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PolitiFact: State Rep. Jimmie Smith says First Amendment protects lawmakers from drug-testing

3:24 PM, Apr 6, 2012   |    comments
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State Rep. Jimmie Smith

St. Petersburg, Florida - A Florida lawmaker is under fire for supporting a bill that requires drug-testing for state workers... but excludes state lawmakers.

What's worse, PolitiFact found Representative Jimmie Smith has all the wrong information about why the law is justified.

We break down the facts:

It's a controversial law that passed in March, allowing drug-testing for state workers, but excluding state lawmakers.

Representative Jimmie Smith, a Republican from Citrus County, is taking some heat because of this statement:

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

"When we dug into the heart of the matter, we found that he confused so many of the details," says Angie Holan with PolitiFact Florida.

Let's start with Smith's explanation of his statement. He cited Chandler vs. Miller from Georgia. The 1997 Supreme Court decision overturned a law requiring candidates for state office to prove they passed a drug test within 30 days of qualifying for the ballot.

"First off, the Supreme Court didn't say anything about elected officials. The case was about whether candidates for office could be drug tested before their names were placed on the ballot," says Holan.

She adds that decision was not based on First Amendment grounds, but on Fourth Amendment grounds.

"So the Supreme Court said, you can't drug test these candidates for office because it violates their rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure."

Now to his claim about the First Amendment protecting elected officials from being drug tested. Holan talked with a First Amendment expert.

"She told us that everyone, all citizens enjoy First Amendment rights and she had never heard of any case where elected officials were given more First Amendment rights than regular citizens."

Because it seems Rep. Jimmie Smith is confused on some facts, PolitiFact Florida rates his statement: FALSE.

Governor Rick Scott says he will not implement the new law until the outcome of an ACLU-led court challenge.

That deals with his 2011 executive order requiring random drug testing at agencies.

Check out the PolitiFact Florida truth-o-meter here: http://www.politifact.com/florida/

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