POLITICS

Republican Lawmaker Files Bill To Drug Test Florida's Elected Officials

03/05/2014 02:59 pm ET | Updated Mar 05, 2014

A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would require the state's public officials and judges to submit to drug testing -- or resign their positions, if they refuse.

State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) filed his "Drug-Free Public Officers Act" on Tuesday. HB1435 would include those elected or appointed to federal, state or local constitutional offices as well as municipal and school district positions, along with justices and judges of the Supreme, appellate, circuit and county courts.

"We need to be as elected officials held to a higher standard... If drugs are illegal then we should be checked on that," Eagle told WCTV. "It is just the basic idea for me and I believe other legislatures will be warm to that."

The bill's language declares that "a public officer who refuses to undergo the drug testing required by this section shall resign the public office that he or she holds."

Eagle's move follows several years of legal wrangling (and hilarious "Daily Show" segments) as Florida unsuccessfully tried to force drug testing for all state employees -- though not really all, as legislators exempted themselves -- and welfare recipients with children. The latter were required to front the cost of testing before receiving assistance to pay for housing, food and other necessities from the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund. A federal judge affirmed two previous decisions to strike down the welfare requirement in December, though Gov. Rick Scott (R) has vowed to appeal.

Even if the bill passes, Floridians will be no closer to knowing whether or not legislators are sober. Though positive results would be referred to the state's Commission on Ethics, Eagle has also filed a companion bill HB1437, that exempts public officials' drug testing results from the public record, citing possible "unwarranted damages to the reputation of a public officer."

"...The Legislature finds that the chilling effect to a public officer who is seeking treatment for his or her substance abuse which would result from the release of this information substantially outweighs any public benefit derived from disclosure to the public," the bill reads, adding, "Further, making this information confidential and exempt will encourage public officers to seek treatment for substance abuse and thereby preserve the integrity of government institutions and agencies."

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