"Under a prison plan that he says would save $82.4 million, Scott wants to cut 1,690 state corrections jobs, move as many as 1,500 inmates from state lock-ups to privately run prisons and close two still-unnamed state correctional institutions."
The plan is meeting some strong resistance. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who leads the Senate committee that oversees prison spending, last week called it "dead on arrival.""Privatization in Florida is nothing new; "
He said it made no sense to put 619 corrections officers out of work by sending convicts to privately run prisons, especially when state facilities currently have thousands of open beds. The moves would increase revenues to companies that operate private prisons, because they're paid per inmate housed.
"Why are we putting these 619 families out of work?" Fasano asked.
"Private prisons make a profit on the New York Stock Exchange," he said in an interview. "Government should not be in the business of helping companies make a profit, and that's what we're doing here."
the first three private prisons opened in Florida in 1995, according to the Department of Corrections. "Scott pushes for state prisons privatization".
Three companies with lobbyists in Tallahassee have reaped lucrative contracts by taking over state prisons and mental hospitals. One Boca Raton company, GEO Group, manages two of the state's seven private prisons and four of its seven mental-health facilities.
Corrections Corp. of America, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., runs four prisons, and Management Training Corp., based in Utah, runs one.
Those three companies are prime financiers of the Republican Party.
Bits and Pieces
Kevin Derby's "Political Bits and Pieces". See also "State Capitol Briefs".
Feel free to sleep under that overpass
"As Florida lawmakers push to contain unemployment costs, the system they are targeting already has some of the lowest benefits and participation in the nation. Florida's average weekly benefit is $232, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, making it the 47th lowest in the country. Its maximum benefit of $275 a week ranks near the bottom as well, far below the nation's other big states."
Wayne Vroman, an economist and unemployment expert with the Urban Institute:
"The problem in Florida isn't slackers," said Vroman. "The problem is there's not enough jobs to go around." "Jobless benefits in Florida are among the lowest in the country".
Citing low payments, low recipiency rates and tight eligibility, Vroman — and others — disputed the notion that Florida's laws favor the unemployed. Vroman called that "propaganda," saying that state lawmakers have "shown great deference" to the business lobby.
For example, when determining if a laid-off worker is entitled for benefits, the state considers how much the worker earned, not how long he held a job. And when calculating those wages, it excludes money earned during the past three months before a layoff.
The state also makes no provision for victims of domestic violence who leave an area — and quit a job — in order to escape their abuser. At least 19 other states allow those workers to collect unemployment.
"The low recipiency rate is strongly related to the fact that Florida doesn't present a very friendly face to the unemployed," Vroman said. "Almost all aspects of eligibility are more difficult."
Some version of the House and Senate bills stands a good chance of becoming law. Republicans control the Legislature, and the House bill is consistent with Gov. Rick Scott's unemployment priorities.
Vroman, however, said the measures miss the mark.
"It doesn't strike me as a good idea — not with the unemployment rate and with people hurting the way they are," he said. "They're taking a system that's not very generous and making it even less generous."
Scott "sets a new low"
"Rick Scott unveiled his budget plan last week, the sheer size of the proposed revenue reductions knocked the wind out of school officials across the state."
In Pinellas County, schools Chief Financial Officer Fred Matz said he took the numbers to Kevin Smith, the assistant superintendant for budget."School leaders fear impact of Scott's budget proposal".
"We looked at it and we started laughing hysterically," Matz said. ...
Matz has been doing this job for more than 37 years, and says he has never seen anything like this budget plan. "It's devastating," he said. "It sets a new low."
"Sen. Mike Haridopolos Set to Roll Out Medicaid Reform Bill". Related: "Doctors won't get a pay raise this year".
Labor law experts: they "deserved the boot"
Recall this Washington Post story last wee: "Rhee's firing of 75 D.C. teachers in 2008 was improper, arbitrator says". The story has finally hit the news feeds in Orlando, where the labor law experts on the Orlando Sentinel editorial board think that, notwithstanding the arbitrator's ruling, some of the D.C. teachers unjustly fired by Rick Scott's newest BFF, Michelle Rhee, actually "deserved the boot".
(How nice of the editors to describe the destruction of a teacher's career as "the boot".)
Nevertheless, even those knuckle-draggers were forced to concede that "Rhee's shut-up-and-leave methods might have left D.C. schools on the hook. As much-needed reforms in teacher pay and tenure wend through the Legislature next month, we hope Ms. Rhee's reminder about thoroughness and fairness is a lesson well learned." "Gov's pink-slipper".
After electing Scott, who can blame 'em
"Floridians pessimistic about future, says Leadership Florida poll". More: "Survey: Floridians worried about jobs, not taxes, and are pessimistic about the future".
"Cook: ‘Fair Districts’ amendments make Florida more competitive for Democrats".
Haridopolos goes after public employees
"Haridopolos wants to change both pension benefits and health insurance benefits for state workers." "Senate president: "Superior" state worker benefits need to be brought in line.".
Howard Troxler: "Florida Supreme Court sides with a Legislature that often criticizes it".
You got a problem with that?
"State ethics officials found no evidence that the state’s pension chief violated conflict of interest laws." "Complaint dismissed against pension chief".
Nelson in for a fight
"New Mason-Dixon Poll Shows Bill Nelson Should Expect Fight in 2012".
Federal block grants cut
"State and local government across Florida received about $172 million in community development block grants for 2010-11. Tampa Bay received 12 percent, or about $21 million. In addition, the state got $81 million in grants specified for affordable housing projects, with about $10 million spent in Tampa Bay. That program would also be cut under Obama's proposal." "As Obama announces cuts in block grants, local officials calculate aftermath".
No federal handout for dredging
"President Barack Obama’s proposed budget plan did not include $75 million sought by the Port of Miami officials for a dredging project to accommodate bigger cargo ships. But Everglades restoration efforts were kept intact — at least for now." "Obama budget does not include Port of Miami project funding".
The best Rubio can do?
"On track for federal approval to launch new flights to Cuba, Tampa International Airport has hit a political speed bump. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio last week proposed an amendment to a Federal Aviation Authority funding bill that would prohibit any additional flights between the United States and countries, such as Cuba, designated as 'state sponsors of terrorism' by the State Department." "TIA would face barrier to Cuba flights with Rubio amendment".
"Anxious SunRail supporters put away their Xanax over the weekend, thanks to Phillip Miller. The adviser to Gov. Rick Scott told a Senate subcommittee Thursday that the commuter train is back on track. State funding for the project is in the Department of Transportation's five-year work program, he said. And he suggested that the freeze Mr. Scott placed on SunRail contracts will thaw." "On track, again".
Whatever it takes
"Rick Scott got hit with a pitch for a Tampa-Orlando High-speed rail system from an unexpected direction at the State Fair Governor's Lunch Monday: City Council member Tom Scott, a pastor, included it in his invocation." "Tom Scott prays for governor to proceed with high-speed rail".
Welcome to Florida
"NASA's chief expressed hope Monday that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be able to attend her husband's shuttle launch in two months amid new signs of progress for the wounded congresswoman. Astronaut Mark Kelly has said he expects his wife to be well enough to be at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for his launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, although her doctor says it's too early to say." "NASA chief: Giffords welcome at husband's launch".
"The ex-governor, adjusting to life in the private sector, is preparing to move from his 21st-floor, one-bedroom condo at Bayfront Tower in St. Petersburg to a rented two-bedroom condo on the 19th floor." "Former Gov. Charlie Crist and Carole Crist make plans to live full time in St. Petersburg".
"I don't think your governor understands"
"Thirty-four states monitor pain clinics, but Gov. Rick Scott wants to repeal a Florida law that would do the same. Those who support monitoring say Scott’s decision is wrong and can lead to more deaths." "Unmonitored pain clinics may lead to more deaths, officials say".
"The 34 states that already have drug database programs say they don't have the kind of privacy problems Gov. Rick Scott fears. 'I don't think your governor understands the impact Florida's pill mills are having outside the state,' said one Kentucky official." "Rejected program works elsewhere". See also "Governor, Senate President disagree on whether Fla. needs drug database" and "Scott fires back at critics over his plan to scrap pain pill database".
One man's terrorist ...
"A federal judge is deciding whether a high-profile and politically charged perjury case against a former CIA agent will continue after defense attorneys claimed prosecutors put a covert Cuban counter-intelligence agent on the witness stand and delayed providing documents that prove his actual background." "Judge to decide if ex-CIA agent's trial continues".