Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has launched an aggressive campaign against government services since taking office, slashing funding on everything from unemployment insurance to education to aid for homeless veterans, to high-speed rail, helping him become the least popular governor in America just six months into his term.
But his latest target is one of his boldest yet. According to a report by Florida’s Capitol News Service, Scott wanted to disband the Florida Highway Patrol during the last legislative session, but was rebuffed by the state’s sheriffs, who would have been forced to takeover the disbanded forces’ duties. Aimed at cost-cutting, the move would likely have increased local property taxes, which are used to pay sheriff’s departments:
“If a deal was worked out, the funding might be here one year and the funding could disappear in the next legislative session,” Harrell Reid, president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association said. [...]
Rick Scott side stepped the question of why he was willing to transfer the Patrol to local sheriffs. [...] “It’s good to have a conversation about how can we do a good job with what the state ought to be involved with in law enforcement,” Scott said.
Even Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, who served on Scott’s transition team, slammed the idea. “[T]he sheriff’s office is not equipped to handle those additional burdens and responsibilities.” Rich Roberts with the International Union of Police Associations agreed, saying the plan could create a “greater danger to the public” by decreasing response times and operational efficiency.
While Scott was unsuccessful this time, the issue isn’t dead, as Republicans tucked legislation into a state Senate bill to fund a study on consolidating all law enforcement functions, including Fish and Wildlife and agriculture agents.
No wonder that after 20 years of supporting Republicans for governor, Florida police unions abandoned Scott. The Broward County Police Benevolent Association even held a “Party to Leave the Party” two weeks ago in which their members left the GOP en masse.