Hearing Wednesday on Prison Health Service Privatizations
Two unions representing nurses and other state employees are back in court this morning, arguing that efforts by the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) to privatize prison health services violate state law.
The case is being heard at 11 a.m. by Judge Kevin Carroll of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court.
The suit by the Florida Nurses Association and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees had been dismissed by Carroll on July 2, when he found the matter “moot” after a provision in an appropriation bill authorizing the privatization expired on June 30.
The unions contended that the provision was a violation of the state Constitution’s “single-subject rule,” according to which a single bill can cover only one issue or subject. The principle, codified in Article III, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution, is intended to make state laws easier for voters and legislators to understand and to prevent legislative “log-rolling” -- i.e., getting unpopular legislation passed through the Legislature by piggy-backing it onto more popular measures.
Although the contested budgetary provision expired over a month ago, the DOC insists it has an alternative legal basis for proceeding with the privatizations: Section 20.315(12) of the Florida Statutes, which allows the DOC to “contract for the provision of services by counties, municipalities, nonprofit corporations, and other entities capable of providing needed services, if services so provided are more cost-efficient, cost-effective, or timely than those provided by the department or available to it under existing law.”
Even if lawful, DOC Secretary Ken Tucker's proposed privatization plan would have to be approved by the 14 House and Senate members that make up the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.
Tucker insists his plan, if implemented, would reduce state prison costs by well over 7 percent.
Stay tuned to Sunshine State News for an update later this afternoon, after the hearing ...