Tallahassee’s Closed Doors: Legislate In Open

Posted: January 28, 2012 in News and politics
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

Just a few days ago, the tendency of state lawmakers to impose Government-in-the- Sunshine mandates on city and county commissions that they wouldn’t dream of following themselves was criticized in an editorial.

Since those comments, Tallahassee’s “do as we say, not as we do” contempt for the principles of open government has attained truly breathtaking proportions.

Last year, lawmakers tried to slip an attempt to privatize several state prisons past the public by hiding it in the minutia of the state budget bill. But their efforts were undone when a circuit court judge ruled that the privatization measure needed to be in a stand-alone bill.

CLOSED PRIVATIZATION

Not to be thwarted, legislative leaders are still trying to privatize prisons. And, for good measure, they are also pushing legislation that would, The Palm Beach Post reported last week, “let them privatize any state functions without having public input until after the deals are done.”

“It basically thwarts the whole idea of transparency and accountability, by saying you don’t have to tell anybody you’re doing it until after you’ve done it,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “It stinks.”

And it is a stink that is wafting with lightning speed through the legislative process.

On Friday, The Post reported that “Senate President Mike Haridopolos has fast-tracked” both the private prisons and secrecy-in-privatization bills, “referring them to a single committee before they head to the floor for a full vote.”

If city or county commissioners tried to do the public’s business in this manner — making sweetheart deals with vendors and then hiding the details — they would find themselves facing jail time — and rightly so.

Senate Bill 2036 is an invitation to corruption. If lawmakers are arrogant enough to pass it, Gov. Rick Scott should veto it. It stinks.

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