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Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action

Posted by Ed Candela 
Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action
February 16, 2012 12:22PM
Lawmakers just say no to state worker drug tests
Gray Rohrer, 02/15/2012 - 11:42 AM

A bill allowing state agencies to randomly drug test their employees is in trouble after initially receiving a negative vote in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. A sampling of Republicans teamed up with Democrats in voting against the measure, before it was reconsidered and postponed, meaning the measure is still technically alive, but on life support.

The issue is the subject of an ongoing court case. Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order last year calling for drug tests for state workers, but the ACLU Florida chapter and state employee unions filed a lawsuit, alleging it infringes on Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unwarranted search and seizure.

Democrats and even some Republicans on the panel cited concerns that the bill, HB 1205, was unconstitutional based on previous case law.

“The fact that it may not pass constitutional muster gives me great concern at a time when our funds are already limited,” said Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, and sponsor of the bill, insisted his measure would be deemed constitutional by the courts, but pushed the measure as a way to save money and protect taxpayer money from being wasted on a worker’s drug habit. He claimed to have drug tested himself Tuesday night.

“I have no doubt that it will be found to be constitutional,” Smith said. “I can guarantee you that as of last night I have proof that I’m drug-free.”

A separate bill of Smith’s, HB 813, which would deny Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to anyone convicted of a felony, passed the committee over the objections of Democrats. State law already allows the Department of Children and Families, which administers the TANF benefits, to deny benefits to anyone convicted of a drug-trafficking felony. Legislation passed by lawmakers last year requiring TANF applicants to undergo drug tests before receiving benefits is also the subject of a court case.
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There's a whole bunch of bills this legislature authored that are on shaky constitutional grounds. Maybe they should have civics lessons?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/16/2012 12:24PM by Ed Candela.
He's at it again
February 21, 2012 01:54PM
Bill adding barrier to welfare, food stamps for drug felons passes third House committee
By Ashley Lopez | 02.21.12 | 12:15 pm

A bill that would require anyone with a drug-related felony conviction in his or her history to complete rehab before receiving cash assistance or food stamps from the state passed a third Florida House committee today.

The proposal, which was filed by state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, would disqualify anyone with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving public cash assistance or food assistance unless the applicant has “satisfactorily completed a treatment program or regimen for drug addiction or drug abuse.” Current law does not require that treatment be completed in Florida, although federal law allows states to do so.

If someone where denied benefits because of this new law, sponsors say that someone else would be assigned to receive and pay out the funds on their behalf. However, state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, pointed out that those individuals could include other types of criminals.

Pafford also called the bill “mean-spirited” because it “assumes all poor people have a problem,” and specifically someone who was convicted of a drug crime in the past. He also said that the bill would impact people reentering the workforce.

Proponents of the bill on the committee claimed it would be a way to address drug abuse problems.

Smith said in one of the last committee stops for this bill that his legislation is meant to force “societal change” and alter the public’s “attitude towards drugs.” He said today that the bill is a way for the state to say, “We help those who help themselves.”
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Could someone explain how this is "less government?"
Even the Chronicle Agrees
February 24, 2012 09:38AM
Spend money on state’s most urgent needs

THE ISSUE: Drug-testing bill.

OUR OPINION: Don’t create another unfunded mandate.

A decision this week by a Florida House committee to support a bill OKing random drug testing of state workers — while a feel-good measure — is a disappointment.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, R-Inverness, amended the original bill to say state agencies would pay for the tests out of their existing budgets and that a maximum of 10 percent of the workers could be tested randomly up to four times a year.

Gov. Rick Scott — whose lawyers are currently defending the constitutionality of a bill passed last year requiring welfare recipients to pass drug tests — wholeheartedly supports the bill.

We fail to understand why the sudden concern by Florida’s governor and Legislature to test for drugs when the state is slashing budgets to meet the revenue shortfall. It seems there are myriad problems far more pressing. This bill and the one passed last year cost the state money in drug tests and lawyers.

Drug testing within private companies has been around since the U.S. Supreme Court case Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association (1989). In that case, drug testing of “safety sensitive” positions was allowed. The idea of testing public workers is a relatively new legal battle that apparently Florida has jumped into with both feet.

At odds are the state’s desire to employ a 100 percent drug-free workforce and the U.S. Constitution’s protection of its citizenry from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty, but random drug testing of state employees presumes guilt somewhere in the workforce.

A second concern is the burden it will place on our already cash-strapped state. Rep. Smith proposes the state agencies pay for the tests out of their existing budgets so that it won’t cost the state more money. That begs the question: If state agencies are using money from their budgets to test workers, from what programs will that money be removed? For example, how many prisoners do we set free, or how many court cases get delayed because we spent money on testing judicial system employees?

Drug testing public employees would come at a price and could cost the state’s existing budgets up to $1,792,000. That figure is based on having 10 percent of the 112,000 state workers tested up to four times a year at a cost of $40 per test.

This bill amounts to another unfunded state mandate. The money should be spent where it will do the most good.
Re: Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action
March 19, 2012 11:54AM
Surprise — lawmakers turn down free drug test offer

BY CARL HIAASEN
CHIAASEN@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Among its dubious achievements this year, the Florida Legislature passed a law authorizing random drug tests for state workers.

Guess who’s exempt? Lawmakers themselves.

So now the clerk down at the DMV gets to pee in a cup — but not the knuckleheads in Tallahassee who control $70 billion in public funds.

Whom do you think is more dangerous to the future of Florida?

In the session that just ended, the Legislature jacked up tuition on state college students while creating a new university to placate one cranky senator. It threw more than 4,400 state workers out of their jobs while handing out more than $800 million in tax break to businesses.

Clearly, legislators are impaired. Is it meth? Coke? Mushrooms?

We’ll never know.

A few months ago, I offered to pay for drug tests for all 160 state senators and representatives. The deal was that all of them had to do it. Not a penny of taxpayer money would be spent.

Shockingly, the Republican leadership showed zero interest in my proposal. However, they were very excited about Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to impose mandatory urine-testing on welfare applicants, who statistically use drugs at a lower rate than the public.

That particular law is currently stalled in the courts because of serious constitutional questions, which is where the new statute will end up as well, if Scott signs it.

Meanwhile, let’s hear from its proud sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Smith of Lecanto, which is near Inverness, which is sort of near Wildwood. Smith’s Web page says he’s a “security officer” who is retired from the Army. He has been in the Legislature about 18 months.

“This is not to do drug testing because they’re state workers,” he said. “This is to do drug testing for one problem: Drugs in Florida.”

The new law would allow state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their workers every three months. Failing one test can get you fired; the present law requires treatment after the first positive urine screen.

An amendment that would have included drug-testing the governor and lawmakers was indignantly rejected.

“Political theater,” whined Rep. Smith. “It was found to be unconstitutional to drug-test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right.”

Based on that fog-headed explanation, which not even Cheech could explain to Chong, Smith’s urine should be the first to get screened.


He was attempting to reference a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Georgia law requiring political candidates — not just elected officials — to take drug tests. The ruling wasn’t based on the First Amendment but on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

It’s the same constitutional provision at the core of multiple legal challenges to Scott’s drug-testing initiatives. While private companies may screen employees whether or not there is cause or reasonable suspicion, the judiciary often takes a dim view when government tries that.

A few Florida lawmakers pointed out the hypocrisy of excluding themselves from a statewide drug-testing program.

“I have to conclude that this an elitist body not prepared or courageous [enough] to lead by example. Shame on you,” Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, told his colleagues.

Carlos Trujillo, a Republican from Miami, agreed that the governor and elected officeholders should be drug-tested with other state workers. Still he voted to ice the amendment, citing concerns over the Georgia ruling.

That decision, written for the majority by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, criticized the Georgia law because it “diminishes personal privacy,” and was mainly a symbolic remedy to a situation that hadn’t even been documented — drug use among political candidates.

Ironically, the same argument can be made against random testing of Florida employees. Jimmie Smith and other supporters of the bill didn’t produce any proof that drug abuse was rampant in the state work force. They just wanted to look like tough guys.

The High Court has sanctioned government drug-testing for certain professions in which public safety is at stake. For example, a train engineer may be ordered to submit a urine sample even if there’s no indication of a substance problem.

You could make a strong case that lawmakers fall into the same high-risk category, considering the damage they do in their annual train wreck known as the Legislative session.

The offer still stands. I’ll pay for every one of them to pee in a cup.

The governor, too. In fact, we’ll let him go first.
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Followup: When asked whether state employees should be subject to periodic random drug testing, 70 percent of the respondents to a recent LobbyTools poll disagreed with the notion. Lawmakers, though, on the final day of the regular session approved HB 1205, which would do just that. And Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on Monday, it was announced after business hours. Opponents of Scott's executive order for state employee drug tests that he issued after taking office last year, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have said they would challenge the new requirement in court should Scott sign it into law.
More of our tax money defending this legislature against likely unconstitutional new laws. Way to go, Jimmy.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/20/2012 10:40AM by Ed Candela.
Re: Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action
March 22, 2012 11:42AM
Argenziano drops bid for Congress, plans to run for House seat

Bruce Ritchie, 03/21/2012 - 05:56 PM

Former Republican Sen. Nancy Argenziano says she is dropping out of her bid for Congress and will run as an independent for the Florida House seat held by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto.

Argenziano said she couldn't raise enough money in a congressional race to counter right-wing groups that she said would fight her bid against Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City. Last week she lost a challenge to state election laws that prevented her from running as a Democrat.

She would be running as an independent for the House seat in Citrus County where she was first elected as a Republican to the House in 1996. She was elected to the Senate in 2002 where she was known as a political maverick before leaving for an appointment to the Public Service Commission from 2007 to 2010.

"I started my political career in the State House, and have been asked by many citizens of Citrus County to come home and run," she said in an emailed statement. "They are dissatisfied with the current representative."

Smith, who was elected in 2010 and is the deputy House Republican whip, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

He was sponsor of HB 1205, allowing random drug testing of state workers. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on Monday but on Tuesday told agencies to hold off on testing until a legal challenge is resolved.

As a senator, Argenziano in 2006 delivered a 25-pound box of cow manure to an Associated Industries of Florida lobbyist who she had sparred with, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

As a PSC commissioner, she predicted in 2010 that she wouldn't be reappointed because of her outspokenness. She was passed over for nomination later that year by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

Argenziano said Smith's answers to questions about the state worker drug-testing bill were embarrassing.

"He does not have the knowledge, experience or independence to represent them (voters) the way they deserve," Argenziano said. "He seems to be just another 'go-along' elected official who does what he is told, rather than act on the basis of what his district needs."

Reporter Bruce Ritchie can be reached at britchie@thefloridacurrent.com.
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HOORAY!!! Did anyone else feel embarrassed by this guy?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2012 11:43AM by Ed Candela.
Re: Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action
March 28, 2012 03:47PM
"It was found unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right."
Jimmie T. Smith, said on Friday, February 24th, 2012 in a House committee debate


Florida Rep. Jimmie Smith says lawmakers protected by First Amendment against drug testing

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen torched Florida lawmakers for passing a drug-testing bill for state workers that excluded one class of government employees: elected officials who passed the law.

Hiaasen took particular issue with the proposal’s House sponsor Rep. Jimmie Smith, a Republican from Lecanto, and his explanation for a failed attempt to require drug tests for Gov. Rick Scott and legislators.

"It was found to be unconstitutional to drug test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First Amendment right," Smith said.

The defense was novel -- and also wrong. It turns out Smith confused elected officials with candidates, misinterpreted Supreme Court case law and cited the wrong amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Here's what you need to know.

The drug-testing bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on March 19, 2012, allows state agencies to randomly test no more than 10 percent of their workforce every quarter. An employee who fails a test could be fired on the first offense. Scott said he will hold off implementing the new law until the outcome of an ACLU-led court challenge to Scott’s 2011 executive order requiring random drug testing at agencies, an issue the Legislature tried to correct through law.

Democrats hurled pointed questions at Smith during a February committee hearing on HB 1205, including why he would not favor drug-testing elected officials.

"Are you saying with your bill you are not in favor of making elected officials have drug tests?" asked Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington.

"Our bosses, our constituents, want it and we should do it," Smith said, explaining he paid $40 for a drug test after a constituent asked him to do it.

"So would you be open to amending your bill?" Abruzzo asked.

"No," Smith said.

"Why not?" Abruzzo said.

"Because it is succinctly decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that drug-testing elected officials would violate the First Amendment right of freedom of speech by being elected," Smith said.

We called Smith for more information. He said he was referencing Chandler vs. Miller, a 1997 Supreme Court decision that overturned a Georgia law requiring candidates for state office to prove they passed a urinalysis drug test within 30 days of qualifying for the ballot. Passing it in 1990, Georgia was the only state with such a law.

Two lower courts had ruled with the state, finding that the drug tests were okay because of the substantial trust voters hold for their elected officials in terms of safety, economic well-being and law enforcement.

But the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 vote, overturned those rulings in a suit brought by Libertarian lieutenant governor candidate Walter Chandler (the defendant, Zell Miller, was governor of Georgia), arguing the drug-testing requirement violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

"However well-meant, the candidate drug test Georgia has devised diminishes personal privacy for a symbol's sake," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the majority opinion. "The Fourth Amendment shields society against that state action."

The law was not a response to a legitimate public safety concern about drug use among political candidates, Ginsburg continued, which might make blanket drug-tests permissible.

The court did not factor the First Amendment into its decision, even though the Libertarian candidates-turned-plaintiffs tried. They argued the drug tests violated their First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights in their initial district court filing.

"If you refuse to take a drug test," Chandler argued, according to a 1997 USA Today account, "it's like refusing to salute the flag of the drug war. For Libertarians, it's also like Georgia is saying: 'You can believe what you want. But you have to show contempt for what you and other Libertarians believe before you can even get on our ballot.' "

So to recap: The Supreme Court tossed out a drug-testing requirement for candidates -- not elected officials -- based on the Fourth Amendment, not the First. The law wasn't tossed out on the grounds that they were candidates -- rather it was ruled invalid because it diminished someone's personal privacy.

We consulted First Amendment expert and attorney Patsy Palmer to be sure we weren’t missing something. "There is nothing that I know of which would extend First Amendment privileges exclusively to lawmakers in the field of urine testing," she said. "There’s utterly no case law on that as far as speech is concerned."

She added: "Anything that would give an exclusive First Amendment right to lawmakers rather than other citizens of the state seems to be a stretch."

We should note the ACLU, which has strongly suggested it will sue over Smith’s law, agrees that lawmakers should not be drug-tested. But not because of the First Amendment.

The group thinks state employees -- and elected officials -- should be protected by the Fourth Amendment.

"If the Fourth Amendment applies in the halls of the Florida House of Representatives -– and it does –- it applies to other state office buildings as well," said ACLU spokesman Derek Newton.

Smith, for his part, told PolitiFact Florida that the question about lawmaker drug-testing is irrelevant. Per state law, leaders of the state House and Senate are already allowed to "adopt rules, policies, or procedures for the employees and members of the legislative branch" for drug tests.

The outcome of the ACLU’s legal challenge to Scott’s drug-testing executive order remains to be seen. It’s likely to influence implementation of the state’s new law. We’re not here to make that case.

Our ruling (Times Politifact):

Smith made the claim that elected officials have a special First Amendment protection from being tested for drugs. No court has gone close to that far. In a Georgia case, the Supreme Court ruled that candidates for office -- not elected officials -- cannot be forced to take a drug test because it violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- that’s not the one dealing with freedom of speech.

Opponents to Florida's drug-testing law say the Fourth Amendment protects elected officials, candidates and state workers from being require to be tested for drugs.

While that issue will likely be settled in the court system, Smith's claim can be decided by the Truth-O-Meter. It's False.
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I hope voters will remember how dim-witted this guy is come election time.
Even the Chronicle chimes in on this guy
April 07, 2012 11:33AM
Citrus Chronicle Editorial: 4-7-2012

TINKERING WITH SCHOOLS


Fully weigh risks of privatization

THE ISSUE:
Proposed privatization of school buses.

OUR OPINION:
Value input of local experts.

State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith is pondering legislation that would have school districts relinquish the job of transporting students.
He feels the private sector might “provide cheaper and better service.”

School officials cringe at that notion.

Rep. Smith, R-Inverness, should value their concerns. After all, they are among his constituents — and the closest to the issue.

First off, at present there’s nothing preventing school districts from contracting with private companies. Requiring privatization, however, seems nothing more than a lobbying interest looking to steer tax dollars their way with no long-term assurance of better service, improved oversight of children or benefits for drivers, who — under public oversight — aren’t exactly raking in big bucks.

While the terms of contracts could perhaps vary if privatization were legislated, if school systems chose to sell off the buses in their fleet — which, new, cost about $100,000 each — and the experiment failed, the costs of rebuilding a fleet would be astronomical.

There hasn’t been a hue and cry from Citrus County for the school district to give up its role in transporting students, so we question why this is of concern to Rep. Smith.

There’s value in having drivers as employees of the school system, helping to offer assurances that they are answerable to school officials and parents, and who become familiar with their young passengers.

With the blessing of school administrators, Citrus County’s school bus drivers exercise judgment when it comes to whether it’s in the interest of public safety to transport a child who lives less than two miles from their school. The state only requires districts to pick up those living two or more miles from school. In Citrus County, that could result in youths walking a couple miles down U.S. 41 or Croft Avenue or Pleasant Grove Road or any number of other busy and dangerous roads.

Would drivers under a privatized service undergo background checks for criminal history and driving infractions?

Last month, Melissa Ross wrote a guest column in Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union that noted dozens of bus drivers in Duval County were found to have criminal records, with some driving on suspended licenses. She also noted an incident in which 100 or more elementary school students were left to stand in the rain while the buses were busy shuttling people to the Daytona 500. Rep. Smith and other proponents should fully evaluate the situation in Duval before further flirting with a law to require privatization.

We ask that our lawmakers fully absorb the opinions and concerns of local school officials and weigh those against whether they’re really hearing a public plea for privatization or simply responding to whispers from lobbyists.

We suspect the latter.
Re: Our Own Jimmy Smith in Action
April 15, 2012 08:39AM
Ed,
Nancy gets me & Marge's votes (and would hands down, repub., dem., ind. or alien from MARS she's head and shoulders (although mostly a head containing a brain) above smith!

How is it that we seem to have our Fl. House & Senate filled (at least in the N.Fla. Realm) w/nothing but the 'good ole boys' who don't seem to have a clue as to how to CUT SPENDING and REDUCE Government Size and Scope (which ironically most of them CAMPAIGNED ON)?

Truth in Advertiing...that's the problem w/North Florida Politics....starting with MEDIA that aren't willing to ask the HARD (Read=HONEST) Questions, BEFORE the Elections; then whine about our 'poor' selections when we find out where the bozos stand AFTER the election.
my 2 cents is that the blame lies nearly everywhere, including voter apathy.

Monday I see if Nancy can use some physical campaign support.....
Re: He's at it again
May 30, 2012 04:50PM
I really do not know what the big deal is about drug testing state emplotyees or recipients of government aid. This is something that long has been a practice in Corporate America. Just a few weeks ago a school bus driver was found to be under the influence and yes they lost their job before they killed someones child. Yes I can concur why do most of our law makers should also be drugf tesetd possibly that could explain all the irrationl acts they make.

Jack
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