MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal by Florida Gov. Rick Scott on his 2011 executive order that would have required random drug tests for as many as 85,000 state workers.
The ruling lets stand an appeals court decision that Scott's order was too broad. That decision also directed a Miami federal judge to oversee ongoing negotiations between the state and an employee union over which positions could be subjected to random drug tests.
The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal follows a similar decision in late December by a federal judge in Orlando who struck down a Florida law requiring applicants for welfare benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing. Scott, a Republican, is also appealing that case.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which challenged both drug-testing plans as unconstitutional, said federal courts have clearly rejected blanket mandatory drug testing by the state.
"The question of whether the state has the power to compel all employees to submit to suspicionless searches without good reason is settled and the answer is no," said Shalini Goel Agarwal, the lead ACLU attorney in the state employees case.
The ACLU represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79, which covers about 34,000 of the state workers that Scott originally sought to subject to random drug testing. Agarwal said negotiations with state officials have whittled the number of the union-covered state jobs still at issue for drug testing to about 23,500.
It could take another 10 months to finish that process, she added. By then, voters will have decided whether to give Scott another four years in office or replace him with a Democrat, either former Gov. Charlie Crist or former state Sen. Nan Rich.
Scott issued a statement saying state employees "should have the right to work in a safe and drug free environment, just like in any other business." The governor noted that portions of the case are still being debated in Miami federal court and that he would "continue to fight" for expanded employee drug testing.
Meanwhile, the governor's office has a May 5 deadline to file its appeal in the welfare benefits drug-testing case with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ACLU has filed a public records request seeking how much the state has been spending on the twin drug-testing cases. Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said it's likely to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It's time for Gov. Scott to cut his losses and face the facts: government can't subject entire classes of people to urinalysis without reasonable suspicion or a genuine threat to public safety," Simon said.
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