“A gross misuse" of power. That’s how a lawyer described the Florida Legislature's plan to privatize about 30 South Florida prisons in a Tallahassee appeals court on Wednesday. And because of a looming deadline, that plan will likely die before the legal challenge against it is resolved.
Today, lawyers debated whether the Florida Legislature had overstepped the bounds of its power when it approved the controversial plan. Attorney Stephen Turner, arguing on behalf of the Florida Department of Corrections, said because the legislature folded the plan into the department’s overall budget—rather than in a separate bill—Fla. Gov. Rick Scott had little choice.
“How in the world would governor exercise his veto power?" Turner asked the three-judge panel. "He would have to veto the entire DOC operating budget if he didn't want to have a privatization of Region 4. It doesn't make any sense."
But Assistant State Attorney General Jonathan Glogau disagreed.
“As Mr. Turner said, there are Constitutional limitations on what they can do. Our argument is that they met those limitations," he said.
The deadline to privatize the prisons is Saturday, and Glogau conceded no action could likely be taken in time, regardless of how the judges rule. But even if the ruling does not affect this particular case, the justices suggested an advisory opinion could help guide the legislature in the future.