[Tallahassee, FL] Florida Prison Privatization – It was one of the most closely watched pieces of legislation this year.
A bill that would have led to prison privatization in South Florida has failed to pass in the Senate, despite strong-arm tactics by Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-26/Merritt Island), threats by Senate budget chief JD Alexander (R-17/Lake Wales) and a last-minute push by Gov. Rick Scott.
“This is an opportunity for the taxpayers of the state to save money,” Scott said. “We’re at a four year low in our crime rate and the number of inmates we have is down from what we anticipated.”
Nonetheless, the bill (SB 2038) failed by a vote of 19-21 after three hours of spirit-filled debate on the floor.
There were a lot of political casualties leading up to this moment. First, the Florida Legislature tried to slip prison privatization into the budget. A court battle ensued and the circuit judge agreed with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) that it must be passed in a separate bill.
Then, Gov. Scott fired Ed Buss from his job as head of the Florida Department of Corrections. Scott cited other reasons, but it is widely believed that the outspoken Buss was ousted because he didn’t agree with the move toward prison privatization.
Most recently, Haridopolos removed Sen. Mike Fasano (R-11/New Port Richey) from his chairmanship because Fasano wouldn’t allow the bill out of his committee.
Now, after all of that, the measure is dead. At least in the Florida Legislature, anyway.
There is a “nuclear option”: Scott could write an executive order forcing the Department of Corrections to privatize prisons. But when pressed on the matter, the Governor declined to say whether he would employ the maneuver.
It would certainly be controversial as the measure failed in a political body dominated by Republicans.
How the votes went down:
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate