TALLAHASSEE – A federal appeals court on Wednesday dealt another blow to Gov. Rick Scott’s crusade to conduct drug tests on welfare applicants when it upheld a lower court ruling that the practice was unconstitutional.
The unanimous ruling from a bipartisan panel of judges concluded that the state failed to show any evidence as to why it was necessary to force applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving the aid.
“We have no reason to think impoverished individuals are necessarily and inherently prone to drug use, or, for that matter, are more prone to drug use than the general population,” the court said in its 54-page ruling.
Proponents hailed the decision, which came just two weeks after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case, and predicted it would have broader impact in protecting the rights of people receiving a wider range of government benefits — from Bright Futures scholarships to driver’s licenses.
“This should be the end of the road for the governor’s crusade,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which sued the state. “The opinion says that people cannot be forced to surrender constitutional rights as a condition of any government benefit — driver licenses, library cards, student loans and farm subsidies.”