Senate President Mike Haridopolos has been one of the biggest proponents in the prison privatization debate. Sascha Cordner takes a look as to why the Merritt Island Republican felt so strongly about privatizing the state correctional facilities in South Florida as well as his tactics to accomplish that.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos says he’s always gone about using his position in the right way.
“The old tradition of people twisting arms is not my style. I don’t twist arms. I do my best to influence people and tell the facts. In my opinion, it’s important, because we’re going to save a lot of money, not just short term, but in the long term as well.”
Haridopolos, a major supporter of prison privatization, made this statement following recent remarks by Senator Jack Latvala during a recent Senate Floor session.
At that time, the Saint Petersburg Republican questioned fellow Republican, Senate Budget chief JD Alexander about the prison privatization issue:
Latvala: "Why are we here doing this now? I mean, in other words, if the Governor has the authority to do it within current statutes, why are we breaking arms to get it done in this form?"
Haridopolos: "Senator Latvala, I'd like to refrain from that question, because that's not accurate."
Latvala: "I'm sorry, that was meant as kind of a joke. Why are we pushing so hard to get it done?"
Haridopolos: "There you go! Thank you. [laughs]”
Alexander: "My arms are still working pretty good, Senator. I've certainly not broken any arms or twisted anyone to do anything other than what they believe is right."
University of South Florida Political Scientist Susan McManus says Haridopolos is pushing so hard for the effort because he’s trying to leave a lasting imprint on the Legislature.
“Haridopolos strongly believes in the principle of privatization and sees it as a true cost saving measure. And, obviously, it’s something he sees as his legacy as Senate President and that’s not unusual for leadership in either House to have an issue they regard as a signature issue and he has gone to the mat on this issue, and it doesn’t look like’s going to give in on this issue very easily.”
When it seemed like he didn’t have enough support for the plan, Haridopolos delayed a vote for two weeks. He also removed Senator Mike Fasano from his position as the Budget chairman for a panel that oversees prison and court spending.
Fasano claims his removal had everything to do with bullying:
“I could go on and on to suggest that…process! Process! Just because I disapproved of a policy, I was removed as a chairman! Is that process?”
But, Haridopolos says his reasons for booting Fasano was because the New Port Richey Republican could not make the tough budget choices. He also maintains he has never used his position in a vindictive way.
“We are free will. I do my best to pose a good argument and I challenge anyone to say we’re being bullies or twisting arms. There’s no evidence of it.”
Political Scientist McManus says Haridopolos’ removal of Fasano is evidence of what usually goes on in the Legislature by way of trying to sway votes:
“Well, that’s very common for leadership on an issue that’s of key importance to them and seen as their major accomplishment, they’re going to try and twist as many arms as possible. It is very unusual for leadership to remove someone from their chairmanship, but it’s not unheard of. ”
Update: The measure died on the Senate Floor, on a 19-21 vote. Haridopolos says because the prison privatization proposal failed to pass, it means the Florida Senate budget chairmen will have to slash other areas of the budget.