Today's news -- February 2, 2012

Fasano booted from committee in feud over privatizing prisons

As a divided Senate struggled for a second day over a prison privatization plan, its biggest critic was stripped of a chairmanship and an "extremely disappointed" Gov. Rick Scott twisted opposing senators' arms to no avail. The chaos leaves a priority of Senate leaders in grave jeopardy a year after a similar plan was thrown out by a judge because it was tucked into the budget and not debated separately. Opponents said that such a massive expansion of privatization could not survive an up-or-down vote in the full Senate. Senate leaders say the state can save much-needed money by outsourcing 26 prisons and work camps in South Florida to private, for-profit vendors with a guaranteed savings of at least 7 percent. But they face growing resistance from senators who doubt the promised savings of between $16 million and $30 million a year and who are unwilling to disrupt state workers' lives for what they say are modest savings in a budget of almost $70 billion. Critics also say the cost of paying displaced prison workers for unused sick leave and vacation time would offset the savings. Amid the mounting tension, Senate President Mike Haridopolos refused to bring up the bill for debate, a sign that it faced defeat. Ten of 28 Senate Republicans have voiced strong reservations or opposition to such a major policy shift, a serious rift in the GOP caucus. The drama intensified as Haridopolos stripped Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, of his chairmanship of a budget subcommittee overseeing prisons, saying Fasano "was not rowing in the same direction" as Senate leaders on budget decisions. Fasano said Haridopolos told him he was being punished for his anti-privatization comments in an MSNBC interview Monday. "It's unfortunate when leaders of the Senate can't lose like gentlemen," Fasano said. Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, will replace Fasano as chairman of the criminal justice budget panel, and Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, will take Bogdanoff's old assignment as the chairman of the Finance and Tax Committee. As senators debated a school prayer bill Wednesday, Scott quietly summoned two Senate Republicans who oppose privatization to his office for one-on-one meetings. Scott is a strong supporter of the outsourcing plan. Scott's backroom lobbying did no good. Both senators, former sheriffs, remain firmly opposed to more privatization of prisons. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, said he respects Scott as his party leader and "my quarterback," but added: "I stay with him but not on this issue, because I have my personal convictions that this is wrong." Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Alachua, said Scott told him the savings are "foolproof" and are needed because the governor believes the state retirement fund is broke. Like Dean, Oelrich opposes outsourcing public safety. "I'm not a big-government guy," Oelrich said. "But there's some things we ought to do and taking custody and control of the people we imprison is one of them." (FEA mentioned),0,1302830.story


Unions rush to Fasano's defense (Andy Ford quoted) (Andy Ford quoted) (FEA mentioned)


Corrections workers express fear as prison privatization vote nears


Scott "extremely disappointed" in opponents of prison privatization


Partisan scuffle over privatization and tax breaks yields hot air and jerked knees


House moves ahead with $69.2 billion budget,0,47247.story


House prepares major property tax cut,0,5614306.story


Haridopolos: Senate budget allocations expected next week


Does merit pay really increase teacher retention?


Bay teachers, schools start contract negotiations (Nancy Young quoted)


Pinellas teachers plan protest this week (PCTA mentioned)

Teachers, parents urge School Board to choose educator as next leader (Debra Wilhelm quoted),0,5935039.story

Pasco public school rankings released (Andy Ford quoted)


Major changes considered in early learning bills


State eyes school-bus ads for more money,0,3911480.story

Senate approves school prayer bill


Tuition hikes wear thin on students, administrators


UF moves forward with 3 percent faculty raises (John Biro quoted)


Rising college costs leave middle class behind,0,5697721.column


Bill to give illegal immigrants' kids in-state tuition is quashed


House beginning floor debate on redistricting


Districts: A mixture of progress and failure,0,7090270.story


Florida ranks near bottom for income, financial security of residents


Oops! Burgin leaves ALEC fingerprint on bill


Under pressure from environmentalists, water privatization proposal scrapped


Norman aide accused of not filing tax returns for five years


Time to rebuild the middle class


Indiana governor signs law making right-to-work state  (Randi Weingarten quoted)

Weingarten urges activism and advocacy in New Jersey


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