In an unusual display of equanimity, the Florida House of Representatives yesterday briefly considered requiring ALL recipients of government pork to undergo drug testing to demonstrate their eligibility. This was a happy moment in this legislative season’s otherwise long sad march down a pee-soaked trail.
Last month, Senator Steve Oelrich (R-Alachua) introduced a bill that would require all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to be screened for drugs–at their own expense. While such a requirement might seem, oh, onerous and unconstitutional, Oelrich kindly explained that in fact it is “an offer of help and a wake-up call” to the poor benighted wastrels who would scrounge at the public trough. Furthermore, mandatory testing of welfare applicants should not be seen as in any way stigmatizing or moralizing, because the previous month our Governor, Rick Scott, has also begun to demand testing of all state employees. (No dirty drops yet for the managing editors of Points.)
But yesterday brought good news! A bi-partisan group of senators put forward an amendment to Oelrich’s bill that would also require recipients of Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarships to submit to drug testing before they could claim their government handouts. Bright Futures is a state-sponsored merit scholarship that can cover up to 85% of our $5000/year tuition (nope, no typo there, that’s five thousand measly dollars per academic year!). Ninety-eight per cent of the average incoming class at the University of Florida, where the Points staff dutifully toils each day, is eligible. Unsurprisingly, students who meet the criteria for Bright Futures are disproportionately from the white middle and upper-middle class; the median family income for students at UF is close to $100,000 dollars. Now there’s a demographic that ought to be able to shell out for its own drug tests! Furthermore, since we all know that drug abuse and addiction are blind scourges that operate without respect for class or status, it’s a good bet that there are plenty of misguided young people out there who need those wake up calls and helping hands Oelrich is offering. Way to go, legislature!
But just as I was looking forward to being able to enjoy laboring in a drug free workplace next year– the improved moral climate would offset the 3% salary cut that the legislature voted all state workers a few weeks ago–the amendment was withdrawn when an unnamed Republican senator disputed its “relevance.” Sarah Palin was right, I guess: damn those “government experts”!
Lest you think all is lost, however: our stalwart leaders in Tallahassee did repeal the state’s 25-year old ban on clove cigarettes. Smoke ’em if you got ’em– provided, of course, that you’re a member of the private sector white middle class.