After Judge Rules Against Florida, Georgia’s Welfare Drug Test Law Is in Doubt

A Wednesday ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that called a Florida law mandating drug testing for welfare recipients unconstitutional on fourth amendment grounds may doom a similar law passed by the Georgia legislature this year.

While the Supreme Court has permitted what’s called “suspicionless” drug testing in certain cases, including for employees in hazardous jobs and students participating in extracurricular activities, the appeals court said this did not apply to welfare applicants, where entitled to their right of privacy.

While Georgia legislators had passed a similar law it 2012, it was never implemented, pending the outcome of the Florida case. In 2014, a modified version of the bill was passed in the legislature, that eliminated the “suspicionless” testing of welfare applicants, and instead required tests when there was a reasonable suspicion of drug use.

But according to the Fulton Daily Report, that change may not be enough to avoid further lawsuits.

According to the Southern Center lawyer, Gerald Weber Jr., the suspicion requirement is the most significant change between the 2012 and 2014 versions of the Georgia law. But, Weber said Wednesday, “the standards are so malleable that [the revised 2014 version] has its own set of problems.” Weber also said he stands by earlier statements that if Georgia ever moved to enforce its drug testing law, the Southern Center would file suit.

“The Supreme Court says drug testing is only permitted if there is a special need,” Weber said. Those needs could be “a safety concern, like for a bus driver, or a confidential information concern, like for somebody who is dealing with bank records.”

In June, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens advised the Deal administration not to enforce the revised law. During his re-election campaign, Olens noted that federal law prohibits drug testing of food stamp recipients.

One comment

  1. Josh McKoon says:

    From Tom Crawford in March 2014:

    “I’m afraid if we pass this bill, all we will be doing is buying a lawsuit,” Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) said shortly before the Senate voted 29-22 to pass HB 772. “This is not going to hold up. It’s simply not going to be workable . . . I believe it’s going to be defeated in court.”

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