Drug Testing Welfare Recipients in Florida, Fair or Not? Pros and Cons (Updated 10-9-2013)
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO FOLLOW MY HUBS, especially the political ones, I hope that you have come away with a pretty good idea of my Progressive credentials and principled but nevertheless pragmatic view toward social and political issues. I think I have expressed what I think about gun control, for it; hunting, against it; helping the poor, for it; and Obama Care, for it. What about this issue; requiring people who receive public benefits to get and pass a drug test before qualifying for the benefits. I am "all-in" for it.
And it is not because I own an alcohol and drug testing company ... with an office in Florida, lol. I really do think this is the right thing to do.
The Florida Law
THIS new law is fairly simple and straight-forward; it is a version of a similar law which was struck down by a federal court in Michigan in 2003 and requires recipients to pay for the tests before qualifying for benefits and periodically after they receive them. Beginning July 1, if you fail a drug test, you will be denied benefits for a year. If you fail it a second time you would have to wait three years before you can apply again.
In two-parent households, both adults would be tested. If there are children, benefits could be awarded to a third-party recipient, who must also be drug tested. The law will not affect the federal food stamp program. If the recipient passes the test, they get their money back. While Florida officials estimate the cost of test to be $10.00, they are probably smoking the same stuff the law wants to test for; you can get the collection done for $10 by someone who probably doesn't know what they are doing, but you still have to pay for the laboratory cost and medical review officer costs, total collection costs probably run between $37 to $65 for a legitimate collection that passes Federal Department of Transportation muster and audit.
UPDATE-2/10/2013: As expected, the law was challenged in federal court by the ACLU and, as a result, a stay was issued about a year ago; it is still in effect. Gov. RIck Scott appealed that temporary injunction and oral arguments were heard Nov 11, 2012; a ruling is expected soon.
In addition, Florida passed a ;aw in 2012 allowing the drug testing law of it state workers, that also was challenged by the ACLU where a stay was also issued. Oral arguments are expected March 11, 2013.
I recently learned that the private Jesuit Prep high school in Missouri will start drug testing all of its students using hair testing. Currently, drug testing the general population of high school students hasn't been tested, but testing those trying out for extra-curricular activities has been found Constitutional; it was noted then that minors "rights to privacy" are less than those of an adults. However, the Santa Clarita Valley school district in California is trying out a new program called CADRE, Comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Reduction and Education. Here, parents voluntarily enroll their children in a high school or middle school-run drug testing program. This has not been tested in court yet, but I suspect it has legs.
The Pros and the Cons
THERE is very little I like about Governor Rick Scott, the Tea Party poster child of the State of Florida who won the governorship in 2010. His political positions on most everything make me shudder and wonder how he got elected. I am pretty certain he is going to be a one-term Governer. Having said all of that, I strongly believe he is right on this issue.
Examples of the PROs being bandied about in the news media, some of which I buy, some of which I don't., are:
Governor Scott - " ... it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction. This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars." "Republicans said the measure was needed because if taxpayers are screened at their place of employment, so should welfare recipients." "is that drug tests will root out welfare recipients who are using public dollars to buy drugs." Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said the law could have several benefits, including forcing addicts to confront their problem. It would also serve taxpayers.“If it separates an addict from public assistance then it’s a benefit to everybody, including the children of the addict, the thought of us giving tax dollars to someone who has a substance abuse problem is absurd.
Examples of some CONs are:
American Civil Liberties Union and Others - "The bill is an invasion privacy."
Howard Simon, executive Director of the ACLU of Florida - "The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse, searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound policy. Today, that unsound policy is Florida law."
During debate about the law, critics pointed to a pilot testing program in Florida that was shut down in 2001 after it showed no significant difference in drug use between welfare recipients and the population at large.
State Rep. Gwen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, said "the new law could hurt families by delaying welfare money they rely upon". She noted," a potential welfare recipient, lacking cash, must pay for their own drug test. How are you going to have money for that?”
The only argument on the CON side I find somewhat compelling is the last one. $40 can be a lot of money to those who legitimately don't have much at all, drugs or no drugs; of course, I care about the ones that don't have drugs. I know for a fact that negative drug results can be turned around in less than 72 hours, it happens most of the time for my clients. It doesn't have to be any different here. However, the State is putting this out for competitive bid rather than let the recipients find their own facility, which will probably leave mu company out in the cold, I do know this, the kind of companies, and the one that Governor Scott, Solantic, has in trust while he is Governor, that will probably will be bidding for this work are not known for their quick turnaround. Couple that with whatever program the State puts in place to refund the money and the recipient may be waiting a while. HavingI said that though, it is not enough to sway me.
The rest of the CONs are hogwash, in my opinion. Drug testing is ubiquitous, inside of government and outside; how can it be an invasion of privacy any more?? It started back in 1988 when the Federal Department of Transportation, after being granted the authority by Congress, adopted regulations to subject people employed in "safety-sensitive" positions in the transportation industry. That is a lot of people who lost their "right to privacy" in one fell swoop. I believe the latest group, at least that I remember without researching it, are high school students who want to join extracurricular activities sponsored by their school. The Supreme Court found in the school districts favor to allow drug testing the students. Public and Private employers all over the country require pre-employment drug tests and many private companies require random drug tests in the States that allow them and sometimes Unit Sweeps, when we come in and test the whole company. I simply cannot see how a right to privacy issue can be raised unless a specific person is being targeted. It just doesn't pass the reasonableness test.
One of the CONs is that a trial run many years ago in Florida showed that drug use in the welfare population is no different than in the general population. While that surprised the heck out of me (I hate being biased and that relieves me of being burdened by one more stereotype), I am pleased to know that. However, I still have to say, big Whoopee! What difference does it make. The point of any drug test is to reduce drug use ... period. In 1988, the use of drugs in the transportation industry probably wasn't any higher than in the general population, except for maybe amphetamines, but there I go with the stereotyping again; in any case, that didn't stop DOT from implementing its regulations and with good effect, I might add. (I might write a Hub on that.)
There is nothing humiliating about a drug test today at all; saying that is simple hyperbole and Mr. Simon knows it. Drug tests are done by the hundreds of thousands a day, it seems. My company alone does about 100,000 collections a year and we are a small, but very good, company in the drug collection industry. Further, drug testing is definitely a scientifically robust policy; it has been for decades. The science behind the laboratory analysis is rock solid.
% Who Used in Last 30 Days
Native American/Alaskan Native
Two or Races
INDUSTRY (combined 2002-2004)
% WHO USED IN LAST 30 DAYS
Hotel and Food Service
Arts, Entertainment, Recreation
Management, Admin, Remediation
Professional, Scientific, Technical
Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting
My Take on Why It Drug Testing is a Good Idea
DRUG USE IN AMERICA IS UBIQUITOUS! It is everywhere in our colleges, it infects our high and middle, or as I know them junior high, schools, and even touches our elementary schools. DOT requires drug testing in the transportation industry because of the threat that drug use was found to pose there. For the same reason, private businesses, including mine, require drug tests; We prevented one cocaine user from joining our ranks this way because of our testing and, as you would think, it is pretty important for a drug collection company not to employ users.
Government surveys estimate 8.3% of Americans over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs of one sort or another in the last 30 days; that is over 20 million people! Further:
- Of full-time employees, 8.3%use illicit drugs
- Of part-time employees, 9.4%use illicit drugs
- Of unemployed persons, 18.5% use illicit drugs
You also might find the two tables to right interesting and maybe a bit surprising, they were for me as they deflated a couple of stereotypes, such as the how close the rates of drug use of whites and blacks are to each other. I was pleased to see the rates in the Transportation industry down to 6.5% after being up to 11.5% in 1988 just before the implementation of mandatory drug testing.
A final piece of information I would like to present before getting into my reasoning is from a November 1999 discussion paper called "Current and Former Welfare Recipients: How Do They Differ?" by Pamela J. Loprest and Sheila R. Zedlewski of the Urban Institute. THey report that of current welfare recipients 21% are employed and the other 79% are in some stage of unemployment. such as in school or looking for work.
Putting Some Things Together
FIRST, let me state categorically that drug testing will deter drug use! All you have to do is look at the results from when the Department of Transportation implemented an industry-wide program of random drug testing; it effective cut drug use rate almost in half, from 11.5% in 1988 down to 6.2% in 2004!! Very impressive. One of our railroad clients decided to increase the random testing rates for alcohol from 50% (DOT requires only 10%) to 100% and three months later, their positive alcohol rate dropped to zero. We know it won't stay there but it will be nice while it lasts.
Next, let me point out that other data I read supports what the Florida pilot program found in that drug use among the welfare population is roughly the same as it is amongst the general population. In other words, drug use in the demographics I presented in the last section doesn't change whether you are looking at a population of people on welfare or of people not on welfare. Why that is used as an reason not to test, I don't know. The reasoning for using this line of reasoning is flawed, don't you see. It makes one huge assumption that simply is not true; the demographic make-up of the welfare population and the general population are the same ... they definitely are not.
I will focus on only one difference, the percentage of unemployed. In the general population, depending on how you measure it, it runs between 9% and around 20% today. In the welfare population, it runs around 89%; quite a difference! That is very significant because drug use amongst the unemployed at 18.5% is double that of drug use amongst the employed. I don't care how the Democrats want to cut it, and I consider myself firmly in their camp right now, drug use is endemic among those on welfare; that is one of the few things the Tea Party and Conservative have right and it must be reduced before it totally corrupts our society.
There are only three fundamental arguments the Progressives and Liberals make against instituting this program: 1) it violates a persons right to privacy, 2) it is ineffective, and 3) it will harm the children. I have already discussed each earlier but to summarize. When it comes to receiving benefits, public safety, workplace safety, private or public sponsored activities, and the like, a persons right to privacy is not inviolate. The Right to Privacy only becomes inviolate when government attempts to impose such a requirement on each and every American without some nexus to an external reason. Drug test has been proven effective time and time again, that is why I am in business and doing very well, thank you. Safeguards, as is the case with this Florida law, can be built in to protect the children.
To my way of thinking, for Democrats to pick this issue to fall on their sword over for the sake of principal is like the Conservatives falling on their sword over protecting millionaires and billionaires from tax increases; it is based on faulty logic, a misreading of the Constitution, and a dearth of pragmatism.
Putting this drug testing program into place is not only the right thing to do, it is the humane thing to do! Just think of all the lives that will be made better because of it as the rate of drug use drops and drop it will, I would bet the bank on it.
In closing, let me take this flight of fancy. Suppose each State made it a requirement to get a drug test to get a drivers license, a hair test so you can look back in time, and every time the license comes up for renewal. Do you think that would result in a significant drop in drug usage in America? I think it would. If it did, then there would be a drop in demand for drugs in general which would slow down the supply of drugs and reduce the demand at the source. Drug dealers would start going out ot business or kill themselves off fighting for the remaining business. Now, what if all States finally decided to do the right thing and start a random drug testing program at each high school and junior high? I suspect that would pass muster in the Supreme Court; drug testing students for extra-curricular activities already has. Can you just imagine the turmoil that would result up and down the drug supply chain; brings a grin to my lips.
Drug testing works folks, let's take advantage of it!!
Your Thoughts on Drug Testing Welfare Benefit Recipients
Do you think it is a good idea and legal to drug test recipients of welfare benefits?
DEMOGRAPHIC Q #1
Do you consider yourself more closely aligned with the:
DEMOGRAPHIC Q #2
Are you a;
UPDATED 12/8/2011: I RECENTLY HEARD that a Florida judge suspended the drug testing program. I will research and bring more info shortly. I was wondering why I wasn't getting any more people into my office.
UPDATED 3/20/2012: Governor Scott signed into law on March 19, 2012, a requirement that state agencies randomly test up to 10 percent of their workers once every three months. This is similar to an executive order he signed last year but, according a Politfact report, backed away from, except for prison guards, pending the outcome of a suit that the ACLU and government workers union filed. The ACLU says they plan to file suit regarding this law as well.
UPDATED 5/1/2012: My poll currently has 76 votes, the best of all of my polls to-date, which allows me to say something statistically meaningful about the results. The standard measure for these types of "horse race" polls is a Confidence Interval or "Margin of Error" (at the 95% level of confidence). The question, then, is this, "Can I say, after just 76 votes, that 72% in favor of drug testing welfare recipients is statistically bigger than the 22% who don't believe we should?" Looking at the numbers, that would seem like a silly question, but, with only 76 votes, it isn't so silly. Even if the percentages had been 57% in favor and 37,% against, a whopping 20-point difference, I couldn't tell you with a 95% level of confidence, that total population results wouldn't end up being 50/50. However, with the 72/22-split we do have at the moment, my margin of error is plus or minus 19%, meaning the percentage in favor could be as low as 51% and the percentage opposed could be as high as 41%. Clearly, those in Hubland, who like to vote in these polls, favor drug testing welfare recipients.
Just to give full disclosure, however, this poll is not a properly selected random sample where I can be pretty certain of a normal distribution. My sample is from a population who likes to vote in these polls and I don't really know for sure if it is biased in one direction or another. I do know, nevertheless, that as my sample size increases, it tends to matter less unless there is a major bias at work, and I doubt that there is.
UPDATED 2/26/2013: The unanimous decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down Gov. Scott's appeal of a 2011 decision by an Orlando district court to enjoin the Florida's drug testing law for recipients of state welfare on the grounds that it violates the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Appeals Court ruling also applies to a nearly identical bill signed last year by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. This decision cuts to the heart of a Republican-led efforts to conflate poverty and unemployment with drug abuse and sends a message to other states that the suspicionless testing laws will not stand. It is unknown at this time of Florida will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
UPDATED 5/23/2013: The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt Gov. Scott's attempt to randomly drug test all state employees a fatal blow. Florida had appealed last year's ruling by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro who tossed out Scott's executive order, saying random drug tests of the state's 85,000 state workers violated the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches. The problem is, the judges order included ALL state employees, e.g., police, firemen, etc. The Appeals Court took exception to that part and sent the case to Judge Ungaro to reconsider the broad sweep the ruling. Florida may appeal this further.
UPDATED 6/21/2013: It has been suggested in some of the comments that drug testing, if applied to this cohort of people, then everybody should be drug tested. Today I heard a Democratic Representative, not sure who or what state he represented, talking about the Farm Bill that failed to pass the previous night. One of the three reasons it didn't get enough Democratic support to overcome the Tea Party refusal to go along with the bill is that Speaker Boehner, in order to get Right-wing support, allowed an amendment to be included which required drug testing Food Stamp recipients and other individuals helped normally helped by this bill. The Representative made the point that if they are going to test these people receiving government assistance, then so should those receiving Corporate Welfare in the form of subsidies, direct and indirect, as well as tax breaks. Makes sense to me.
UPDATED 10/8/2013: Heard on the Michael Smerconish program on Sirius/XM POTUS radio this morning: A business owner calling in from upstate NY has a microchip manufacturing plant with $20/hr, entry-level, HS-diploma only required jobs to fill ... and he can't. The only detractor from the job is the hours aren't standard hours but all the employees would have to do is monitor the health of clean room equipment to make sure the manufacturing environment was staying clean. Why can't he get employees? The the lack of a diploma, the hours, and/or they can't pass a standard 5-panel pre-employment drug test. $20/hr! go figure.
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