September 15, 2014


Trade Deals Set Their Sights on Public Workers
For much of this decade, Tea Party-backed lawmakers have been at war with public sector employees across the country. They’ve tried, and in a few cases succeeded, in taking away public servants’ ability to collectively bargain. But now the battle is going abroad. Under the guise of crafting trade agreements, big business — which bankrolled many of those same elected officials — is looking to impose provisions across the globe that open up government services to the private sector. Other language would limit the ability of democratic governments to regulate in the public interest. Simply put, corporations are looking to put their interests above the public’s interests in an effort to further fatten their wallets. . . . While most people don’t think about public sector jobs when they hear about trade deals, such pacts have increasingly held sway in the services sector. Beginning with NAFTA, trade-in-services has been a part of the discussion. And it has only increased as the General Agreement on Trade in Services and then the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) came into force. Huffington Post

Public-Private Deals Spark Turmoil
Three years ago, Carlyle Group CG bought the pipes, pumps and water wells in Missoula, Mont., and several California communities in what the firm assumed was a relatively low-risk bet. . . .Carlyle finds itself fighting in court to retain control of the Montana water utility. Missoula officials are suing under eminent domain laws to take control, accusing one of the world’s largest private-equity firms of reneging on a handshake deal to sell the system to the city. One of the California locales is considering a similar takeover for its water system. The dispute highlights the difficulties in what seems like a natural fit: using private money to fix the nation’s leaky pipes, outdated airports and crumbling bridges. . . . An accommodating municipal-bond market has given local officials cheap access to cash for repairs and upgrades. Their constituents often are leery of investors profiting from basic resources such as water. Wall Street Journal

US poised to be world’s biggest public-private partnership market
The United States is poised to become the world’s biggest marketplace for public-private partnerships as infrastructure needs soar while traditional funding for bridges, courthouses and other projects wears thin, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday. The U.S. market is also less mature than most of the rest of the world. A number of large so-called P3 projects are in the pipeline now for U.S. transportation, and once those deals close a new wave of social infrastructure projects is expected, Moody’s said.  Reuters

IN: Indiana Toll Road Operator Weighs Bankruptcy Filing
The company that leases the Indiana Toll Road is considering filing for bankruptcy in the coming weeks. They’re in the process of working out a debt settlement. In 2005, the State of Indiana leased the Indiana Toll Road to Cintra-Macquarie for $3.8 billion. . . .Nearly all of the money’s been spent – most of it on road projects. Representative David Niezgodski was elected the year after Major Moves took place, and has been against it from the beginning. Niezgodski says the potential for bankruptcy is very concerning for the future of the state, being that the lease was intended to be for 75 years. He believes 75 years is not a lease, but rather a sale. Indiana Public Media

OH: Ohio to court: Privatizing prisons in budget legal
State lawyers tell the Ohio Supreme Court that using a budget bill to privatize state prisons didn’t violate a constitutional provision holding bills to a single subject. In a brief filed Monday, Ohio said the state’s budget involves both revenues and expenses — not just appropriations. The filing comes in a legal dispute with the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. The prison workers union sued over privatization in 2012, contending that lawmakers extended beyond the single-subject rule when they used the budget to sell a state prison and turn others over to private operators. An appellate court agreed, finding in October that there was no “rational relationship” between the privatization plan and state spending. Fort Worth Star Telegram

TX: State Stumbles Forward with Foster Care Privatization
The Department of Family and Protective Services continues to push forward on a plan to bring on more private companies—despite evidence that its effort to overhaul the state’s foster care system is faltering. Many advocates think recent turmoil with Providence Services Corporation, the first contractor tapped by the state to oversee a portion of the foster care system, suggests the experiment is already a failure. The next stage in “foster care redesign,” as the state calls it, is set to take effect this month when another private company takes over a seven-county North Texas region including Fort Worth. Instead, critics argue the Legislature should invest more money in a state-run system and work out the issues without the involvement of private companies. The Texas Observer

IL: Chicago Public Schools contractor to lay off 476 custodians
The move to lay off nearly 500 privately contracted custodial workers who clean Chicago Public Schools will make it harder to keep classrooms tidy, the union representing the custodians said Sunday. . . The cuts come after CPS officials agreed to a $260 million contract in March with the firm Aramark, which used subcontractors to employ the custodial workers, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Saturday. CPS principals have complained about school cleanliness since the district privatized the janitorial services, according to a survey by AAPPLE, a new activist group under the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.  Chicago Sun-Times

NJ: Toll collectors on Parkway, Turnpike gain privatization reprieve
The deadline for proposals to privatize toll collection on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway has been pushed from Tuesday to Oct. 8, giving 340 toll collectors a month-long reprieve before facing possible job or pay cuts. . . . The toll takers fear privatization could mean the loss of their jobs or, in the event they go to work for the private operator, cuts in pay and benefits.  The Star-Ledger

VT: End the privatization of public records – editorial
Vermonters have a right to be outraged over a long-standing practice by the Public Service Board that creates additional hurdles for anyone seeking transcripts of board proceedings, a public record. . . . The PSB, the state’s utility regulators, contracts a private company to produce transcripts of proceedings before the board. . .  .The contract gives the company the right to sell copies of the transcripts to the public, while reducing the cost of the transcription service to the board. The contract also prevents the board from allowing members of the public to make copies of the document available at the PSB office. . . . The problem is clear. The remedy is clear. The Public Service Board — as well as all of state government — must stop selling off the right to access public records to private contractors. Burlington Free Press

PA: PennDOT’s first public-private effort hits the road
Pennsylvania is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services. A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Harrisburg.