UPDATE: Senate defeats prison privatization billby Dara Kam | February 14th, 2012
_ In a rebuke to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and his lieutenants, a bipartisan coalition defeated a plan that would have privatized two dozen prisons and other corrections facilities, putting an end to the controversial proposal with three weeks left in the legislative session.
The plan, a priority of Haridopolos and Senate budget chief JD Alexander, would have moved more than 14,000 inmates in 24 state-run prisons and work camps and put more than 3,500 state workers out of a job.
Nine Republicans joined with a united Democratic caucus of 12 to kill the measure (SB 2038) on a 21-19 vote after weeks of intense lobbying by proponents, including Gov. Rick Scott, handing a victory to labor unions and a blow to Boca Raton-based GEO Group, a potential vendor.
“I accept the verdict of the Senate,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters after the vote Tuesday evening. “Tomorrow’s a new day.”
The proposal, the brainchild of Senate budget chief JD Alexander, would have been the largest single prison privatization effort in the nation.
But questionable savings, concerns about public safety and the role of government dragged down the undertaking and created a rift within the GOP caucus as the chamber prepares to vote on its $70.6 billion spending plan.
“We can’t have it both ways. If everybody’s lock-step, they complain that everybody’s lock-step. If Republicans vote their conscience, then supposedly there’s a rift. I don’t think there’s any of that,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who at midday appeared resigned that the bill was going to die. “This is not uncommon…The Senate’s always been very independent. It doesn’t concern me a bit.”