Florida Still Feels Financial Effects of Rick Scott's Disastrous Drug Testing Policy

By McCarton Ackerman 06/24/15

Rick Scott's unconstitutional drug testing policy is still wreaking havoc on the state.

Rick Scott
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Nearly 18 months after Florida Gov. Rick Scott's welfare drug testing law was deemed unconstitutional, taxpayers across the state are still feeling the effects of his ill-advised plan.

A new report has found that Florida residents are on the hook for covering $1.5 million in legal fees, about $1 million of which will go to civil rights lawyers. To put that into perspective, $1.5 million would cover about 8,900 days of residential substance abuse treatment in the state based on average costs.

In the latest legal settlement related to Florida’s former welfare drug testing law, the state paid $600,000 this week to the Florida Justice Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented a single father who sued the Department of Children and Families over a 2011 welfare drug-testing law. The state previously paid $160,000 to the Gray-Robinson law firm to represent the DCF.

Other outrageous expenses by the state include $13,300 for the services of Avran Mack, a psychiatrist and Georgetown University School of Medicine professor. His testimony was ultimately banned by a judge after the court ruled he was not qualified to be an expert in the case.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon praised the official end of welfare drug testing in Florida. He claimed that it "shameless[ly] exploited ugly stereotypes about poor people" and the attorney fee settlements "ensure that Floridians who apply for temporary assistance, or any other public benefit, won't have to be subjected to invasive, humiliating and unconstitutional urine tests without cause or suspicion."

The seven-figure sum also comes from Gov. Scott's attempts in 2011 to drug test all state employees and prospective job applicants for these positions. He was promptly sued by the ACLU after making the announcement.

In a settlement agreement filed in federal court last April, the state agreed to pay the ACLU $375,000 in legal costs and limit the drug tests to about 7,000 workers in 157 different job classes, a far cry from the 34,000 workers Scott wanted to test. Taxpayers ended up footing $675,000 in legal fees, including $180,000 for a private lawyer hired by the state.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.