by Wendy Gittleson