Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican Governor and legislature proposed to privatize all 26 state prisons. SB 2038 would have allowed privatization if a private company’s bid was at least 7 percent less than the state’s current cost. The bill would affect nearly 4,000 state workers. Projected annual savings exceeded $16.5 million.
Despite union opposition, the bill was expected to pass, given the lopsided control the Republicans hold in the state Senate, 28-12.
In mid February the Senate confounded predictions and defeated the bill by two votes, 19-21. Ten Republicans voted against. Both the Tea Party network in Florida and the NAACP opposed the bill, albeit for very different reasons. The Tea Party is no friend to government but doubted privatization would generate the promised savings. The NAACP’s opposition was more philosophical, “The safety of communities should not be for sale.” It is unclear which argument held more sway with Republican legislators. The Tea Party’s political clout no doubt played a role. But the philosophy expressed by the NAACP seemed at least rhetorically to carry the day. As Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, a former sheriff, who voted in the opposition explained, “jailing for profit is not for the public good.”