http://www.ljworld.com/section/stateregional/story/203480 House says no to private prisons Sunday, May 1, 2005 Lawrence Journal World By Carl Manning - Associated Press Writer Topeka - The idea of private prisons in Kansas seemed like a good idea to some, but the House didn't want to even talk about it.
The chamber Saturday voted 49-70 against the idea of considering a version of the bill worked out by House and Senate negotiators. Earlier in the day, the Senate approved it 26-13.
"It was a disappointing outcome, but we'll be back next year working hard to convince House members it's good public policy," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, who led the push for the legislation.
Schmidt said the chief selling point of private prisons is that they save the state money and help local economies. He said about 30 states have private prisons
House Speaker Doug Mays said a lot of members don't believe in private prisons.
"It's just a difference in philosophy," said Mays, R-Topeka. "I'm sure it will be back next year."
Among the opponents was House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, who said the state would have to pay to have its inmates housed at a private prison.
"It's cheaper to build on an existing site than to pay for filling up a new private prison," said McKinney, D-Greensburg.
He said it would be better for the state to lease space in a number of county jails because "that way we have public agencies providing space."
Rep. Shari Weber, R-Herington, who has studied law enforcement issues for years, said, "If things don't go well in private prisons, we are still liable for everything."
However, the bill would have required private prisons to post a $5 million bond to hold the state harmless for all costs associated with any criminal conduct by inmates at a private prison.
Kansas law prohibits housing state prisoners in private facilities in the state, although they are housed in private facilities in other states.
"We're going to face the decision within the next two or three years of how we manage the inmate population. We're almost out of space and we're going to need more space," said Schmidt, R-Independence, who also said the state has space for about 9,200 inmates.
Under the plan, the Department of Corrections would license and regulate the facility and private operators would pay for building the prisons and operating them. Also, a facility would have to be endorsed by voters in counties where it would be.