May 30, 2014


The political fight over VA privatization. The notion that privatizing veterans’ care is the ideal solution is quickly rising on the list of Republican talking points. It started with Fox News and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime proponent of the change, but the push has generated broader GOP support in recent days, including an endorsement of sorts from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). . . .  As German Lopez explained, veterans’ advocates, who have long opposed privatization, haven’t changed their minds – they see this was an approach that would “undercut a system that specializes in veterans’ needs.”. . . A typical VA patient “might have a spinal cord injury, plus an orthopedic issue, plus a mental health issue. They’re a multifaceted patient,” Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America explains. “The VA is a system constructed to provide holistic care for the life of that patient. The private system is not constructed with those ideas in mind.” If the VA system offered substandard care, this would be a very different kind of conversation, but it doesn’t.  MSNBC

MN: Minnesota governor signs bill making private companies’ government contracts public. Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a bill making private companies’ contracts on government projects public under Minnesota’s open records law. . .The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. . . . The bill excludes health plan companies, managed care organizations and county-based purchasing plans until June 30, 2015. Dayton vetoed part of the bill that would fund a legislative auditor’s study on how secure state systems are at securing and transmitting data, including citizens’ personal information.  Greenfield Daily Reporter

NY: NYC outsourcing of chronic dialysis services from public hospitals to a for-profit chain scrapped. Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), testified at the New York City Council Executive Budget hearing today. . .  HHC also announced today that the plan for a dialysis services joint venture would be postponed indefinitely. ” NYCGov

WA: Early data show increase in alcohol emergencies since privatization. Shoppers are buying a bit more hard liquor now that they can find it at four times as many stores and during twice as many hours as it was available before voters privatized liquor sales in 2011. So how is Washington handling its extra liquor? Partly — according to researchers who are trying to answer that question — by making more trips to the emergency room. Those researchers gave a preliminary report Wednesday to the state Liquor Control Board on the effects of Initiative 1183.  The Olympian

NY: Port Authority plans public-private ‘hybrid’ to fund 3 WTC. The Port Authority on Wednesday all but abandoned an arrangement to double the public subsidy for Larry Silverstein’s long-stalled 3 World Trade Center project, choosing instead to pursue negotiations with private-sector financing groups that would likely demand an ownership stake in the tower. Officials said the outside interest had only materialized in recent months and would now be the focus of the bistate agency’s staff. The decision by the Port’s commissioners, announced prior to a meeting in which the $1.2 billion financing package was to be voted on, appeared to rile Silverstein, who said he was taken aback by it. He said he had agreed to everything the bistate agency had asked for in the month since the board delayed voting on the deal.  Capital New York           

LA: In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good. With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation. . . . But in New Orleans, under the Recovery School District, the Louisiana state agency that seized control of almost all public schools after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005, the traditional system has been swept away. . . . Critics of the all-charter New Orleans model say it is undemocratic, because leaders of charter schools are not accountable to voters. They also say the system is challenging for parents, who have to figure out logistics that were not an issue when their children walked to neighborhood schools. “They don’t answer to anyone,” said Sean Johnson, the dean of students at Banneker, whose father attended the school while growing up in the Black Pearl neighborhood. “The charters have money and want to make more money. They have their own boards, make their own rules, accept who they want and put out who they want to put out.” Washington Post

FL: FDOT discusses First Coast Expressway toll road. The Florida Department of Transportation held an open house Wednesday to answer questions about the new First Coast Expressway already under construction. The expressway will be the first toll road since Duval County voters abolished tolls in 1989.  WJXT Jacksonville

TX: From roads to rail: TxDOT head opens door to raiding road funds for rail. In what appears to be a contradiction with Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ announcement that his next budget will end all un-constitutional gas tax diversions to ensure taxes collected for roads indeed go to roads, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Joe Weber recently signaled the need to depart from highway-only funding to use road taxes for rail. Weber told the Dallas Morning News that “it’s going to take more than new roads to keep Texans traveling smoothly if population growth estimates prove true.” He also said TxDOT needs to increase funding for rail projects despite an environment where road dollars are already scarce. With the Department’s shift to tolling, some of this money it plans to divert to rail will include toll revenues. Texans won’t take kindly to paying tolls to fund rail that they can’t or won’t use. (blog)