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When North Carolina lawmakers passed a law last year mandating drug testing of public benefit recipients modeled (at least in part) on a law in Florida, civil liberties and anti-poverty advocates told them it was a bad and unconstitutional idea.

Today those advocates are feeling some vindication as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1tth Circuit stuck down Florida’s law. This is from the New York Times story:

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled that the law, one of the strictest in the country, was an unreasonable search because Florida officials had failed to show a “substantial need” to test all people who applied for welfare benefits. Applicants were required to submit to urine tests, a measure that Mr. Scott said would protect children of welfare applicants by ensuring that their parents were not buying and using drugs.

“The state has not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population,” the panel said in its unanimous decision, using an acronym for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

North Carolina’s law is not identical, but the same basic logic ought to apply: If we’re going to start doing forced bodily searches of welfare recipients, there’s no logical reason the state shouldn’t be able to mandate such tests for all recipients of public benefits — from college students to Social Security beneficiaries.

let’s hope this decision heralds th beginning of the end for such invasive and ill-conceived programs.

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While many prepared to ring in 2014, judges in two federal districts handed down decisions worth considering given the “hot-button” issues they address.

In Florida, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven struck down that state’s mandatory drug testing requirement for welfare applicants, finding that it violated the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.

As noted here in the New York Times:

Florida passed the measure in 2011, and the case was being closely watched by several other states, including Georgia, which passed similar legislation in 2013 but found it dogged by legal challenges. State data in Florida also showed that the measure produced few results. Only 108 out of 4,086 people tested — 2.6 percent — were found to have been using narcotics. State records showed that the requirement cost more money to carry out than it saved.

North Carolina’s legislature passed a drug-testing bill last year that required drug testing of applicants who, based upon reasonable suspicion, may be abusing drugs.  Gov. Pat McCrory then vetoed that bill in August, only to be overridden by the General Assembly. The program has not been implemented though because of insufficient funding.

And in New York, U.S. District Judge William Skretny upheld New York’s expansion of bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, finding that most of New York’s recent gun reform law did not impermissibly burden the Second Amendment, particularly in light of evidence that the state introduced linking large-capacity magazines and assault weapons to more deaths.

As Nicole Flatow points out in this Think Progress post: 

The ruling is one of several to uphold new gun law reforms, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which reiterated that that the right to bear arms is far from unlimited. In October, a California appeals court upheld that state’s ban on semi-automatic rifles, citing Heller‘s conclusion that ownership of “[d]angerous and unusual weapons” is not protected by the Constitution. And earlier that month, a federal judge refused to block Maryland’s new gun reform bill.