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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Court rebukes legislature again and throws out private prison health care plan



Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper on Tuesday struck down an attempt by the Florida legislature to use a budgetary committee to authorize the privatization of prison health care services instead of making the change in law.  Download Corizon and Wexford

The ruling affects about 1,900 state employees of the state prison system who were poised to be laid off from the state's prison system and required apply for their jobs with private contractors.

The lawsuit was filed by the unions that represent prison employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Alliance of Health Care Employees, who argued that the state was not authorized to make the change through the 14-member Legislative Budget Commission but instead needed to make the shift through a full vote of the Legislature.

Rather than attempt to pass a bill to privatize prison services, which might have run into the same opposition that killed an attempt to privatize 30 South Florida prisons, lawmakers this year opted to authorize funding to privatize prison health care only in South Florida with Wexford Health Care, and have the Legislative Budget Commission authorize the change for the rest of the state at its Sept. 12 meeting at for Corizon Health Care. 

Cooper agreed with the unions and ruled that the $229 million contract the budget commission approved for Nashville-based Corizon Correctional Healthcare, a for-profit company, was illegal. Wexford Health Care is still negotiating its contract and is not likely to be affected immediately.

“The attempt of the Legislative Budget Commission to provide funding for this contract is void and ineffective as it violates Article III, Section 19(c)(3) of the Florida Constitution,” Cooper wrote.

The ruling can be appealed.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 2:12pm]


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