El Jefe

Rick Scott Has Spent More Than $400,000 to Test State Employees' Urine

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wanted to drug-test state employees, and he put your money where his mouth is.

Lawyers' bills for him -- and you -- to defend this proposal have come to $381,654.45, according to data from the state obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act request. That doesn't include staff attorney time or time spent setting up the program, which was enjoined in 2011.

"The governor is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars paying private lawyers to push the extreme idea that government can treat anyone like a suspected criminal," said ACLU of Florida staff attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal.

The law -- or actually the executive order issued by Scott -- was declared illegal in 2013. This past April, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so Scott has appealed a second time.

Scott has insisted that most workers should be subject to testing. The state must pay two-thirds of the costs of a "special master" to sort through the thousands of jobs that the governor insists are high-security. Among them: typists, store clerks, and workers with long commutes.

The first status conference with a special master on the case is set for today. Most of the master's pay is funded by -- guess who? -- Florida taxpayers.

"The government can't treat people like suspected criminals," says Agarwal.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse