Florida Weekly Gov’t Roundup: Sinkholes And Private Prisons

July 31, 2011

Florida officials this week made sinkhole rates go higher and hoped prison costs would go lower in an effort to save state taxpayers money on both.

Sinkhole coverage got a lot more expensive for tens of thousands of coastal residents who will see their rates leap toward the heavens as state insurers this week tried to make up for decisions made a few years ago that critics say were politically expedient, but actuarially irresponsible.

With losses far outstripping premiums as claims exploded in recent years, the state-backed insurer of last resort says it has to charge more for less.

Meanwhile, Florida prisons officials are hoping to pay less for more as they privatize prisons in the southern third of the state.

Correction officials had a busy week, also spending time in court defending the state’s recipe for a lethal cocktail of drugs used to execute death row inmates.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgMeanwhile, state officials had to defend themselves against allegations of unfairness and ineptitude over the firing of allegedly incompetent insurance fraud investigators, and an initial slate of inductees to the state’s newly established veterans Hall of Fame that included confederates and not a single veteran of color.


Calling it a prudent experiment – although one that should not expand further until the facts are in – the state’s top prison official this week moved the state forward on its plan to privatize prisons in the southern third of the state.

Corrections Secretary Ed Buss said in an interview this week that after this round, the state should stop until it knows what the effect is.

“I think in terms of private prisons, this is as far as Florida should go,” Buss told the News Service. “This wasn’t my decision, this wasn’t Gov. Scott’s decision. This was the Legislature’s decision.”

The state on Monday released a request for proposals calling for a five-year contract with a single bidder to run 29 facilities associated with 11 South Florida correctional institutes. One of the state’s main law enforcement unions has sued to try to block the move.

That contract should allow the state to assess how a widespread system of private prisons would work in comparison to public facilities, Buss said. That would include a look at how well private prisons work to reduce recidivism, one of Buss’ top goals as corrections secretary.

“This will provide some competition so that the public and private sector can go head-to-head,” he said. “But until — and it takes three to five years to get any meaningful data on recidivism — I wouldn’t recommend any future private prisons until we get the data and we see if it does actually work.”

Buss said giving the contract to a single company will make it easier to measure a company’s performance, since inmates often move from prison to prison, and help corrections employees who decide to stay in South Florida an easier time finding jobs and earning promotions.


Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously approved sinkhole premium increases for 2012 that will cause rates for coastal homeowners to skyrocket, some by thousands of dollars a year.

“We recognize that the need for sinkhole coverage is enormous,” said Citizens CFO Sharon Binnon. “This fact is not lost on us but this is about Citizens’ past experience…. These rates are the direct result in the explosion of claims.”

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, whose region will see some of the highest premium increases for sinkhole coverage, has led the charge against the rate hikes. He continued his quest this week.

“There are people who live in sinkhole prone areas that could potentially be forced out of their homes due to these rate increases,” Fasano said in a statement.

Pasco County coastal residents, according to Citizens estimates, will see average sinkhole premiums jump from $441 to $4,017, an increase of 810 percent for the optional coverage.

Last year, Citizens collected about $32 million in sinkhole premiums but paid out more than $245 million in claims. Insurers blame the increase not on a geological change, but savvy attorneys, public claims adjusters and inadequate protections in Florida law.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, has joined Fasano in calling for public hearings on the proposed rate increases.


Gov. Rick Scott has begun discreetly promoting the same changes to the higher education system that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has championed including controversial measures on merit pay for professors, tenure reform, and generally a much greater emphasis on measurement of whether professors are turning out students that meet certain goals.

Scott has discussed the Texas reforms with his appointees to university and college governing boards to line up support to dramatically change how universities and colleges are funded, overhaul professor tenure, emphasize teaching over research, and give students more influence.

An admirer of Texas, Scott has developed a friendly relationship with Perry, who is flirting with the idea of seeking the Republican nomination for President in 2012.


Gearing up for redistricting talks later this year, lawmakers took their show on the road to Central Florida this week as they heard from local residents on how to redraw Florida’s political map that is expected to include another congressional seat along the I-4 corridor.

From Latinos, who made up much of Central Florida’s population growth since the 2000 Census, the request was for a district that would be heavily influenced by Hispanic voters as an acknowledgment of the influx of non-Cuban Latinos.

Blacks asked for a district that would continue in the mold of the seat held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who won her seat in a heavily black district after changes forced by the Voting Rights Act.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, an organization that has been working with Latino community leaders in the area on redistricting, presented a map of a Central Florida district that would be 46.2 percent Hispanic and 12.3 percent black. It would run from Haines City to Union Park.

Black residents urged lawmakers not to unwind Brown’s district, particularly in light of the new Fair Districts standards, which are aimed at curbing partisan gerrymandering and forcing lawmakers to draw compact districts. Brown’s district snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando.

Meanwhile in Tallahassee, a federal judge heard from a conservative voting rights group that a new Florida election law unconstitutionally burdens grassroots groups trying to get their voices heard.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle has been asked to throw out the law opponents say places undue restrictions on small, nominally funded groups by requiring stringent disclosure requirements. Attorneys for the Florida Department of State say simply that voters should know who is behind political advertising efforts.


Drafters in the Veterans Affairs agency of a list of proposed inductees into a Veterans’ Hall of Fame were in retreat this week after a prominent African-American senator said it was offensive. A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott said there would be a replacement list that will be more broad in its appeal.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had put out the draft list, which could have up at this coming Tuesday’s meeting of Scott and the Cabinet. That starting list was made up of 22 former governors, including Scott, who served in the military.

But among those were six veterans of the Confederate States of America military, including one former governor, Abraham Allison, who was later convicted of and jailed for intimidating black people. On Friday, the list was no longer on the Cabinet’s agenda for Tuesday.

“That is not the list that is going through,” Scott spokesman Lane Wright said Friday. “There will be a list I think all Floridians will be proud of.”


The dismissals of a pair of insurance fraud investigators within office of Attorney General Pam Bondi has led to questions by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee over why Bondi fired Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson who had been lead foreclosure fraud attorneys in the office under former Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Soto’s call came as liberal interest group Progress Florida this week began circulating a petition trying to get the attorney general’s inspector general’s office to investigate the firings.

Edwards and Clarkson and said publicly in newspaper stories that their boss, Richard Lawson, who heads up the economic crimes division in Bondi’s office, questioned them extensively about two mortgage processors that are under investigation by the office, Jacksonville-based Lender Processing Services and Tampa-based ProVest.

Lawson told the News Service that he indeed asked about those two companies, after their lawyers expressed concerns about the way Edwards and Clarkson were handling the cases – and, in particular about a public presentation the two gave in a public forum that gave their “impressions and theories” about the Lender Processing Services, and characterized certain companies as foreclosure mills.


Marking the next step in Scott’s quest for a business friendly state, the governor appointed his deputy chief of staff to take over the newly created Department of Economic Opportunity.

Doug Darling, whose lengthy resume includes stints at the Department of Environmental Protection under Mike Sole and the Department of Financial Services under Alex Sink, takes the reins of an agency Scott plans to provide the back-office support to state efforts to retain and attract businesses.

Darling will oversee the state’s economic development initiative programs including the quick action closing fund and quality targeted industry incentive in coordination with Department of Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Citizens Property Insurance Corp. approves sinkhole premiums that could raise rates for some coastal residents by thousands of dollars are year. At least two state lawmakers want the legislature to hold public hearings over the matter.


“It’s about all of those veterans out there, the rank and file veterans, all those accomplished veterans who didn’t happen to get elected governor,” Florida Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, on a preliminary list of inductees to the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, which included 21 past and and 1 present Florida governor, but few decorated veterans – and no African Americans.”

By Michael Peltier
The News Service of Florida


13 Responses to “Florida Weekly Gov’t Roundup: Sinkholes And Private Prisons”

  1. David Huie Green on August 1st, 2011 10:36 am

    “- – - that was doing the things you’re speaking of, Plus allot more you didn’t know about..( He was forced to resign or be fired) You haven’t heard of anything like that since, have you ?”

    Oh, I heard of a lot more, just don’t report rumor. (I’m a quiet kind of fellow.) Nonetheless, just because I might or might not have heard of more since then is not proof nothing wrong was done since then. Sometimes it just means the less careful were winnowed out and replaced by more carefully corrupt.

    Humans are humans. Humans are tempted. Humans yield to temptation if they think they can get away with it.

    As Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” He only had part of the equation, though. It isn’t only “great” men who are bad men, most people will do bad things if they think they can get away with them. (Consider what happens in a classroom if the teacher steps outside the room.) We need to convince ourselves and others we can’t get away with such things.

    David regarding reality,
    seeking solutions

  2. chris on August 1st, 2011 7:13 am

    I am glad I left working for the FDOC. I will never go back to the state and never work for GEO. I love working for the county.

  3. JimD on August 1st, 2011 7:11 am

    Just more reasons why I will never live back in tha State of Florida…

  4. sktmax on August 1st, 2011 2:21 am

    I am against private prisons. I believe confining a human being (no matter how big of a piece of crap they are) is one of the most important responsibilities of state and federal government. With private prisons, the responsibility of making money to their shareholders comes before their civil responsibilities to inmates, and more important, public safety.

  5. Scott Lassiter on July 31st, 2011 8:06 pm

    Mr. Green: You are correct. There is a former Sec. of the Dept. of Corrections doing federal time for corruption. But if he were working in the private prison sector , he would have only been fired, and that’s all. You have one heck of a memory, that was the first Warden Century ever had that was doing the things your speaking of, Plus allot more you didn’t know about..( He was forced to resign or be fired) You haven’t heard of anything like that since, have you ? I think not. By the way Blackwater is under Federal investigation now for what, POLITICAL CORRUPTION.

  6. Kathy on July 31st, 2011 5:40 pm

    You elect an idiot you get idiot issues!!

  7. David Huie Green on July 31st, 2011 5:12 pm

    “Public Prisons for citizens = Accountability
    Private Prisons for profit = Corruption”

    Actually, all organizations, both public and private, have the danger of corruption.

    Private may be more likely for all I know, but remember a few years back a warden at Century Correctional Institution was building sheds at his home using CCI materials and inmate labor and taking favored inmates home with him — for popcorn and a movie, I think it was. Guards slip in contraband every now and then even in public prisons.

    You just need lots of checks and balances (distrust) to reduce corruption temptation.

    David for perfect justice

  8. P on July 31st, 2011 3:25 pm


  9. Scott Lassiter on July 31st, 2011 2:38 pm

    As I have stated one time before,( and notice that I am not hiding my name cause I have more guts in my pinky finger that most of the politicians who sneaked this plan into exsistance). Plus I just don’t care :
    Public Prisons for citizens = Accountability
    Private Prisons for profit = Corruption
    This is like comparing apples to oranges. When a Private run prison has an unruly or old and expensive Inmate to care for, guess who they send them to. They surely don’t take care of them, they send them to a state run Public prison to absorb the cost. Is this fair “Head to head competitiveness? Heck no.It is also a lie that Rick Scott did not support this. It was his idea.Why do you fine folks think that no one in Law Enforcement supported him. Private prisons have been in Florida for approx. 20+ years. They do not work with out cutting corners. And without paying off politicians. Oh yea,GEO Group( one of the company’s bidding for the south Florida contracts) was the largest contributor to Gov. Scott’s inagural ball. I don’t believe “Let’s get to work.” I believe ” I am alrerady a crook, let’s see how much more I can steal.” should have been his slogan. Politics as usual. God bless America. Maybe one of these days we can take her back.

  10. pm on July 31st, 2011 2:03 pm

    This man appears to be morally bankrupt. Perhaps an exorcism would be good for him.He reminds me of Stephen King’s story “Thinner”

  11. nomore1 on July 31st, 2011 6:11 am

    first if it takes mr buss 3-5 yrs to access the performance of private prisons in florida he needs to go back to school because they have been here for 20 yrs and have proved they are less effective, cost more and invite corruption on every level. His statement that niether he or the govenor ask for this is of course absurd.
    Second as a native of florida who lived in texas i can assure folks we don’t want a texas style school system in florida. More Scott reforms that will be a disaster in florida..

  12. jim anderson on July 31st, 2011 5:08 am

    Historically, Priviatization of any Government Servbice must be continually watched
    so that sevices are not lessened, while costs to taxpayers go up…& THERE MUST
    BE STRICT GUIDELINES, AS TO HOW THIS IS CONTROLLED. mAYBE TEN YRS AGO, I read of taxpayer fraud, like increased costs, way beyond Industry

  13. huh on July 31st, 2011 4:43 am

    The government run prisons should cut cost instead. The best way to do that is to slack up on jailing everyone for minor things such as marijuana

    I would not want to live in a place where jailing people is for Profit.

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