Common Cents

I haven’t seen this issue come up in the headlines more, which is kind of surprising.  The governor of Florida signed into law a provision requiring drug tests for adults applying for welfare assistance.  There is a fee for the screening which the applicant must pay.  If they pass the screening and are eligible for aid, they will apparently be reimbursed the cost of the screening in their benefits.  If they fail, they are not reimbursed.

The ACLU is challenging the law, claiming that it violates the Constitutional rights of citizens.  The article seems to indicate that the ACLU views this as a search without probable cause.  There doesn’t appear to be any formal information on the ACLU web site so I can’t substantiate it much further.  
I have a couple of questions about the objections though.  There have been similar efforts to this that have floundered on the shoals of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search.  However, can it rightly be said that someone who is requesting assistance and willingly providing their personal information as part of that process is being unreasonably searched by including a provision for drug testing?  Nobody is forcing these people to apply for aid.  And certainly nobody is forcing these people to use drugs – if indeed they are.  In exercising their personal liberties (one in an illegal manner), how is it that the State is suddenly seen as intrusive by wishing to ensure that the benefits that are being paid out are not likely to be funneled into a drug habit?
If employees of companies are expected to submit to drug tests if so requested, how is it that people looking for assistance from taxpayers should be exempt from a similar requirement?  Where is personal responsibility and accountability in all of these objections?  If certain opponents of the measure feel that it is unfairly profiling welfare recipients as drug abusers, this does not logically preclude the possibility that there are drug users who are receiving taxpayer assistance.  If the problem is not endemic, I would imagine that legislation will be reversed in due time in order to reduce the costs of administering the program.
As for the argument that people who are requesting financial assistance are least able to afford the drug treatment programs the provision requires for those who fail the screening but still hope to receive assistance, what is the alternative?  The promise of a steady supply of cash assistance (the law does not apply to programs such as Food Stamps) without any need for changing habits and lifestyles?  That seems equally problematic if not more so.  Is the goal to truly help people make lasting changes and improvements in their lives, or to perpetuate a cycle of poverty and abuse?

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