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Bill Filed to Drug Test Certain Welfare Recipients, But Does it Go Far Enough For Rick Scott?

Among Governor Rick Scott's cavalcade of controversial ideas is a plan to drug test all recipients of welfare in the state. Now Republican legislators have filed a bill to carry out a version of the plan, but it would only require welfare recipients with a felony drug conviction in the past three years to submit to testing. Will that go far enough to meet Scott's political agenda?


HB 353 and SB 556 have been filed, and would require welfare applicants with a prior drug conviction to pay for their own testing.

Reports Politifact:

Applicants for temporary cash assistance who have a felony drug conviction in the previous three years would be required to submit to a drug test as part of the application process. If they pass the test and begin receiving aid, recipients would be subject to additional testing for up to three years.

If a person fails the initial test, they would not be eligible to receive funds for three years. If they fail a test while receiving aid, they would be removed from the program.

The bill, as filed, side steps criticism that such a program would profile all welfare recipients as potential drug users (in fact, there's little difference in rates of drug use between those on welfare and those not) by only applying to drug convicts.

Though, common sense makes us wonder what a drug convict who suddenly finds him or herself without any source of income will do to get their life back in order and just to get by. Perhaps go back to the things that got them that conviction in the first place?

The idea of making low-income people pay for their own drug tests is also worrisome.

Though, this bill would be far less controversial than Scott's plan to drug test all welfare recipients, and it's not clear if he's on board. Scott has said time and time again he wants to drug test all recipients, though it's not clear how all of the tests would be paid for or how the government would account for the fact drug tests are not 100 percent accurate.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, has not talked to Scott about the legislation.

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