Thursday, September 1, 2011

Florida's Chemical Jim Crow Law aka drug testing

At some point, well early in the game Rick Scott knew – he just knew – he wanted to drug test everything not nailed down. It was a mission!
He was behind a measure to make the poor welfare recipients submit to drug screening in order to obtain help from the state, and from their own unemployment insurance accounts that they had already paid into before they were fired.
Oh, and, by the way? He was the principal shareholder in one of the biggest providers of random drug-screening services in the country, and certainly in Florida, Solantic Walk-In Urgent Care centers.
Ooopsie! Didn’t see that coming? No?
Leave off that what he was essentially doing was criminal-profiling by use of poverty as the screening criterion.
Let’s just talk about this fading, ever-blurring concept called, “conflict of interest.” Again, what are the three funniest words in the English language when strung together? Right! “Florida Ethics Commission.” Very good, have yourself a Klondike Bar on me.
Apparently he has never heard of this wondrous thing called “conflict of interest”. So too, our state has stopped caring for it, or seeking to define it in most situations with regard to Rick Scott. Likewise our officials and news media are more apt to let him slide until such time as he works himself out of the latest ethical quagmire he has gotten himself into, and moves on to the next, over and over, and over again in a dizzying daisy chain of Machiavellian bumbling that always seems to work out in his favor.
When he first detailed his plans to drug test some, or all, state employees, people sat up and took notice. He had a hard-on for it, lusting for everyone to start taking drug tests, beginning with those working for Florida.
In a completely unrelated thread started long ago – oh sure, you buy that, don’t you? – Scott started the Jacksonville-based company Solantic Urgent Walk-in Care, in 2000. It grew to include 32 urgent care centers statewide. In 2007 he reportedly sold a 30 percent share for $100 million to Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe, a private equity investment firm in New York. His remaining stake was valued at $62 million.
“Don’t you have one of the largest drug screening companies in the state, Rick?” (this is you talking.)
“No, no, children. Shhhhh. Mustn’t notice the bad thing.”(this is Rick.)
“Are you sure?”
His answer was, yes, he did but there was no conflict of interest. End of discussion.
Well there very much was an apparent conflict of interest, despite how nicely a bland denial sounded to those who approve of his every move.
His response to the un-svengalied was essentially, ‘Well, okay but for starters I am turning my interest in that company over to a revocable trust held by my wife Anne, so there is no conflict of interest.’
(You again) “Well, that doesn’t matter; YOU would still get the money from all the drug screening eventually. YOU would also see a nice bump in value if the company ever went public!”
‘Well this company will never, ever, never do business with the state.’
Which is a very slick caveat, you have to admit, considering that he was considering privatizing prisons, and public schools.
So, yes, technically, if somehow he could mandate it via magic wand that the company would never-ever-never do business with state government ¬¬- and he had no earthly authority to make this stratospherically stupid statement - it wouldn’t be doing business with the state, it would be doing business with private corporations that he had sold off government institutions to.
See how he thinks? Is it clear now?
There were broader ethics problems with his stake in Solantic, as the St. Petersburg Time’s Michael Bender pointed out on April 13, 2011, and this is likely where his relationship with Team Scott went downhill :

“Then-Attorney General Bill McCollum's campaign questioned how a Scott administration would handle Solantic, which is regulated by the state Agency for Health Care Administration and hires doctors that are licensed by the Department of Health.
“ Both agencies are run by the governor's appointees. In the general election, Democrats alleged that Scott started Conservatives for Patients Rights to fight President Barack Obama's health insurance changes as an attempt to protect Solantic, which serves high numbers of uninsured. If more people were insured, Democrats suggested, Solantic could lose business.”

When people pointed out that Bender was right, that virtually every single way he could run it, he would still be holding a massive conflict-of-interest sign in his hands called “Solantic”, he decided to sell his remaining interests to Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe.
And it took him until April (2011) to do it.
Reflect for a moment on the Boolean anti-logic at work here: Despite the fact he was, allegedly, no longer in control of said company, he sold it anyway.
And, this is the key part, he has NEVER, EVER, NEVER disclosed the sale price, nor terms of the sale, to anyone, EVER.
This despite the fact the company was undeniably worth more after he rammed through his draconian drug testing policies.
Every public official has to disclose any business transaction, any receipt of monies, or gift, no matter how small, while they continue to serve at the public’s pleasure. It is a law obeyed by city council members and county commissioners on up the food chain.
Rick Scott has never released the details of this sale to anyone despite the fact he most certainly benefited from it, financially. And the newspapers, apparently, have stopped asking him about it.
It’s another issue which, for whatever reason, has ceased to exist.
As far as the drug testing goes? Here’s what happened.
House Bill 353 was signed into law by the Big Guy, on June 1. The measure which went into effect July 1, 2011, requires those receiving welfare checks to submit blood, urine, or hair samples for drug screening prior to receiving their state welfare checks. Oh, and once again, the accused pay for their own screenings up-front, and wait for reimbursement on the back-end from us, once they are deemed innocent by virtue of clean result.
The measure also requires the Department of Children and Families to inform families they can avoid testing, if they don’t apply for benefits.
Gee thanks.
The history of “drug test the poor” predates Rick Scott.
In 2009 there was a state senate bill for drug testing the unemployed (SB 2062) produced by Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton). Yes, the same state senator who was videoed with soft-porn images open on his personal browser, while the senate was discussing new restrictions on abortion in case you were wondering.
In any event, Bennett admitted his decision was purely economic. That the unemployment trust fund was “running dry” and so, why not trim the fat, and make sure the money was going to unemployed folks who are more deserving?
“It’s the people who really need the unemployment (compensation), those are the ones I am here to protect,” he said on a Fox interview with Steve Doocy in March 2009.
The bill died. But, the idea lived on despite a landmark Michigan federal court case, which branded such measures as unconstitutional.
No matter. Rick Scott campaigned on making it a law. And suddenly, following the November 2010 election, it seemed all the furious governors of the Kochpocaplypse and their Tea-colytes and their Tea-cozies in their respective state houses, wanted to drug test hell out of those scum-sucking poor, and the unemployed!
Yeah! Get those f-ers! The damned jobless poor! Who do they think they are?
And who among them crowed most vociferously for such measures? Yes, he who owned a 70 percent share in a multi-million dollar company that provided drug tests for $35 a-pop, one Richard Lynn Scott.
In March 2011, Scott signed a bill into law giving the state the power to randomly drug test any state employee, at any time. The $35 test would be paid first by the accused, and reimbursed should the test prove negative. Florida was first of 27 states to book this landmark piece of legislation!
Yay! Go us!
That month State Representative Matt Gaetz (R- Fort Walton Beach) took up Bennet’s fallen banner and pushed a bill in the house to random drug screen those seeking unemployment compensation.
The bill produced a lot of press for Gaetz, some contention between himself and democrats in the house, voicing meek opposition, and even some chiding by fellow republicans who knew damned-well they were trying to shoe-horn in something that was already declared illegal.
It never got out of committee.
However, the measure to go after the welfare recipients, did make it out of committee, and through both houses like crap through a goose. Rick Scott was again on the boards with another win, June 1, 2011!
Yeah! Hell yeah! Eat it, POOR!
It took a while for mega-media to catch up with what was happening in Florida, that being a stepwise assault on the U.S. Constitution.
T.J. Holmes of CNN had the governor on during his morning show June 3, 2011 to ask him, just what in hell was going on down here? It became a venue to witness what we here at Rick Scott Watch are calling The Jim Crow Chemical Litmus Tests.
All the old stereotypes that make the racists grin like a dawg, and the minorities a little fearful and mad as hell at white America, come bubbling to the surface with these Jim Crow litmus tests.
Welfare=black, to the racists; and African Americans know damned well what the power structure is talking about, when it beats up on folks who have to ask for welfare.
Offering an opinion here: this catalytic angst might just be what the whole exercise of drug testing poor people, particularly welfare recipients, is all about.
You have to remember we’re dealing with an agenda foisted on us by people – the Kochs, namely, and their friends – who have lost the taste in their mouths for mere money. There’s no buzz anymore in just collecting piles and piles of cash. No bounce, no kick, see?
And their little games have proceeded to such a degree they’re now beyond merely holding power. No, now they’re into manipulating society itself in order to ‘hit that main line.’ Currently that’s the intoxicating buzz; like Mortimer and Randolph Duke, of Trading Places, remember? Manipulating vast sums of money, swinging the congress hard right, then holding it hostage, seeing if they can actually crash the system. Ooooh yeah baby! That’s their heroin.
When they get bored with merely manipulating society, surely they will chase their dragons on to other diversions, such as genocide, perhaps, starting War III. Stuff like that, see? That’s the next kick!
Back to T.J. who is a black dude on the left side of the screen, and Scott on the right side of the screen, again, who is most definitely a white dude; each playing their awkward part in describing, assailing and defending the Jim Crow litmus test.
You would agree that after the governor signs the bill into law, might be a little late, CNN? Perhaps?
Never mind, it made for hearty television anyway.
T.J.: “You don’t know if welfare recipients are using drugs. If you don’t know, why treat them like you suspect that they are?”
RICK: “Oh, I’m not at all. I just want to make sure, our taxpayers are not interested in subsidizing drug addiction.”
This is classic Rick Scott, by the way:
Q: “Governor, what makes you think the sky is green?”
A:“Oh, I don’t. I just want to make sure everyone knows that the sky is green.”
Later T.J. really nails him down. He just keeps after it. Rick Scott, as always, is a hostile witness for the defense.
T.J. : “You believe that plenty of people on welfare are drug users but it doesn’t sound like you want to say that.”
RICK: “Sure, T.J. Studies show that people who are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people who are not on welfare.”
T.J. (Smiles. Literally chewing his own fingernails, perhaps at the pun ‘higher users’) “Sir to that point, that would stop most people in their tracks. I don’t have the studies you are referring to but, you’re saying there are people out there who need this assistance who have lost jobs and are on welfare, they have a higher tendency to use drugs.”
RICK: “Absolutely the studies show that people who are on welfare are using drugs at much higher percentages than the population.”
Okay, there it is. He said it not once, but twice. There are studies out there; someone made these studies, and, they found out in these studies, that welfare recipients to a larger extent than in the general population, are drug users.
And then he went sideways-strange. Rick Scott’s Boolean anti-logic again. It was a mish-mash of conflicting statements that came next.
“The bottom line is, if they’re not using drugs it’s not an issue. Our taxpayers don’t want to subsidize someone’s drug addiction. It’s going to increase personal responsibility it’s the right thing to do for Floridians.”
Did you notice? Drug use just became full-blown addiction with all the associated stereotypes: a meth zombie or a rabid oxy fiend shooting up a walk-in clinic.
And even if they aren’t doing drugs; Floridians don’t want to subsidize their drug addiction? What, like in the future? Like, in case they were planning on it?
I just lost my job. I am clean, drug-free. But since I know the state is going to drug test me, I had best not pick up that nasty meth habit I was planning on getting. Whew, am I glad Rick Scott is looking out for me. I don’t mind marching right on down to the Solantic and paying $35 for a drug screening.
Certainly doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
It obviously didn’t either to T.J. who demanded to know how much this was going to cost Florida?
“It’s an insignificant amount. We’ll see when we find out how many pass the drug test.”
And was it an insignificant amount?
Fast forward to late August of 2011 one month after it went into effect. Just do it.
It turns out testing welfare recipients discovered that just 2 percent tested positive for drugs. Another 2 percent elected not to pursue their claims, likely until a later date when the drugs washed out of their system.
The remaining 96 percent of those taking welfare who subjected themselves to the screening? Yeah, they were clean.
The entire welfare assistance program costs $178 million. At this rate, the drug testing of people taking this money, costs just a little bit less to run than it does in savings.
Net savings between $3,000 to $8,000 annually to the state; again, against a program that costs the taxpayers $178 million.
Wowzers! What a savings compared to the total that’s like four thousandths of a percentage point (0.004 percent)!
Now, what if we get more people to NOT do drugs! Then, it won’t save the taxpayers any money whatsoever! Awesome!
Because that just might happen after year one, in that humans are only slightly more intelligent than chimpanzees, who know damned well to take their hand of a hot stove.
But here’s the important part to some; 1,000 drug tests were purchased, in order to facilitate this program for just one month, also known as 12,000 tests a year, let’s say, at $35 a pop. That’s $420,000 which is a nice revenue stream for someone. Not saying who!
And multiply this by 0.96 and we get $403,000 coming FROM the taxpayers going TO private industry. Remember, we the taxpayers reimburse those who test clean!
We’re saving money, yes, a smidge. But 96 percent of all that money saved isn’t being used for anything but funding private industry drug testing purchases. It’s one of those exerbikes going nowhere. At first, anyway; at first, it stays put.
As savings become losses, year to year, because people beat the system, or find clean urine, or stop drugging, this becomes an an additional tax on us, that goes directly into the pockets of private corporations. And now the exerbike begins moving backwards.
And now what? Well, why don’t we only let certain “approved” drug testing companies, who are Friends of Rick (FORK), take over all the contracts? Seems to be the direction he is taking, isn’t it?
And? What happens when a monopoly is in place? The price goes up. Savings to the taxpayers go down even further because no one wants to pay for the kits which are more expensive. Now the exerbike begins accelerating backwards.
And? Now let’s say during the next legislative session, the public is so beaten down and accepting of all this drug testing and U.S. Constitution-stomping bullshit, they cave-in and say ‘sure why not, what the hell, test the unemployed while you’re at it!’
How many people in Florida are unemployed at this writing? According to The St. Petersburg Times in late 2010, there were 1.1 million Floridians out of work, of whom 612,000 were receiving unemployment compensation.
If at some point in the next year, you randomly tested each, just one time, you’re talking about taking $21.4 million from the taxpayers/bosses/those paying into the fund, and giving that money to corporations.
Oh, I’m sorry, if you’re still working at a 2 % positive rate, that’s, hold on let me do this: $21.4 million -( $21.4 million* 2%)=$20,927,000. From the taxpayers/bosses/people who paid into it, directly to corporations. Here you go!
Now assuming, no budget increases - because that’s how he rolls, right? Hold the line - $800,000,000 (Senator Mike Bennett’s 2009 figure for the Unemployment Compensation fund, which is allegedly running out) minus $20,927,000= $7.8 million.
Is unemployment going up, or down, year to year? Well, thanks to Rick Scott and company, because they created so many new jobs by demanding more stringent controls on a woman’s uterus; flying to Panama; going to New York and D.C. to hang with Donald Trump; and doing away with high speed rail and so on, it is very doubtful that the unemployment rate is going down. So, because of this, we should see ourselves spending more, not less, on this drug testing program of the unemployed if they vote it in (and they will! You watch).
Are the unemployed any more likely to make this program a “savings” to the taxpayers buy doing more drugs and getting caught? Or, in that they managed to get shit-canned the right way, i.e. laid off without cause, are these folks actually more apt to pass the drug tests and end up costing us more year to year?
Because if we want this program to pay for itself or save us money, what we really need from the public is to do some damned drugs! I mean, really; can these people just do the right thing, and get high?
Answer? Class, what say you?
My guess is, these folks will pass their drug tests at a higher rate, year to year, than welfare recipients, who are also being drug tested. This means the allegedly dwindling unemployment compensation fund, will drain faster, as more people are put on it.
Also, do we double-dip on those taking their unemployment drug tests along with their welfare drug tests? How does that work?
Uh-oh! Sounds like we need an administration, or a new agency, to keep all these ducks in a row! A new agency in Rick Scott’s “smaller, more efficient government”? What is this?
Great, so a more massive program called, ‘test the unemployed’, will end up costing private business, taxpayers and people paying into the UC fund more money by giving directly to corporations at an accelerated rate, year to year.
Why not just impose a flat, 3 percent sales tax on everything fill up a big old bucket with cash, and then FORK it over to Rick’s pals, every year?
Because, that would be too obvious, class. We have to create a crisis, stir up old hatreds and stereotypes, vilify someone poor, further divide the masses, create a cash hamster-wheel that spills off to Friends of Rick on the side, so that folks don’t notice what we’re up to.
Let’s go back to Rick Scott’s chat with T.J. Holmes on CNN for a minute and reflect upon what we heard.
Yes, he talked about a study that showed welfare recipients take drugs “at a much higher rate” than the average population.
He said it twice!
At a higher rate?
No, no! He said at “a much higher rate.”
But is it even true?
Well, Rick Scott’s Jim Crow chemical litmus test gave us one half of the data to measure his assertion, didn’t it. Two percent tested positive for drugs in a sample of more than 1,000 people. A pretty decent sized sample.
What about the general population? Here’s a figure dug up by the Tampa Tribune citing the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Services, in their 2009 study: 8.7 percent. That’s the rate of illicit or illegal drug use, estimated among the general population, of people aged 12 years and older.
So, again, Rick Scott has no idea what he is talking about. And when he goes on national television and gets backed into a corner by a reporter actually doing his job – they are so rare these days – Rick Scott just begins pulling stuff out of his ass. Rick Scott just makes it up on the fly. Rick Scott just flat-out lies into the camera.
Does this surprise you?
Most of you say ‘no’ at this point. Further, you are almost angry at me for even suggesting you should be a little shocked. After all, this is Rick Scott we’re talking about.
Well guess what? This drug testing crap is now law in Florida. It’s the law. We are spoon-feeding private industry cash, with no observable benefit to ourselves.
Oh, but, not as many people will get high? Or do crimes? Is that it?
Really? That number of 612,000, for instance represents a bubble of unemployed people actually collecting unemployment. Hey, their weeks run out, remember? Just as the number seeking welfare recipients, represents a bubble of those eligible for their program. When people fall off those rolls, or when they test positive and can’t reapply for a time, are they apt to get high, then, or not?
Take your time answering. I am sure it’s taxing your mind something fierce! No, really. Use another nanosecond to think about it.
As folks fall off those rolls, they are just as apt to do drugs as they ever were.
This is one more Ricky World example of robbing the middle class to pay corporations, while services are being gutted.
These programs don’t pay for drug education or awareness or drug treatment, and they sure as hell don’t pay for psychiatric medicine to help anyone.
This puts a dent in nothing. It solves nothing. It takes money from the citizens and hands it over to corporations, with no benefit whatsoever to anyone other than those who make and administrate drug tests. People like Solantic.
And as their prices increase, and they will, we all give them more and more money.
We have not even mentioned the lawsuits these new programs will generate, nor the considerable sum we the people of Florida will have to expend fighting them.

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