September 10, 2012


TX: Texas Toll Road To Boost Speed Limit to Record 85 MPH. Texas stands to receive $100 million from the private operators of a state toll road for raising its speed limit to 85 miles per hour, a contractual payoff that is drawing criticism from consumer groups….. “Desperate for cars on a vacant toll road, private toll-road operators now offer the state an extra $33 million to win a reckless competitive advantage,” said Andrew Wheat, research director for Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based consumer-advocacy group. “Such cozy deals are unsafe at any speed.” Safety experts have criticized the new speed limit, noting that crashes are likelier to be deadly at higher speeds. Wall Street Journal Blog

IN: With two companies looking to run lottery, Indiana weighing options. Now that bids from two firms are in, state officials will review their options for privatizing functions of the Hoosier Lottery and make a recommendation to the state’s lottery commission at its Sept. 26 meeting. Evansville Courier & Press

OR: Oregon’s ‘archaic’ alcohol rules come under fire…Voters in Washington recently ended that state’s 80-plus year monopoly on liquor sales. As of June, fifths of vodka and other hard alcohol began appearing on grocery store shelves, and retail stores were allowed for the first time to buy directly from wineries. The upheaval in Washington sent seismic ripples through the alcohol industry and focused attention on Oregon, now the lone holdout “control” state on the West Coast. Oregon liquor officials are watching closely what happens north of the border, but they remain strong in their resolve to keep a firm grip on the alcohol business on this side of the Columbia River. The laws may be old, says Cassandra SkinnerLopata, chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, but they’re effective.  The Oregonian

GA: Transit Agency’s choice of CEO could help it with legislators. The MARTA Board’s choice for a new CEO could determine whether the Legislature exerts more control over the transit authority or stands back to allow that leader to do what’s necessary to get the agency out of financial trouble…For years, legislators have threatened to give the state more control of the transit agency, and some want the authority to privatize certain functions to reduce expenses.  Atlanta Journal Constitution

LA: LSU Board to consider privatizing state-run hospitals. LSU Health’s future as a public hospital was once again in flux today. The second item on the agenda for the LSU System’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting in Baton Rouge looks to explore the possibility of private partnerships for the facility. Budget slashing to the university teaching hospital seems to be around every bend these days, with Caddo Parish’s largest employer reeling from over $46 million in cuts this year. LSU System leaders are exploring the possibility of privatizing the facility to keep it afloat.  “LSU is a life-saver in this area.” District 39 Senator Greg Rarver says it’s not a matter of the hospital making money. It’s a matter of the state properly funding the medical school. “LSU is making money but the med school is supported by $40 million a year from the hospital. The state is not giving LSU the right amount of money to run a med school,” says Tarver.  KTBS

Obama Vows to Fight ‘Privatizations’. Campaigning in a state that has long drawn retirees, President Barack Obama on Saturday promised to fight the privatization of Medicare and Social Security, the popular health and retirement programs for seniors. In making the vow, Mr. Obama appeared to be implying that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, supports Social Security privatization, which he doesn’t. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has been a leading proponent of privatization—that is, of allowing workers divert some Social Security tax payments into privately owned accounts.  Wall Street Journal

Is Michelle Rhee taking over the Democratic Party?…The real issue here is how much the Democrats have acted like Republicans when it comes to school reform and efforts to privatize public education. Rhee, whose standardized-test-centric school reform efforts include support for charter schools and vouchers, says she’s a Democrat. Her reform agenda has been embraced by some Democrats, with others applauding most but not all of it. For example, the Obama administration likes a lot of it, but not vouchers. Education historian Diane Ravitch, on her blog, addresses this issue by asking a series of questions about just how much of a Democrat Rhee really is.  Washington Post Blog

The Seafood Industry Is Being Consolidated — Why Consumers Should Care…While often misleadingly touted as the solution to over-fishing, catch shares actually divvy up our nation’s fishery resources for exclusive use by the biggest and fastest fishing operations and then allow corporations and banks to buy and sell these “shares” for profit. This turns the opportunity to go fishing into a commodity. Fishermen have to buy shares before being able to head out for a day’s work catching fish for our tables.  But, don’t take our word for it; just listen to the fishermen. Food & Water Watch produced a video to give some of our nation’s fishermen a chance to express their opinions about catch shares.  As has happened with family farms on land, the added costs push smaller-scale fishermen out of business and consolidate the industry, paving the way for industrial fishing methods that can destroy sensitive ocean habitats.  AlterNet