April 1, 2015


Repubs at it again; want to privatize public lands. . . U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) amendment, which passed by a vote of 51 to 49, is now part of the Senate’s nonbinding budget resolution. The proposal would support and fund state efforts—which many argue are unconstitutional—to seize and sell America’s public lands. These include all national forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, historic sites, and national monuments. Murkowski’s amendment, which would need further legislation to become law, follows a similar proposal from House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) to spend $50 million of taxpayer dollars to fund the sale or transfer of U.S. public lands to states. Democratic Underground

Toll Battles Mount as U.S. States Seek Cash for Ailing Highways. As U.S. states collect record tolls from drivers, political opposition to fee-based highways and bridges is threatening efforts to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. In Texas, supporters of legislation to limit tolls rallied on the capitol steps last week, waving signs reading “Don’t Mess With Texas Public Roads.” Connecticut’s Republican lawmakers have stymied plans to restore toll roads after three decades without them. In Kentucky, lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party have blocked fees the Democratic governor says are needed to replace an obsolete bridge to Ohio.“The sentiment against tolling has so clearly backlashed,” said Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom in San Antonio, which is fighting them in the state. “You can’t get anywhere without paying.” Bloomberg

Jim Hightower opens new front in fight to save postal service. Progressive broadcaster Jim Hightower is opening a new front in the multi-union, multi-organization fight to save the U.S. Postal Service from its privatizing management and Wall Street interests. In a March 24 nationwide conference call with activists, Hightower and Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein outlined avenues people can use to save the embattled agency and the union jobs-of Postal Workers, Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers and Rural Letter Carriers-threatened by shutdowns and the privatization push. People’s World

IL: Is Rahm Emanuel Planning to Privatize Chicago’s Public Housing? The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) plans to court private investment in as much as half of its public-housing units through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a new federal program billed as a way to “revitalize” housing for the poor and address a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs. But housing advocates around the country worry that RAD is just a prelude to privatization.  In These Times

NJ: After Christie’s push for privatization, New Jersey lottery missing financial targets. When Chris Christie privatized the management of New Jersey’s lottery two years ago, he said its new overseers would “modernize and maximize” the games. Instead, a lottery once ranked among the nation’s top performers is now lagging for the second straight year, trailing its state income targets by $64 million seven months into the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, the company running it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbyists and a public relations firm with close ties to the governor. Minneapolis Star Tribune

NC: National charter school chains could get easier path in NC. Charter schools run by national chains would have an easier time branching out in North Carolina under a bill proposed by a powerful state senator. . . . This would apply to chains such as the for-profit Charter Schools USA or nonprofit KIPP. Both have at least one school in the Charlotte area and have plans for more. Charlotte Observer (blog)

MD: Senate panel approves charter school measure. Maryland Senate panel on Tuesday approved a heavily reworked version of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to ease restrictions on the state’s charter-schools law. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 10-1 for the measure, sending it to the full Senate for consideration this week. WBAL Baltimore