Go Gators: Athletic agents stay in regulatory picture after call from UFby John Kennedy | April 30th, 2011
House negotiators bowed to resistence from the Senate — and the University of Florida — and agreed Saturday to keep sports agents among the professions regulated by the state.
House budget chief Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, went along with Senate counterpart, J.D. Alexander’s request earlier Saturday that sports agents not be included in more than a dozen professions the state is looking to deregulate.
Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said he’d gotten a call Friday from University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, urging that the state maintain oversight of agents.
The House agreed. In the deal, Alexander went along with a House pitch to deregulate interior designers. But both sides agreed to maintain state oversight of health and dance studios, and travel sellers, other professions the Senate balked at freeing.
Cutting state regulations have been a central theme for Gov. Rick Scott. But the consensus package coming together in the Legislature is a scaled-back version of a more sweeping plan that advanced by the House.
UF’s interest in athletic agents stems, in part, from its recent history. Several former Gator football players including Ike Hilliard, Fred Taylor and Jacquez Green were duped by sports agent William “Tank” Black, who in 2003 was sentenced to five years in prison.
Alexander, is a 1981 Florida graduate and a grandson of Ben Hill Griffin, after whom the school’s football stadium is named.
In other negotiations, the Senate adopted the House’s stance on several criminal justice issues, including a smaller reduction in the number of vacant correctional jobs eliminated — 110, compared with 150 sought by senators.
But in a move that clouds the future of some 3,000 correctional officers, the House went along with the Senate’s push to privatize prisons across 18 counties, from mid-state through South Florida, seen as a way to save money.
The House had earlier proposed a more modest privatization effort — involving only Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But the plan OK’d Saturday would privatize prisons from Central Florida, south, including Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
Florida currently has six private prisons operated by three companies. But Alexander has insisted that the shift could save at least 7 percent in operating expenses at each facility turned private.
Alexander has said he chose South Florida because it has more large population centers that can better handle disruptions in employment. Prisons in rural areas often are the major employer in their communities.
Still, the privatization shift has been fiercely fought by the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which opposed Gov. Rick Scott in last year’s governor’s race.
Alexander and Grimsley are expected to work into at least Sunday on settling scores of budget disputes between the two sides. Millions of dollars of differences in health and human services funding may prove the most difficult to settle — and the two sides have not yet begun significant horse-trading.
Grimsley acknowledged Saturday afternoon that the HHS budget was daunting.
“If we don’t run out of coffee, we might actually get there,” she said.