A Tallahassee judge ruled Tuesday that a legislative committee did not have the authority to approve a contract regarding prison health care services.
According to Businessweek, the plan would privatize health care services in three of Florida’s four prison system regions. Circuit Judge John Cooper, who made the decision, said the policy changes must be approved by the full Legislature, rather than just a panel of 14 select legislators.
Alma Gonzalez, special council for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said this ruling allows more politicians to voice their opinions on the matter because the public has the right to know how the private prison industry works.
“What’s important is that the court order underlines that principle that the governor cannot play fast and loose with Florida’s constitution,” she said. “If he wants to let privateers make profit from prisoners he’s going to have to play by the rules.”
The plan will amend the general appropriations bill and move over $200 million into a private contract, Gonzalez said. Her main complaint is that the change would destabilize families and affect lives.
“Hundreds of thousands of public employees, their lives hang in the balance and we would like for the governor to stop now and stabilize this system with regard to healthcare providers in the prison,” she said.
According to the Associated Press, privatization plans were challenged by three unions representing about 2,600 state employees who feared for their jobs after prison officials were given permission to outsource from the Legislative Budget Commission.
Though, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration said it plans on appealing the decision.
“This ruling is wrong and puts in jeopardy nearly $90 million over the next two years that could be used to fund critical priorities – including increasing K-12 education funding,” Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said, according to the Associated Press. “We are working with the Department of Corrections to appeal the decision and protect hundreds of other state jobs that the department could be forced to eliminate if they lose nearly $90 million in expected savings.”