Florida Gov. Keeps State Safe From Drug-Crazed Welfare Moms

By Dirk Hanson 06/01/11

It's “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction." His solution? Mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants.

Holy Scott: The Gov gets busy.
Photo via floridapundit

It’s unclear whether anybody really believed he would go all the way with it, but Rick Scott, the Kamikaze governor of pill-happy Florida, has managed to alienate just about everybody but his pals by signing legislation “requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screening,” as CNN phrased it. At one time or another, the loopy governor has been on all sides of the drug issue, blocking federal efforts to close pill mills in his state, opposing local efforts to create a prescription drug database, then testifying in favor of such actions in Congress. His personal conflicts of interest—part ownership in a string of Oxy-dispensing pain clinics, for one—make it absolutely impossible to tell what the guy actually believes when it comes to drug policy. (See our previous coverage, "Why Florida's New Gov Fought to Save the State's Poison 'Pill Mills.'") But his latest move seems clear—a feint back to Republican first principles. The Governor believes that it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” (Leave aside, for the moment, the fact that nobody is asking them to.) Naturally, it follows that the guiding principle in our approach to drug addiction should not be treatment, but rather the need to be sure that we don’t “waste tax dollars.” In a nutshell, the governor appears to believe that all welfare checks are immediately spent on drugs. Given his financial investments, the governor can rest assured that if those tax dollars get wasted, some of them will get wasted at his own drug dispensaries.

So anyway, when the Florida Department of Children and Family Services starts hauling out the drug testing equipment on July 1, when the bill takes effect, we can rest assured that adults in Florida applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will be treated like criminals from the outset. And, in a nice touch reminiscent of the practice of making people pay for the bullets used to execute a family member, the state will nick the applicants for the cost of the screening. If they pass, they get their money back.

Are there any demeaning touches the governor has failed to include in this bill? We can’t think of any. And we suggest the governor enjoy his Scrooge-like victory while he can. At least five Democrats from the Florida congressional delegation have branded the bill “downright unconstitutional.” Rep. Corrine Brown said the tests “represent an extreme and illegal invasion of personal privacy.” But of course, that’s the point: Anything that makes it more difficult for deserving citizens to get help from federal welfare programs is a good thing, in Governor Scott’s world. We’ll make the governor a deal. We’ll piss in a cup for him—if he goes first. And we want to hold the cup. That’s not a problem, is it?

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]