In a letter sent to Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos today, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, writes that the decision to only refer the Legislatureā€™s two controversial prison privatization bills to one committee was the wrong move.

This week, lawmakers announced that two bills allowing the state to privatize prisons have been fast-tracked by leaders in the stateā€™s GOP-led Legislature by only referring them to one committee ā€” the rules committee ā€” before a final vote.

The two bills, which were introduced yesterday,Ā encountered resounding oppositionĀ from various groups. The AFL-CIO, a labor group, warned that the bills were aĀ ā€œunion bustingā€Ā effort that would ā€œeliminate any transparency from the process, allowing Legislative leaders to auction off Florida with no deliberation, cost benefit analysis or public input.ā€

While one bill privatizes correctional facilities, the other would allow the privatization of state functions to go through more secretively. If passed, the bill would allow the privatization of a public agency function to move along without being evaluated forĀ feasibility, cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Fasano requested in his letter today that the bills get a full hearing from the appropriate committees.

According to the letter, Fasano warns that the two bills represent ā€œpotential changes to policy of such a magnitude that they should not have originated in a procedural committee such as the Rules Committee.ā€

Fasano writes:

In my opinion a subject as complex as prison privatization should have been referred to the substantiveĀ committees that oversee this subject matter (i.e. Criminal Justice, Governmental Oversight andĀ Accountability and Criminal & Civil Justice Appropriations). The Senate has a rich history as aĀ deliberative body that examines and allows for full vetting of proposed policy changes both major andĀ minor. I respectfully request that if these bills are acted upon favorably by the Rules Committee onĀ January 23, 2012 that you pull them back into your office and refer them to at least the three substantiveĀ and appropriations committees I have suggested.

Proponents of the bill have said they were Ā filed in response to a ruling made when aĀ judge struck down the Legislatureā€™s attemptĀ to privatize prisons last year. The judge ruled last year that the process by which the legislators pushed through its plans to privatize prisons in 18 counties was unconstitutional and lacked statutory authority.

When the ruling was announced last year, Fasano released a statement saying that he applaudedĀ the judge ā€œfor her wise decision to declare the attempt at privatizing these prisons unconstitutional.ā€ Ā Fasano said, ā€œthe Florida Legislature should not be making major policy decisions by inserting last minute proviso language into the budget, thus circumventing the committee process.ā€

ā€œAn issue as important as prison privatization should have been given the chance for thoughtful debate in the substantive committees that oversee this issue,ā€ he said this past September.

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