July 24, 2014


‘Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection’ Rule Would Eviscerate Inspections: Experts
A sweeping rule sent to the White House by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month would eviscerate the poultry inspection standards that currently protect consumers from tainted chicken and turkey, many experts say. Euphemistically called the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, the statute would speed up processing lines and reduce the number of inspectors overseeing their operation, while simultaneously handing key inspection duties over to poultry companies’ employees. . . . But rather than improving slaughterhouse practices in the service of public health, the changes proposed under the rule are actually “a prescription for disaster” that would lead to higher incidences of salmo  nella and other pathogens, according to Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.  International Business Times

Tolling lobbyists attempt to hijack highway funding discussion
A pro-tolling lobby group attempted to steer the discussion about highway and bridge funding this week toward interstate tolls. Fortunately, an alliance that supports toll-free interstates is in place to counter their arguments. The plot thickened this week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 former transportation secretaries including Ray LaHood joined together in a letter to Congress to urge long-term solutions to road, bridge and transit funding.  Land Line Magazine

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds.  Monterey County Herald

NY: Nassau County Legislature OKs sewer privatization
The Nassau County Legislature’s seven-member, bipartisan rules committee unanimously passed a plan on July 18 to implement a long-term contract for the control of the county’s wastewater system. Promising to save taxpayers roughly $240 million over the next 20 years, County Executive Ed Mangano had announced a partnership with United Water on June 30, in which the company will manage and operate the county’s three wastewater treatment facilities.  liherald.com

PA: PennDOT seeks outside help to make bridge repairs
State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions. . . . The Department of Transportation is finishing a deal with one of four international teams of contractors to replace the bridges, then maintain them for 25 years. PennDOT plans to announce which group gets the work sometime this fall. Construction is set to begin next year. . .  Also, unlike most public-private transportation projects, the bridge program will not tap toll revenue. Instead it will use higher wholesale gas taxes and vehicle fees outlined in the recent transportation plan, which aims to collect $1.2 billion more per year for road and bridge work. Critics of such public-private arrangements complain of an uneven record of savings compared with more traditional approaches to roadwork, because the deals lean on large multinational companies to front the money.  The Tribune-Democrat

MI: Steve Miller: Why did Aramark get the prison food contract? Here’s some insight
. . . Curiously, the state almost shelved the idea of privatizing food service for the state’s prisons when it determined that its savings would not be enough to justify it. At the last minute, though, several Republican lawmakers insisted that the deal be made. While it screams of money being exchanged, a search of campaign contributions finds nothing remarkable coming from the Aramark PAC going into the campaign coffers of its statehouse advocates. Michigan lawmakers are shielded from open records laws, so the natural open records request for email exchanges between Aramark and state legislators is off the table. . . . It would have been nice to see just what Aramark officials involved with the contract were saying to each other, but its $145 million contract with the state protects Aramark from FOIA requests, directly stating that “[Aramark] is not required to respond to any state or federal FOIA requests by third parties” – meaning the public that is spending the $145 million. MLive.com