April 20, 2015


Our public water future – closing out the corporate profiteers.  Private water companies have never been more aggressive in their sabotaging of efforts to ‘make water public’, writes Satoko Kishimoto, with legal threats and challenges launched under ‘free trade’ agreements. But as citizens worldwide reject corporate water profiteering, the trend of water re-municipalisation has gathered unstoppable momentum. The Ecologist

GOP files bill to privatize air traffic control. A Republican House member has filed a bill that would privatize some facets of the nation’s air traffic control as the Federal Aviation Administration struggles to meet deadlines to upgrade the system. The measure would create a new private corporation that would oversee air traffic control functions that are currently handled by the FAA. The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), said the measure would drastically improve the efficiency of air traffic control in the U.S. The Hill

VA: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Toll Road Abuse. Motorists hit by massive fines on Virginia’s toll roads filed suit in federal court Wednesday against the Australian company responsible for collecting the levies. Mary Elise Pizarro, a driver from Alexandria, accuses Transurban of imposing $9440 in fines when her E-Z Pass transponder failed to register $20 in tolls on the Interstate 495 high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, due to no fault of her own. “Transurban has filed thousands of lawsuits against DC area drivers in the past year alone seeking to collect exorbitant and illegal administrative fees and civil penalties,” attorney James Pizzirusso said in a statement. The suit alleges that the imposition of fines is intentionally excessive to make up for a shortfall in revenue. The Beltway HOT lanes have flopped, losing $51 million in 2013. Last year, Transurban generated additional cash by filing 26,000 lawsuits for unpaid tolls, some of which were caused by the failure of Transurban’s own equipment. TheNewspaper.com

LA: Privatization deals leave schools stuck with ‘legacy costs’. LSU’s medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport are struggling to pay millions of dollars in insurance, retiree and maintenance costs left to them from the privatization of the state’s charity hospitals. University officials outlined more than $56 million in “legacy costs” that they face in the fiscal year that begins July 1. . . LSU health care chief Frank Opelka said if no money is provided to cover those costs, they will threaten the medical schools’ viability. Alexandria Town Talk

TX: Failed Hospital Deal Reveals Ties to Janek. Three years ago, a company called Geo Care Inc. failed to win a contract from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to privatize the Kerrville State Hospital, one of the state’s 10 psychiatric facilities. So the company’s lobbyist, Frank Santos, circled back and provided HHSC Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek with a blueprint for how the agency could successfully privatize other state hospitals — maybe Austin, Kerrville, San Antonio and Rusk — which would then allow Santos’ client to bid for the work. . . . Fourteen months later, Geo Care, which changed its name to Correct Care Solutions, won a contract to privatize the Terrell State Hospital. It was the only bidder to submit a complete application. The emailed communications between Santos and Janek, as well as phone calls and meetings, appear to break no laws. In fact, the state’s own statutes allow vendors to approach government agencies with “public-private partnership” ideas. MyHighPlains

FL: Private prison vendors could face new scrutiny in Florida. Florida legislative leaders last week tentatively agreed to the creation of a joint legislative oversight board with the power to investigate and monitor the performance of Florida’s troubled Department of Corrections. Its goal is to secure the safety of inmates in the face of mounting reports of suspicious inmate deaths, excessive use of force and allegations of cover-ups at the agency. . . .But the legislative panel could also open the door to an evaluation of the recent shift in priorities that has led the state to open seven private prisons, contract out services for 21 inmate work camps, and shift mental health care and substance abuse treatment and inmate health care to private vendors. . . The call to action was prompted by a series of reports in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times that showed suspicious inmate deaths were covered up or never reviewed, inmate grievances and complaints of harmful medical care were dismissed or ignored, and internal controls were inconsistent. Tampabay.com

NC: Commentary: Follow the money: a primer on how outside $$$ have paved the way for vouchers & charters in NC. . . Those funds have resulted in the removal of the cap on charter schools and a new voucher program that takes money away from the public school system in order to fund unregulated and unaccountable private education in the name of school choice. To connect the dots between the national players in school privatization efforts and local lawmakers that have pushed for the expansion of charters and vouchers, the Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) published an essay and infographic Friday that details how Reps. Stam, Yarborough, Jones and others have benefited from the privatizers’ offerings and the resulting legislation they are seeking to enact. The Progressive Pulse

CA: Privatized busing comes to San Francisco – opinion. . . A booming tech industry has brought thousands of new residents to San Francisco, all needing a way to get to work. Public transit infrastructure is operating over capacity. While city agencies scramble to meet rising demand, private companies are stepping in with market-based solutions for top-tier customers. The result is something more insidious than just a private bus for those who can afford it: the idea that infrastructure traditionally subsidized by public money for the public good now can, should and will be a private moneymaker. Al Jazeera America

MA: Senate leaders skeptical of plan to allow more MBTA privatization. Senate leaders are skeptical of a House plan that would open the door to more privatization of services at the beleaguered MBTA. The House has called for a suspension of the so-called Pacheco law, which creates obstacles to outsourcing, for five years for the T. Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, in comments to reporters Thursday afternoon, said the Pacheco law has become a “political target” over the years. Boston Globe ($)

IA: Iowa’s Medicaid privatization draws scrutiny. Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid program is moving forward, though critics are raising questions about how the shift will impact patients. Earlier this year, the state began an effort to shift Medicaid administration to two or more managed care organizations, to which Iowa will pay a fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage. State officials predict cost savings and say patients will still have access to quality health care. But Democratic Senate President Pam Jochum, of Dubuque, said this week that she is not convinced, raising concerns about the quality of care for patients. KTTC

IL: The criminalization of public education. . . Corporate education reform came barreling on to the scene after the Reagan-era Chicken Little report, A Nation At Risk. We were told our students scored terribly on tests, our schools were failing, our teachers were lazy, our unions locked terrible teachers in place forever, and our nation would soon collapse if that perilous status quo wasn’t destroyed. So lots and lots of things were done, and have been done for 30 years now. The fixes that have been applied ever since that report have been drawn from the world of business, along with the language about schools and curriculum. We have CEOs running our school systems and investors who are waiting for returns on their investments. ChicagoNow (blog)

MT: House OKs tax credits for public, private school donations. Republican representatives have advanced a proposal to provide tax credits for anyone who donates to certain educational programs, both public and private. Representatives voted 57-43 to pass Republican Sen. Llew Jones’ Senate Bill 410 on second reading Thursday. It would go to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock if it passes a final vote in the House. The proposal would provide income-tax credits in the full amount, up to $150, of donations made to scholarships for private K-12 education or “innovative educational programs” at public schools. Great Falls Tribune