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Sen. Evers declares privatization voting conflict

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, has filed a notice of a voting conflict on the controversial prison privatization bill that's awaiting a Senate floor vote.

Evers' conflict: His wife, Lori Weems, is a registered lobbyist for four groups that oppose privatization: the Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Fraternal Order of Police, Florida Professional Firefighters and Florida Building & Construction Trades Council. On the voting conflict form, Evers says that privatization legislation would "inure to the special gain or loss" of the senator's wife.

"In an abundance of caution, I felt like I should clarify my stance on the issue," Evers said in his first public comments on the conflict issue. "But I also have 3,000 correctional officers in my district."

He's a long-standing opponent of privatization and noted that he has 15 state-run prisons and one private prison in his Panhandle district, including the high-security Santa Rosa C.I. and the private Geo Group-run Blackwater River C.I. in Milton. Evers has been helping to marshall opposition to privatization and was angry that Senate President Mike Haridopolos did not assign the bill to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee he chairs.

Under Senate rules, by disclosing the conflict, Evers can still vote on the privatization bill (SB 2038), and he will vote no -- one of at least 10 Republican senators poised to sink the privatization issue. "My folks sent me here to represent them, and I shall do that to the best of my ability," Evers said.

-- Steve Bousquet