Florida’s Tea Party Governor Rick Scott pushed relentlessly for a law requiring drug testing for welfare applicants in Florida. That new law requires a negative drug test in order to receive a check. The law was promoted as an important step to help people, and avoid taxpayer money going for recreational drugs.
Governor Scott is also pushing to mandate drug testing for all state employees. That’s a lot of drug tests. They cost $30 to $35 each, and under the law, the applicant pays that fee.
Why is Governor Scott so interested in more and more mandatory drug tests in Florida? Is he against drug addiction? Is he hoping to get more Florida drug addicts into treatment? To help them?
Or is Governor Rick Scott pushing to increase business for his friends and family, the owners and investors in the clinics and drug testing facilities that would get the government contracts?
Governor Scott made his fortune by building a chain of health clinics. Even after he was elected Governor, he still held ownership of tens of millions of dollars of shares. Even when he was elected to a position that oversees the health department, which licenses and authorizes those very clinics and their employees, he kept his private ownership. When pressed to avoid the obvious conflict of interest, he “sold” his shares to his wife’s trust. Amazingly, that was enough to satisfy Florida regulators.
The same Rick Scott shocked Florida law enforcement when he proposed eliminating Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database, which would make it harder for doctors to over-prescribe addictive opiates. Even though that program required no state budget funding, Governor Scott inserted it’s cancellation into the state budget bill. He clearly wanted it stopped. According to the Sun-Sentinel:
Scott has said the database would be a government intrusion into people’s medical affairs, do little to stop pill mills and cost the state $500,000 a year if private grants can’t be found to support it.
Only after many letters and pressure from neighboring states who see Florida as the source of illegal prescription drugs on the street, did Scott back down from his position.
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Advocates of the law used a set of persuasive statistics: welfare recipients use drugs at a much higher rate than the general population. But real-world experience since July shows the opposite. Only a small number of welfare applicants failed the drug test. A much smaller percentage than the estimated general public.
Some news outlets are doing the math — the Tampa Tribune math shows the state will spend nearly $180 million dollars running the program, and save a mere $60,000.
Perhaps the most disturbing after Governor Scott’s obvious conflict of interests: those testing positive lose access to welfare, but are not given any drug addiction treatment options.
The Daily Show has investigated the Florida effort several times, and yesterday aired a segment highlighting much of the hypocrisy behind the law: it seems to really be about money. It seems like an easy target to lampoon, with the politicians making near fools of themselves on camera.
References & Resources:
- Report on Rick Scott selling off his holdings by Tampa Bay Dot Com
- Report on Welfare Drug Testing results in Florida by Colorlines
- Judge halts Florida’s drug testing law on constitutional grounds by Miami Herald
- Report on Welfare Drug Testing Results in Florida by Tampa Tribune
- The Daily Show coverage
- Sun-Sentinel on Rick Scott