AG Bondi to appeal prison privatization ruling

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Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida reports at the urging of lawmakers, Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday appealed a judge’s ruling that a controversial plan to privatize 29 prison facilities was unconstitutional.

Bondi’s office announced about 4:30 p.m. that it had filed a notice of appeal in the 1st District Court of Appeal. The move came as a surprise: Earlier in the day, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration said it would not fight the judge’s ruling.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, issued a statement expressing confidence that the appeal will be successful and that privatization will help save tax dollars for the state.

“Not only is the privatization of our state’s prisons good policy, but it ensures that our state can dedicate more money to education, health care or economic development programs that would otherwise be spent on prisons,” Haridopolos said.

The state faced a Monday deadline for deciding whether to appeal. The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which filed the lawsuit, said it was disappointed that Bondi “waited until the last minute” to file an appeal but said it is willing to fight the privatization issue to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

“We’ve been ready to go from the start, and we’re taking it to the next level,” PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett said.

Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford on Sept. 30 agreed with the PBA’s arguments that lawmakers violated the state constitution in the way they approved the privatization plan. Legislative leaders included the plan in the fine print of the state budget — known as proviso language — instead of passing it in a regular bill.

“Based on the record before it, this court concludes that if it is the will of the Legislature to itself initiate privatization of Florida prisons

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