State Gets Funds To Privatize Prison Health Care, Unions To Sue

Sep 12, 2012

Florida could soon be faced with another union lawsuit over plans to privatize inmate health care services. The move comes after a legislative budget panel Wednesday approved a funding request from the Department of Corrections to help the effort move forward.  The union called that illegal, and says it could now cost about 3,000 state employees their jobs.

Even with several groups raising questions about whether it’s legal to privatize prison health care services, a Joint Legislative Budget Commission still agreed to help the Department of Corrections contract with two private companies. In a 6-4 decision, the budget panel transferred about $58 million from the state’s General Revenue fund to the department. Unions contend the move was underhanded, because it’s not within the panel’s authority. But, its chairman, Senate Budget Chief JD Alexander, disagrees.

“I don’t think it’s sneaky because we talked about the very likelihood that we would handle this through an LBC [Legislative Budget Commission] amendment back during Session on the floor," said Alexander. "Review the tapes! I mean it was asked and discussed that this was a possibility.”

Meanwhile, some Democrats, like Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, say it’s a decision that should not have been left up to just ten members of the Legislature.

“I think this is an overreach, and I believe in light of what happened during this session, and these issues that obviously will end up in some legal issues that we should let this alone, and wait until the next Legislative session meets and if this is what they would like to see happen,” remarked Rich.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has challenged the issue in court before, and the union expects to file a new suit as early as Thursday.