September 26, 2012


CA: Outsourcing City Attorney’s Office not an option in H.B.. A discussion on possibly outsourcing the City Attorney’s Office failed to gain support after some city leaders questioned the legality of the move. City Council members on Monday were expected to consider whether or not outsourcing the office to a private firm would be the best way to save the city money after an independent attorney advised officials that it could mean getting sued and losing.  OCRegister

NJ: State Ed Commissioner Cerf says talk of privatizing NJ public schools is ‘palpable, absolute nonsense’…Cerf said he is “stunned and astonished” that serious citizens believe the state is interested in privatizing public schools. “The notion that there is some group of corporate, you know, kingpins out there who are lurking in an effort to conspire to take over … is just nonsense,” Cerf said. Critics of the Jersey City BOE’s appointment of Marcia V. Lyles as the 29,000-student district’s new superintendent have claimed Lyles – a graduate, like Cerf, of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy – intends to collude with Cerf to close and privatize some of the district’s schools. Lyles and Cerf have denied the accusation.

PA: ‘Flimflam finance’ used by Pa. Turnpike, Wagner charges. Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are using “flimflam finance” to cover increasing debt and the toll road could be bankrupt in “a couple of years,” state Auditor General Jack Wagner told legislators Tuesday. State lawmakers are considering whether to rewrite a 2007 law called Act 44, which that requires the turnpike to provide $450 million a year for public transit and road and bridge projects around Pennsylvania until 2057 in addition to paying for the costs of operating the 545-mile turnpike system. To meet that obligation, the turnpike has borrowed billions and boosted cash tolls by 48 percent. Tolls will rise again in January and every year as the turnpike tries to raise enough money to pay its debt… Wagner, who has been warning about turnpike finances for months, told lawmakers they should repeal Act 44 and find other ways to pay for the state’s transportation needs. But many lawmakers and Gov. Corbett are reluctant to raise gas taxes or other fees to pay for roads and bridges and mass transit. Philadelphia Inquirer

GA: Audit a red-letter day for MARTA and its board. We already knew that MARTA would have to change dramatically. As the audit points out, the transit agency is on a collision course with financial disaster, with reserves scheduled to be exhausted by 2018…Altogether, easily outsourced functions could save the agency some $27 million over a five-year period, KPMG estimated. …Privatization, for example, is often oversold as a cost-cutting option, although the scale of potential savings identified in the audit suggests that it offers a critically important option. Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)

FL: Legislative Commission’s overreach: privatizing healthcare in Florida prisons …Undeterred by a court ruling that prohibits the legislature from changing policy through budget language, the Legislative Budget Commission last week approved a major policy change — privatizing prison health operations — with only six legislators voting in favor.  Last year, the courts struck down similar end-arounds designed to privatize general operations and health services at state prisons, saying such large policy changes must be made in stand-alone laws, not through budget language. The Legislature followed up by killing leadership’s attempt to pass a stand-alone prison privatization law with a razor-thin, 21-19 Senate vote. The bill failed after weeks of delay and arm twisting because proponents were unable to show that privatization would save money. There may be good arguments for privatizing healthcare services at our prisons. Perhaps it would improve healthcare for inmates and save the state money, but it also may result in reduced care and higher costs. Regardless, last week the Legislative Budget Commission ducked scrutiny and privatized prison healthcare after an hour of discussion among just 10 members, seven of whom were not even there in person. — Paula Dockery is a term-limited Republican senator from Lakeland who is chronicling her final year in the Florida Senate.  Miami Herald