By Ashley Lopez
An attempt by state Sen. Mike Fasano to halt the Florida Senate’s push to privatize 27 Florida prisons failed today.
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, had introduced an amendment that would have stricken the state’s plans to privatize prisons and instead required the Legislature to “conduct a thorough and complete financial impact analysis of the costs and benefits of privatizing and closing prisons in this state.” Fasano has said many times that he believes not enough is known about the fiscal impact of the state’s plans, and he has pushed for leaders in the Senate to slow down the process.
“This is a major policy decision and there has been no analysis done,” Fasano told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
State Sen. Paula Dockery, another Republican opposed to the state’s plans, said not enough is known about the finances behind the measure, and supported Fasano’s amendment. She explained that the state’s ”past history is not a compelling case” to privatize in the absence of a proper business plan.
“We can only make this decision once we hear all the facts,” Dockery said. ”I am more fiscally conservative. I want to see a business plan.”
Some Republican state senators claimed the state’s plan ensures at least 7 percent cost savings, which would ease continued cuts into health services in state. State Sen. Garrett Richter said that it was “literally heart-wrenching” to sit in a health committee where public health workers are asking legislators to seize cuts into their programs.
However, Democratic state Sens. Bill Montford and Nan Rich countered that such arguments are misleading. Montford said that the “same families” are affected by prison privatization and public health cuts. Rich said it is “disingenuous” to say that the ”way we get money is from question cost-saving measures.” She said the state was not doing enough to raise revenue, which is the real reason for the state’s cuts into health services.
Fasano warned his colleagues that they were “moving this thing forward too fast” and his amendment was a matter of protecting Florida tax payers.
Faith leaders, sheriffs from all over the state and tea party groups all announced today that they were opposed to the state’s privatization plan.
Fasano’s amendment failed, however, in a 19-21 vote. A final vote on the original bill is set to take place tomorrow.