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Fasano, Thrasher clash angrily at Senate hearing

A Senate hearing on Gov. Rick Scott's proposed prison system reorganization turned ugly Thursday, prompting heated exchanges between two strong-willed GOP lawmakers..

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, chairman of a panel overseeing prison spending, repeatedly grilled Scott budget aide Bonnie Rogers, highlighting the proposal to eliminate 619 prison guards' jobs by shifting more inmates to private prisons.

"We would put out of work 619 families," Fasano said, as lobbyists for the prison guards' union watched closely from the back of the room.

Thrasher then came to the new administration's defense, saying "I'm not that worried about protecting government employees." He said Scott is trying to ensure public safety while cutting the cost and size of government at the same time.

Fasano continued to hammer away, asking why the prison system can't rein in excessive overtime costs. When he aimed his ire at Dan Ronay, the new No. 2 corrections official on the job four days, Thrasher exploded, calling Fasano's treatment of Ronay "not fair to him."

Thrasher blamed the problems on former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Fasano ally whom Thrasher worked to defeat as an independent U.S. Senate candidate last fall.

When Thrasher cited the past four years of prison oversight by "a governor (Crist) who left us and ran for something else," Fasano angrily interrupted Thrasher.

"Oh, Senator Thrasher, we're not going to get into politics," Fasano shouted at the powerful Senate Rules chairman. "We're here to discuss a budget. We're not going to discuss politics."

"I'm not playing politics," Thrasher said.

-- Steve Bousquet