Before N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis cranks up a campaign to pass mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients, he may want to check out what’s been happening in Florida. As we reported, Tillis recently told a Republican audience that he favors drug testing anyone who gets assistance money from the state. General reaction outside of GOP circles has largely been along the lines of “Are you shitting me, or what?” But back to Florida.
The state known for its wide variety of reptiles elected one of its biggest ones last year as governor. That would be one Rick Scott, a frankly bizarre character who complements his, um, distinctive look with a cultivated air of transparent sliminess. By the way, he’s also the former CEO of a large hospital system that was found guilty of, and fined $1.7 billion for, the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. Last year, Scott tied himself to the Tea Party bandwagon and rode it to the governor’s office, which should tell you something about Tea Party voters. One of Scott's first moves was trying to kill off a medical fraud database — the guy is truly shameless. Another of Scott’s big ideas was to drug test everyone in Florida who applies for welfare. The result has been the startling discovery that people on welfare generally cannot afford drugs. Whoa! Who'd-a thought?! Specifically, more than 7,000 welfare applicants have passed the drug test, while a whopping 32 people have failed.
Now, Scott’s big idea faces more bad news: a federal judge, Mary Scriven, appointed by former President George W. Bush, has temporarily blocked the drug testing law, saying it may violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures: “This potential interception of positive drug tests by law enforcement implicates a ‘far more substantial’ invasion of privacy than in ordinary civil drug testing cases,” ruled Judge Scriven. The judge’s injunction will remain until she schedules a full hearing. Civil liberties lawyers say they are very confident the law will eventually be thrown out. We hope Thom Tillis takes a tip from the judge, and realizes that it’s not exactly a sign of leadership to push for the further humiliation of some of the state’s neediest citizens. Plus, who'd want to be compared to Rick Scott?