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Prison bill dies 21-19

The Florida Senate Tuesday rejected a proposal to privatize 27 state prisons and work camps after two days of tense debate.
The proposal fell 21-19 with the Senate’s 12 Democrats joining nine Republicans to kill the bill.

Opponents argued that the plan would not result in the 7 percent costs savings that supporters touted and first needed to be studied.

Proponents said the legislation would require the savings — which they claimed would be at least $16.5 million in the first year.

The vote was expected to be close, with both sides keeping a constant tally Tuesday of where the count stood. A tie vote in the 40-member Senate also would have killed the bill, meaning the bill needed 21 votes to pass but only 20 to fail.

In the end, the biggest surprise was the vote of Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, who had signaled he would stand with supporters Monday but ended up voting against the proposal.

A similar privatization plan, tucked into last year’s budget, was struck down as unconstitutional in August by a state judge, so lawmakers are trying again, this time with a stand-alone bill (SB 2038).