Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Senate disregards perils of privatization

Florida Senate leaders claim their end run around a judge's ruling in an effort to quickly privatize South Florida prisons is all about saving money. But they aren't willing to back up their rhetoric with an economic analysis that would be shared with taxpayers. The Republican leaders' arrogant efforts to exempt the Legislature from most of a state law that requires rigorous public vetting of privatization deals would encourage one-sided deals at best and invite corruption at worst. Floridians deserve government in the sunshine.

An embarrassing series of privatization controversies eventually led then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the Republican-led Legislature to require privatization proposals to undergo thorough reviews before deals are signed, including cost-benefit analyses, performance contracting procedures, and in the case of contracts worth $10 million or more, conducting a thorough business case. The rationale is still valid: If private industry can perform a government function more efficiently than government, it should prove it before winning a lucrative contract.

Late last year, the Republican Legislature ran afoul of that law when a Tallahassee trial judge ruled that language in the 2011-12 state budget that ordered the privatization of 30 prisons in South Florida fell far short of such rigorous scrutiny. Among the details lawmakers had never addressed in public discussions, corrections officials found it was going to cost up to $25 million to cover unused vacation and sick leave and other expenses tied to firing thousands of state prison workers. By the time the judge ruled, Gov. Rick Scott had even fired his skeptical Department of Corrections secretary, Edwin Buss, a well-regarded reformer whom the governor had wooed from Indiana.

Now lawmakers, still intent on privatizing South Florida's prisons in 18 counties, still aren't willing to play by the same rules they demand for everyone else in state government. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander and Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher are trying to ram through legislation (SB 2036 and 2038) that would exempt legislative-initiated privatization plans from serious public scrutiny as well as authorize the prisons' privatization. Their arrogant argument: As the state's policymakers, legislators are assumed to have weighed all the pros and cons before they authorize a privatization deal, so they shouldn't be second-guessed. How very sovereign of them. Even after last year's embarrassing revelations that their private prison scheme was poorly considered, they still are more interested in acting on behalf of special interests than being accountable to the public.

So far, the Florida House has not filed companion legislation, and House Speaker Dean Cannon hasn't signaled whether he will support the measures. He should side with history and the lessons learned by former Gov. Bush and a previous Legislature. If privatization makes sense, prove it with a business case, in public, every time.

Comments

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18