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Data show drug testing failure

Published: Monday, September 3, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 14:09

Data released last week from the state are now showing just how big of a failure Gov. Rick Scott’s welfare drug testing plan was. Welfare applicants were reimbursed for the drug test, regardless of whether they passed it, totaling $113,037 out of the state’s pocket. This payment, on top of the $595,000 the state shelled out in retroactive benefits to recipients, makes for a dismal failure on Scott’s behalf.

In May, a federal judge ruled the mandatory drug testing of welfare applicants and state employees unconstitutional after a UCF student, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the state in response to the law. Although the law was swiftly repealed, this sort of rhetoric associated with a necessary social program such as welfare certainly perpetuates typecasting as ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon acknowledges.

“Apparently, the alleged fiscal conservative Gov. Rick Scott has been willing to spend whatever it takes (experts, lawyers, reimbursements), not to address a documented problem, but to fulfill a campaign pledge — and one in which he shamelessly exploited an ugly stereotype about poor people and people temporarily out of work,” Simon wrote in an email to the Orlando Sentinel.

Scott’s record on slashing welfare benefits in the state and installing much stricter regulations upholds that his policies are based on this view of the poor as drug-addled societal nuisances. Not only was the drug testing initiative predicated on this stereotype, but the kicker: Scott was dead wrong about the outcome. Of the 3,936 adults tested, only 108 tested positive for drugs in their system.

The Department of Children and Families also reported that 2,306 opted not to take the test, but did not ask applicants why they were refusing. Therefore no conclusive data exist to show that people weren’t simply opting not to take the test because they had found work at that point and withdrew their application for benefits. The ratio of those tested to those who tested positive speaks for itself, however, and shatters that stereotype. But of course, like a petulant child, Scott was unwilling to admit this and concede defeat, appealing the court decision until the bitter end, costing residents another $40,000 in court costs.

Florida residents have come to expect this sort of behavior from Scott, but that doesn’t mean it must be tolerated for four more years. Already gearing up for his re-election campaign in 2014, it can only be assumed that this early planning is because Scott is eager to show the state just how much he hasn’t accomplished during his tenure in office. 

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