Letter: Drug Testing Law Makes Sense

In its role as parens patriae, the state assumes the responsibility to protect children, often from their guardians, but not children on welfare. Apparently to require that the child’s guardian is not snorting cocaine is unconstitutional — that is, if blood testing is required as a condition to qualifying for welfare benefits for the child or the child’s family.

A judge appointed by George W. Bush just temporarily put a hold on Gov. Rick Scott’s law. The fact is that laws that seek to protect children are nothing new.

Infant seats are mandatory in vehicles used on Florida’s public roads. In order to protect children from being sucked into a pool filter, one Florida bill would require every pool in the state to be fitted with a suction entrapment prevention system. To further protect children, Florida’s Pedestrian-Bicycle Program oversees the Florida School Crossing Guard Training Program, the Florida Traffic Safety Education Program and the Safe Routes to School Program.

Children must be vaccinated against the parents’ will if they attend a public school — unless, of course, the drug is not available. Children under 16 cannot ride in the Ocala National Forest or Croom unless they pass a safety course given by the government. The Florida Department of Health is so concerned about proper supervision of children that it passed the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act. This law requires that pools be enclosed, requires an alarm on any door or window that allows pool access, requires self-closing door latches at least 54 inches from the ground, and only certain types of pool covers are allowed for the protection of children. No invasion of privacy here, I guess. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the State of Florida is second to none when it comes to protecting children.

Curiously, I have read article after article criticizing Gov. Rick Scott for advocating that guardians of welfare children be tested for drugs before they are allowed to collect money from the state, money that actually belongs to the child. Critics claim Scott’s law is an invasion of privacy. In this case, the state has no right to know what is in your blood. Taken to the extreme, the state has no right to know what is in your brain, and so therefore school exams are an invasion of privacy. The scary part is that someone out there probably agrees. I am a libertarian but not a liberal. I expect that someone will start a riot because blood tests are required before obtaining a marriage license.

Let me be perfectly clear: Scott’s law does not require welfare recipients to be tested for drugs before they are entitled to receive benefits unless there are minor children who are entitled to the benefits. If I’m still not clear, let me say it another way: The law requires only the guardian of a child to be tested. If the guardian fails the test, the child can still receive benefits.

In case I still failed to communicate, let me make an analogy. A trust is administered by a trustee and the beneficiary is the one who is entitled to the money in the hands of the trustee. Since the trustee holds the money, say $100 million, she might decide to buy a pound of heroin for her personal recreational use, and she might just be too high to provide for the rich child’s needs. Testing the trustee to make sure that the trustee is not a drug addict might make sense. But not if the child is on welfare, according to critics of Scott’s law.

Instead of sitting on the couch eating potato chips and watching a talking head with biased opinions and offering half-truths, we should do our own due diligence. We might all find, as I have, the actual text of Scott’s law, which does not provide for testing all welfare recipients, but only the guardian of the child’s welfare money and only families with minor children. I’ve done the work and here is the text:

Section 414.0652 Drug screening for applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

(1)(a) An individual subject to the requirements of this section includes any parent or caretaker…

(2)(b) Require that for two-parent families, both parents must comply with the drug-testing requirement.

(2)(c) Require that any teen parent…

(3)(a) The dependent child’s eligibility for TANF benefits is not affected.

Not everyone will be tested, only those who are in charge of money due a minor child. Maybe this subtle distinction will be lost on some, but for me it makes perfect sense.

Frank Morelli, Wellington