Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott has decreed through executive order that drug tests will be mandatory for all state workers. Scott, a Tea Party-backed conservative, signed a bill last week requiring random drug screening for all workers on the state payroll, approximately 100,000 of them, at least once every three months. He also intends to make good on his campaign pledge to require drug tests for welfare recipients, another 58,000, who would be required to pay for their own drug screening. Wow. That’s harsh.
If the people had a do over, the newly elected Republican governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine and Florida would probably be consigned to the dust bin of history under the heading “buyer’s remorse.” That’s not how it works however. Florida got Rick Scott. Rick Scott managed to burnish his tarnished credentials stemming from his partnership in “the largest private for-profit health care company in the U.S. He was forced to resign as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a scandal over the company’s business and Medicare billing practices; the company ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies and agreed to pay the federal government over $600 million.”
So even if you are a crook, being a billionaire crook and a Tea Party darling confers a certain amount of burnishing power. It is estimated that the drug testing for state employees at $35 a pee would add about 3.5 million dollars in costs to the state budget. Scott has begun the usual right wing slash and burn on that very budget. But here’s where it gets really really interesting. Enter Solantic, an urgent care clinic which Scott founded in 2001 and then transferred to a trust in his wife’s name when he became governor. Solantic advertises to employers “we now offer an out-of-state solution for your drug screening and blood alcohol testing needs.” He recently assured his constituents and the press after they raised a big stink that the state will not do business with Solantic.
That’s only partially true. According to the Palm Beach Post News “Solantic CEO Karen Bowling confirmed that her company had received $110,657 from the state in 2010 and $20,061 so far in 2011. She said Monday that those payments were for employment-related physicals and for workers compensation care for state employees of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Education and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
They were not direct state contracts, but were via the state’s workers compensation benefits management company, she said. Solantic clinics also accept payments from some Medicaid HMO plans. Pending legislation will open the governmental spigot to many more payments to private companies for those Medicaid HMO plans and Solantic appears positioned to do quite well.
The ACLU has also taken an interest in the drug testing as a violation of 4th amendment protections against the intrusive reach of government – but only as it applies to public workers. Current laws define the parameters of drug testing as deriving from well documented reasonable suspicion or in those instances when the ingestion of drugs poses a threat to the public safety. The law also requires that an employee must be informed before testing. Scott doesn’t believe that the current law is adequate.
But I wonder why the 4th amendment doesn’t apply to people seeking or receiving welfare. Or why the current law, which seems reasonable, does not apply to the private sector. Readers – please tell me if your terms of employment include peeing in a cup and what you think about that. And here’s a “bonus” video—Patti Smith singing “Piss Factory.” It kept me going while I was writing this.