Florida appeals prison privatization ruling at Legislature’s request

Oct 31, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on October 31, 2011:

State appeals privatization ruling at Legislature’s request

By Travis Pillow

At the request of legislative leaders, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has appealed a court ruling that halted an effort to privatize 29 state prisons in South Florida.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Scott said that although the governor supports privatization, he would not be directly involved in the appeal because the case centers on lawmakers’ authority to direct how state money should be spent.

Bondi has entered the case on behalf of the Legislature under statutory provisions that allow her to appear in cases in which the state has an interest. 

Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ruled on Sept. 30 that lawmakers did not have the authority to order the privatization through proviso, and that the Department of Corrections did not follow the process outlined in statute in its rush to comply with the proviso deadlines.

“Not only is the privatization of our state’s prisons good policy, but it ensures that our state can dedicate more money to education, health care or economic development programs that would otherwise be spent on prisons,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, said in a statement supporting the appeal. 

The Florida Police Benevolent Association said in a statement it was “disappointed” the state filed an appeal after Scott’s office announced its decision not to do so, and that the union “is prepared to fight this issue to the Supreme Court” if necessary. 

After Fulford’s decision, Haridopolos acknowledged to reporters the “risk” that an unfavorable court ruling could constrain future legislatures, but also pointed to previous uses of proviso language to direct privatization efforts as evidence lawmakers were on firm legal ground.

“Proviso is something that has been commonly used,” he said. “It’s open, it’s out there, and people are well aware of it.”

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