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MacNamara squares off with Senate veteran, Dennis Jones, over prison votes

mcnamara_headshot.jpgdennisjones.jpgGov. Rick Scott's chief of staff, Steve MacNamara (pictured, far right), has been around Tallahassee for a long time, and learned the art of horse-trading from one of the masters, legendary Senate powerbroker Dempsey Barron. MacNamara hoped to do a little horse-trading of his own, to pass a bill to privatize prisons in 18 counties -- but one of his targets, veteran Tampa Bay Sen. Dennis Jones (pictured, right), would not even meet with Scott to hear the governor's privatization pitch. Jones helped sink the privatization on a 21-19 Senate vote.

MacNamara is very displeased with Jones, and took the rare step of going public. "He (Jones) was not willing to listen and he was not willing to trade," MacNamara says. "Apparently, it's a one-way street."  

Jones asked Scott for a couple of favors. First, he wanted his son, Rod Jones, reappointed to the Board of Chiropractic Medicine (the son has taken over his father's chiropractic practice). Jones, who also holds a job at St. Pete College, also wanted four people reappointed to the college board of trustees. Scott did keep two of them, Deveron Gibbons and Ken Burke, and chose two newcomers -- both of whom Jones calls highly qualified.

On the day the controversial prison privatization bill was headed to the Senate floor, MacNamara asked to meet with Jones, but the senator said a call came an hour before the debate was to begin. Jones calls privatization of prisons "a kick in the teeth" to state workers who have gone for five years without a pay increase, and the day MacNamara asked for a meeting, Jones said no. "I said, there's no sense in wasting my time or the governor's time, and we're getting ready to go on the floor. And I would stand by that again today."

Says MacNamara: "The governor thought, 'Gosh, we've done him a favor, maybe he'll do us a favor,' because his requests were reasonable, and we thought our requests were reasonable ... He wasn't even willing to listen to us."

-- Steve Bousquet