June 8, 2012

Headlines
Senate panel approves cap on contractor pay
Companies lobby to set up red light cameras for revenue not public safety
Across the country, public-sector workers in fiscal, political bull’s-eye
CA: UCLA faculty approves controversial changes in MBA financing
LA: Teachers file state lawsuits challenging vouchers
LA: 5 ways Louisiana’s new voucher program spells disaster for public education
MI: U-M not considering privatizing parking service
TX: Texas toll road could have 85mph speed limit
FL: Time and money – editorial

Senate panel approves cap on contractor pay
Defense contractors could charge the government no more than the vice president earns — currently $230,700 — to pay most of their employees’ salaries, under a provision in the Defense authorization bill approved Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Federal Times

Companies lobby to set up red light cameras for revenue not public safety
…Growing evidence that many privatized traffic companies use faulty information, including right-hand turns, to assign red light tickets has only added to the anger. As legislators confront the backlash, a self-interested partnership has formed to lobby against accountability methods for these cameras: police unions and for-profit red-light camera companies. In state after state, police unions and for-profit traffic camera companies have teamed up to defeat laws proposed to ensure that traffic policies are designed for public safety rather than to collect revenue. In Connecticut, police unions and traffic light companies opposed efforts to simply expand the length of yellow lights — despite studies showing that doing so would reduce red-light violations by 90 percent — in favor of increased for-profit red light cameras. In Florida last year, American Traffic Solutions, one of the largest for-profit camera corporations, hired 17 lobbyists to defeat a similar bill. The company circulated a letter signed by police chiefs, and worked closely with officials from the Florida Sheriff’s Association, a labor group, to pressure legislators. In California, a bill by State Sen. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto) to ensure that traffic cameras can only be set up to promote public safety rather than collect revenue was opposed by the California Police Chiefs, a law enforcement labor union group. OpEdNews

Across the country, public-sector workers in fiscal, political bull’s-eye
From California to Pennsylvania, workers are facing efforts to sharply curtail the job security and benefits they have enjoyed for years, perks long viewed as compensation for the sometimes lower salaries in the public sector. Now, the perks that came with being a firefighter or a teacher have become a target, not only for conservative lawmakers but for Democrats under pressure to make deep cuts in government budgets. They’re facing efforts to sharply curtail the job security and benefits they have enjoyed for years. Washington Post

CA: UCLA faculty approves controversial changes in MBA financing
UCLA faculty leaders on Thursday narrowly approved a controversial plan to wean the campus’ signature MBA program off state funding and have it survive on tuition and donations. The vote was viewed by many around UC as an important turning point in how California’s public universities should respond to years of state budget cuts. Some said the proposed change at the Anderson School of Management’s full-time MBA program may start a trend, particularly among business and law schools that are able to charge high fees and have wealthy alumni to help support them. But critics said such a move would harm the public nature of the 10-campus UC system. Los Angeles Times

LA: Teachers file state lawsuits challenging vouchers
As expected, Louisiana’s largest teachers association, some of its local chapters, and four individual public school teachers have filed two state lawsuits challenging the primary portions of the sweeping education overhaul that Gov. Bobby Jindal signed in April. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers argues on several fronts that the courts should strike down tenure and other personnel changes, along with a statewide program that will use the public school-financing formula to finance private school tuition grants…Perhaps the most significant legal question in the cases concerns the voucher program. Mirroring the argument that teachers union leaders made during the recently concluded session, the voucher suit cites the constitutional passage concerning the school financing formula known as the Minimum Foundation Program.  The Times-Picayune

LA: 5 ways Louisiana’s new voucher program spells disaster for public education
This latest pet project of popular Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, called Louisiana Believes, is now regarded as the most extensive voucher system in the United States — out-privatizing even the state of Indiana, where nearly 60 percent of the state’s students are eligible for vouchers. By eroding caps on family income levels, and thereby providing voucher assistance to both low- and middle-income families, Indiana’s plan aimed to remake public education in the state more extensively than any voucher system in US history – until now.  Like Indiana’s program, Louisiana’s new voucher plan is so wide in scope that it could eventually cut the state’s public education funding in half. But in a number of crucial ways, the Louisiana model works even harder to destroy public education than Indiana’s program does. Alternet

MI: U-M not considering privatizing parking service
Ohio State University is the first large public university to accept bids on the privatization of its entire parking enterprise for a significant length of time. University of Michigan Director of Transportation Stephen Dolen told AnnArbor.com that U-M has not seriously considered privatizing its parking services. “People are just kind of interested in seeing what’s going on with OSU,” he said. “There’s probably all kinds of things people are considering in this day and age of state appropriations.” AnnArbor.com

TX: Texas toll road could have 85mph speed limit
A new toll road, running from San Antonio to Austin, is set to soon open. While that may not be surprising, especially in Texas, the speed drivers may be allowed to travel has people talking. KYTX

FL: Time and money – editorial
…While lawmakers have been forced to cut billions of dollars from education, health care and other vital programs, they have been loath to tackle sentencing reform and community-based alternatives to incarceration for fear of being branded “soft on crime.” Gov. Scott seems to believe that privatization is the answer to Florida’s soaring correctional costs. It is not. The answer, rather, is to reserve expensive cell space for only those dangerous inmates who really need to be locked away from society. In short, too many inmates are doing needless time and costing Florida taxpayers too much money. The Gainsville Sun

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