Report: Fla. GOP tried to sneak prison privatization into budget

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Pic by Smithers7, via Wikimedia Commons

During budget negotiations Sunday night, GOP leadership tried to unsuccessfully sneak prison privatization into the state’s budget, The Palm Beach Post reports.

Earlier this session, the Republican-led Florida Senate voted down a measure to privatize 27 prisons in the state. Critics of the plan opposed the bill because they said it would compromise public safety and put thousands in the law enforcement industry out of work. Others criticized state leadership for rushing the bill through the legislative process with limited public testimony in order to appease private prison companies, who have lined the campaign coffers of Florida Republicans.

Despite the failed efforts to privatize prisons earlier in the session, the Post reports that leadership attempted a last-ditch effort to follow through on their plans. They were, however, unsuccessful once a Democrat noticed the move tucked away in proviso language.

According to the Post:

The only friction in [last night's] negotiations came when leading Republicans briefly tucked a provision into the state budget which [Nan Rich, D-Sunrise] said could allow the state to privatize prisons, mirroring a budget tactic ruled unconstitutional last fall by a court.

An effort to approve legislation to privatize 27 prisons across South and Central Florida was narrowly rejected by the Senate last month, dealing a blow to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Scott.

After Rich raised questions about the provision, it was withdrawn by leaders.

Legislators tucked prison privatization in the state budget last year, as well. A judge struck down that attempt and ruled that using proviso language in the budget to privatize a slew of state prisons was unconstitutional and lacked statutory authority.

As we reported last August, the Florida Police Benevolent Association sued the state over the move, arguing in their challenge that using the budgetary process to privatize prisons “violated legal and constitutional provisions intended to keep budgetary and policy-making measures separate.”

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who has been among the most vocal opponents of the state’s effort to privatize prisons– along with her colleague state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey– said in a statement yesterday that she was disappointed with the attempts to sneak the measure into the state budget.

“I find the attempt to allow some form of prison privatization via proviso language in the budget during [Sunday's] conference committee meeting abhorrent,” Dockery said. “As Senator Rich stated during that meeting, the Senate has spoken on that issue, and it is completely and totally unacceptable to try to undermine the deliberate decision with last minute proviso language.”

“It’s as if no lessons were learned from last year,” she said.

Though the legislature has again failed to pass a measure concerning prison privatization, many have warned that Gov. Rick Scott has the statutory authority, as governor, to privatize prisons. Scott has publicly supported prison privatization and tried to convince state Senators to pass the prison privatization bill this year. Dozens of public policy and religious groups have already begun to denounce a private prison company’s push to have states sell them their prisons as part of a business venture.

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