Fasano loses chair position as prison privatization debate rages on

Feb 1, 2012

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos has stripped a veteran Republican lawmaker of his position on two budget panels. As Sascha Cordner reports, many believe the removal had something to do with his opposition to a prison privatization plan.

While Senate President Haridopolos is a huge supporter of privatizing about 30 south Florida prisons, Senator Mike Fasano has been an outspoken opponent.

The Senate was expected to vote on whether to privatize the South Florida region Wednesday, and the first order of business was several amendments by Fasano to derail the measure. However, Senate Bill 2038 never came up for a vote.

Fasano was removed from the committee he chairs that oversees spending on prisons and courts. He was also removed from the main Senate Budget committee.

Haridopolos denies claims he removed Senator Mike Fasano due to their conflicting opinions on the prison privatization issue.

He says he’s known the New Port Richey lawmaker for 13 years and they’re even friends. But, he lost confidence in Fasano’s chairmanship abilities.

“I just felt that I had lost confidence in him to fulfill that mission. As you take a chairmanship, as you all know, from the Florida Senate, part of it is to fulfill the mission of the goals of balancing the budget and making tough decisions.”

But, Fasano says there is definitely more to his removal than his ability to make tough budget choices:

“I never thought by opposing a very bad policy by turning over a half-billion dollars worth of prisons that were paid for by taxpayers over to private companies would force me out of a chairmanship. A bit disappointed that that’s the punishment if you will that that’s the punishment if you will that President Mike Haridopolos and the leadership of Tallahassee gives out when you oppose something that they support.”

The House Justice Appropriations Committee was expected to take up a similar prison privatization bill Wednesday, but they too did not consider the bill on their agenda.

Last year, the Legislature passed a prison privatization plan, but the proposal was challenged in court. A judge ruled the plan was unconstitutional because it should not have passed as part of the annual budget. SOC