The privatization lines have blurred in Florida. Few any longer even bother to dispute the fact that Florida’s republican-dominated legislature is engaged in attempted to privatize the state’s education apparatus via any means possible. The privatization template is currently placed over the state’s prison system. Like on education, republicans don’t seem to mind that their efforts are easily labeled as not being above-board. The editors of the Bradenton Herald write:
The Legislature’s push toward the privatization of prisons in the state’s southern counties encountered a political maelstrom this week as Senate Republicans became embroiled in a squabble that could doom the ill-advised measure.
In an exercise of raw political power, Senate President Mike Haridopolos abruptly stripped Sen. Mike Fasano of his chairmanship of the chamber’s budget subcommittee responsible for oversight of prison and court spending. That move came a day after Fasano, a veteran New Port Richey senator who is highly regarded in many quarters for his independent thinking, failed to toe the party line on privatization by sharply criticizing the legislation and filing amendments.
Haridopolos claimed he lost confidence in Fasano’s ability to cut government costs. Like some fellow GOP senators, Fasano disputes savings will materialize. The bill requires privatization to produce a 7 percent savings to the state, estimated at an anemic $16.5 million for the targeted 26 corrections facilities. The cost would be 4,000 prison employee jobs.
One of Fasano’s amendments would have required that any private corporations operating prisons give state corrections officers top priority for hiring — with the same salary and benefits. But isn’t that the point of privatization — cheap labor? Isn’t that where profits materialize? Obviously, this was a poison pill to Haridopolos — as was another Fasano amendment, one that put off privatization in lieu of additional studies.
From the very beginning of this push last year, the entire episode fails the smell test.
Indeed. Recall that John Thrasher’s senate rules committee was went so far last month as to advance what the Orlando Sentinel called in an editorial as “private privatizing.” Anything to get around circuit court Judge Jackie Fulford’s ruling. More from this morning’s Herald with respect to Fulford’s ruling:
In 2011, the Legislature stuck privatization directly into the budget, bypassing public hearings and the constitutional mandate that this be a separate law. A judge (Fulford) nixed the maneuver.
So Senate leaders returned this year and tried a different ploy — putting the legislation into the hands of two committees stacked with pro-privatization senators. But now facing heated opposition from Democrats as well as fellow Republicans, passage appears in trouble.
Why the rush toward prison privatization? Why not perform an in-depth study to remove doubts about the savings?
Could it be because the private prison industry donated almost $784,000 to the Florida Republican Party in 2010? The National Institute on Money in State Politics also reported the industry gave the state’s Democratic Party a paltry $143,000 — we suspect just to keep a hand in the game.
This mess has quite an unpleasant aroma.
State republicans are really getting hammered by the state’s editorial boards, but are astonishingly unmoved and remain remarkably unencumbered. The campaign donation disparity is a simple argument. What’s more crucial to Floridians is the wisdom in privatizing such vital services as prisons and schools. The zeal in which republicans are imposing privatization without either limitations or evidence of past success is irresponsible.