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Court Says Florida Governor's Order To Drug Test Employees Is Unconstitutional

A district judge ruled that Florida Gov. Rick Scott cannot mandate random drug testing for state employees.

CNN reports:

"U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro for the Southern District of Florida said the drug testing of about 85,000 state employees would violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and sided with a motion by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79, which represents about 40,000 of the employees.

"But because the union didn't address new hires in its motion, the court 'does not reach the issues of whether such prospective employees can be subjected to pre-employment testing and subsequent random drug testing pursuant to the executive order,' the judge said."

The New York Times reports that in a statement Scott disagreed with the ruling.

"As I have repeatedly explained, I believe that drug testing state employees is a common-sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive work force," he said . "That is why so many private employers drug test, and why the public and Florida's taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy. I respectfully disagree with the court's ruling and will pursue the case on appeal."

As the Times also explains, drug testing has been in the news a lot lately in Florida. Scott ordered this round of drug testing last year, when he also signed a law that required welfare recipients to undergo drug testing.

That law is still being challenged in court and earlier this month, The Miami Herald reported that testing welfare recipients ended up costing more than it saved the government.

The Herald reported:

"Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced, 108 people, or 2.6 percent, failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. About 40 people scheduled tests but canceled them, according to the Department of Children and Families, which oversees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as the TANF program.

"The numbers, confirming previous estimates, show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening.

"The state's net loss? $45,780."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.