Lansing — The state House was poised to vote Wednesday on a bill to authorize Michigan’s first privately-run prison for adult inmates.
But the bill sponsors delayed the vote for at least a week to make changes to House Bill 5174, which would authorize the Department of Corrections to farm out operations for one prison to a private company if privatization can save 10 percent in costs.
“We want to make sure we have our ducks in a row and everybody’s on board,” said state Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “We’re getting close. We’re in no hurry. It’s early in the year.”
Labor unions seeking to derail the bill and preserve state prison jobs say at least eight Republicans in the House are opposed to the plan, meaning the GOP may be one vote short of the 56 votes needed to pass the legislation. Some Republican lawmakers opposed to a privately-run prison have a state prison in their district, and the state would likely have to close one prison to justify the cost of contracting prison services with a private company.
“It’s going to be a photo finish because we’re leaning on these Republican representatives who have prisons in their districts,” said Ray Holman, legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000, which represents prison nurses, librarians, secretaries and other support staff.
The legislation originally specified the Department of Corrections contract private prison services with the owners of a former juvenile correctional facility in Baldwin.
That provision was characterized by the prison guards union as a “bailout” for Geo Group Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based corrections company that has been trying to reopen its 1,740-bed North Lake Correctional Facility near Baldwin in rural Lake County. The Baldwin prison sits in Bumstead’s 100th District and he did not rule out Wednesday a revised bill directing the Department of Corrections to contract with Geo Group.
Bumstead’s bill has been waiting for a vote of the full House since Feb. 16.
As opposition to Bumstead’s bill mounted this winter, House Republican budget writers added a provision to the Department of Corrections’ 2012-13 fiscal year budget requiring the closure of the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia and the contracting of a private prison. That bill is in negotiation with the Senate.