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Drug testing ban in Fla will have little impact on PA recipients

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Federal district court judge Mary S. Scriven struck down a Florida law that required mandatory drug testing for public welfare benefit recipients on the last day of 2013. She ruled the law unconstitutional on the basis of unreasonable search and seizure, siding with the ACLU of Florida, who challenged the law on behalf of Navy Veteran Luis W. Lebron.

Florida legislature passed the law in 2011, based on a child protection rationale, this despite little statistical evidence to support a significant correlation between Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) and illicit drug use. “If persons in an economic demographic could be shown to have a higher rate of drug use, would all such persons in that economic group be subjected to drug testing?” The judge asked.

Closely watched by conservative governors in key states, including Georgia and Michigan, Florida’s chief executive Rick Scott insists that drug screening protects poor children from the impact of drug abuse, despite the fact that data on addiction has long been shown to be multivariate, not linked simply to poverty or to any one particular characteristic, such as urban density.

How such laws would be enforced by cash strapped states has yet to be answered by proponents of such benefit austerity and means testing, including Governor Tom Corbett of PA. Corbett, a former attorney general, has long emphasized vigilance against fraud as a form of budgetary discipline, but there has been no substantial change in resource limitations for qualified applicants during the governor’s term. When Secretary Beverly Mackereth was asked if the governor had any comment on how Judge Scriven’s ruling might impact income maintenance, this Examiner was directed to the voicemail of her personal assistant.

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