Court strikes down prison healthcare privatization, says lawmakers can’t delegate job
Naked Politics report:
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper on Tuesday struck down an attempt by the Florida legislature to use a budgetary committee to authorize the privatization of prison health care services instead of making the change in law. Download Corizon and Wexford.
The ruling affects about 1,900 state employees of the state prison system who were poised to be laid off from the state’s prison system and required apply for their jobs with private contractors.
The lawsuit was filed by the unions that represent prison employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Alliance of Health Care Employees, who argued that the state was not authorized to make the change through the 14-member Legislative Budget Commission but instead needed to make the shift through a full vote of the Legislature.
Cooper agreed and ruled that the $229 million contract the budget commission approved for Nashville-based Corizon Correctional Healthcare, a for-profit company, was illegal. The other company that was authorized to take over prison health care services, Wexford Health Care, was still negotiating its contract.
“The attempt of the Legislative Budget Commission to provide funding for this contract is void and ineffective as it violates Article III, Section 19(c)(3) of the Florida Constitution,” Cooper wrote.
State will appeal:
Earlier today the Second Judicial Circuit Court issued a ruling regarding private vendors providing comprehensive health services for inmates.
We intend to appeal this ruling as it creates an anticipated budget shortfall of up to $90 million for the Department during the next 18 months. This will jeopardize other Department needs and legislative budget priorities which could include additional reductions in staffing and program services across the Department.
All transition activities related to private vendors providing health services will be suspended as a result of this ruling. The Department will continue to provide constitutionally required healthcare services to inmates statewide.
We appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we move through this process. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.