Jan 19, 2012

Prison privatization could help APD with 40 million.

Senate to move ahead with prison privatization plan [Sen. Alexander: money
saved could go to APD]

TALLAHASSEE – A Senate panel opened the door Wednesday to give the Senate a
second shot at privatizing 29 prisons in South Florida and eliminate some
of the obstacles that led a Tallahassee judge to reject a similar plan this

The Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine,
gave the go ahead for the Senate to take up legislation that would
privatize correctional facilities in an 18-county South Florida region and
also a bill that revises requirements for the privatization process. The
second piece of legislation would drop a requirement that departments
looking at privatization create a business case for privatization prior to
the Legislature making the decision.

Last spring, lawmakers tucked the privatization plan into the budget
language, instead of debating it in a separate bill, making it easier to
pass and win Scott’s signature. Republican backers of the plan argued it
would save money for the nation’s third-largest prison system.

The Police Benevolent Association said that those promises were a sham and
that the state hadn’t even done a thorough enough analysis to even know how
much could be potentially saved. The group filed a lawsuit to undo the
plan, by arguing that lawmakers could not pass a privatization plan in the
budget language.

A judge agreed that privatization should be handled in a separate bill, not
in the budget. The judge also blasted the state for not doing a substantial
business analysis of how privatization would affect the state.

Matt Puckett, executive director of the Police Benevolent Association, said
stipulations such as the business case were in law to protect the state
from making a decision that was not advantageous to the state.

“I don’t know why we are undoing these changes now,” he said. “I think
these are put in place so we don’t make mistakes when we privatize.”
Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander said the Legislature should be able to
decide whether to privatize if they believe it could save the state money
and allow other priorities to be funded.

“If we make a decision to save $40 million so we can spend on our prior,
like APD, I think is a legitimate budget decision,”
he said.
The Senate meeting was only a preliminary vote to determine whether the
Senate should hold substantive hearings on the measure. Only two South
Florida lawmakers, Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Gwen
Margolis, D-Miami, objected to the bill going forward.