Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos has removed state Sen. Mike Fasano from his post as chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriation and from his role on the Senate Committee on Budget, in the wake of their disagreement over the state’s plans to privatize prisons.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has been one of the most vocal opponents of a Senate bill that would privatize 27 prisons. This week he introduced an amendment that would strike the bill in its entirety and require further study on the fiscal impact of the state’s plans. One of Fasano’s biggest criticisms as the bill has made its way quickly through the state Senate is that not enough is known about the measure’s fiscal impacts.

Haridopolos told reporters today that his decision to remove Fasano’s chairmanship is “not about retribution.” He said that he has “lost confidence in him to fulfill [the] mission” of balancing the budget and not raising taxes, due to “comments he has made on the floor” during debate over the prison privatization bill.

“This was a very difficult decision because I respect him,” Haridopolos said. “It was tough to make this decision because Mike Fasano and I are friends.”

Fasano quickly released a statement after Haridopolos’ announcement:

In my 18 years of elective office I have always and will continue to vote my conscience I have stood up for the little guy and gal, those who otherwise would not have a voice in the legislative process. I will always speak out when I see injustice, no matter what the consequences may be.

No matter how big the bully in the schoolyard may be, if the loss of a chairmanship is the result of taking a stand for what is right, I wear that loss as a badge of honor.

As the final days of the president’s tenure comes to a close I encourage him to stand up for taxpayers and consumers to ensure that each and every tax dollar is spent wisely. The special interests should not prevail. I hope that he will do what is right and remember why we were all sent to Tallahassee.

Haridopolos also announced today that in an “abundance of caution” he has decided to move the vote for prison privatization to next week in order to give senators the weekend to consider the proposal.

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