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Alexander-Fasano fight over prisons turns personal

Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, is championing the cost-saving proposal to privatize dozens of state prisons in an 18-county region south of Lake Okeechobee. In doing so, Alexander is tangling with the correctional officers' union, the Police Benevolent Association, and its chief ally in the Legislature, Republican Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey.

"For a chairman (Fasano) whose name appears on the lead award for that union to have sole control over that issue is, I think, unreasonable and not in the best interest of the Senate," Alexander said. "Clearly, he's aligned with that particular special interest." 

PBA executive director Matt Puckett confirmed that the award given out  by the union to the most tenacious PBA supporter in the state Legislature is the Mike Fasano Award. "He got it two or three times in a row so we decided to name it after him," Puckett said.

Fasano said it was wrong for Alexander to push such a huge expansion of privatization, including hundreds of probation officers, through budget language, and he said: "If I'm biased in favor of the front-line officers, then I'm guilty as charged."    

-- Steve Bousquet