February 23, 2015


TX: ABC 7 Investigates: AEDC & Local Public-Private Partnertships. . . .The Commerce Building transaction has prompted a federal inquiry into the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC). Now, we’re digging deeper into other real estate transactions facilitated through public private partnerships with the Prana Development Group, the AEDC and other local academic institutions in our area. . . . . The overlap between business and philanthropy is evident when looking at the Commerce Building transaction. The Commerce Building was purchased by a Prana-connected company for 1.675 million, sold to the AEDC for 3.1 million, and later gifted to WT for the Downtown Amarillo Center. The WT Foundation Board includes Alan Rhodes, Kathy Cornett and Dyke Rogers, who are also investors in the Prana Development Group. Prana through the sale of the Commerce Building is connected to the AEDC. Another connection is through the Eastport Business Park, which is marketed by the AEDC . The AEDC also manages the Centerport Business Park, which has property that is owned by Prana. Since the AEDC has facilitated many of these deals, some are calling for more scrutiny when public money is used. The ultimate oversight over the AEDC is the Amarillo City Council. ConnectAmarillo.com

OH: Stronger beer, prison privatization, guns among issues raised in new Ohio House bills. Under House Bill 73, sponsored by two Youngstown-area Democrats, the governor couldn’t close, sell or privatize any state prisons or other institutional facilities before getting permission from a newly created state facilities closure commission. The proposed 13-member commission would include lawmakers, state agency heads, people with experience working in the agency targeted by the change, and a union official. cleveland.com

OH: More charter school controls wanted by the left and by Auditor Yost on the right. State Auditor Dave Yost, shown here announcing a recent audit of discrepancies in charter school enrollment and kids who actually show up for class, says that charter school reform proposals from Gov. Kasich and House Republicans do not go far enough. cleveland.com

KY: Kentucky bill would aid Brent Spence Bridge privatization effort. . . Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, is the lead sponsor of the bill to permit the state to work together with private groups to get needed road and bridge work done. She is one of 10 House Democrats to attach their names to the bill. State lawmakers approved a similar effort one year ago after a provision was added by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, to prohibit adding tolls on any interstate project that connects Kentucky and Ohio. Simpson said at the time he preferred to take a “wait-and-see” approach to tolls in northern Kentucky. However, Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the bill. The Democratic governor said in his veto message it was a bad idea to eliminate any funding options for the project to replace the bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into Cincinnati. The existing structure is toll free. This year’s version, HB443, includes a provision that would require approval of a joint resolution by the Kentucky Legislature for partnerships that involve projects with the state of Ohio. Land Line Msgazine

NJ: Trenton council, residents speak out on privatization of trash pickup . . . Although a formal vote on the issue was not taken because it was a study session, statements made by three members of the council indicate they are in favor of outsourcing, while four expressed they’d rather keep the job in house. Southgate News Herald

FL: Charter School Operator With Four Fs Gets Cash to Open More. A charter school management company with a history of operating failing or shuttered schools has been approved for two more schools in Panama City, leaving some South Florida parents wondering why millions in public money continue flowing to the company and the schools it manages. “Unbelievable,” said John Wai, who was told two weeks into this school year that a Sunrise school managed by Newpoint Education Partners was shutting down because it could not find suitable permanent classroom space. NBC 6 South Florida

IN: Lawmakers struggle to pay for roads. After years of spending billions from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road, the state is in the same boat as the rest of the nation – coping with gas tax revenues that are not keeping pace with inflation and wondering what the long-term solution is. “We can’t hook to the gas tax because it’s a losing proposition going forward,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. . . . When Toll Road lease revenue dropped off in 2013, it brought down Indiana Department of Transportation spending by about $300 million the next year. . . . The General Assembly is waiting for a study commissioned last year that INDOT is undertaking to present options on funding. It is set to come out this summer. . . . One idea getting traction in some states is a tax or fee on miles driven or on the sale of high-mileage cars. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

PA: House set to vote on liquor privatization bill despite concerns that members may not know what’s in it. In its first significant piece of business in the 2015-16 legislative session, the state House of Representatives is poised to vote this week on a bill that would get the state out of the liquor business. But some wonder how many legislators casting votes really know what the bill would do. Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and a union official suggest even the bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, seems confused about what’s in the legislation based on comments he made during a recent PCN Call-in Program. PennLive.com