April 27, 2015


Senate Dems seek higher wages for cafeteria workers, sources say. Some senators who learned about a Senate cafeteria worker who is forced to sleep out in the street because his wage is so low will try to get him and his coworkers a pay increase, Democratic sources told CNN late Friday. The senators began making the plans after reading a CNN.com article about the plight of Charles Gladden, a 63-year-old grandfather making $360 a week who sleeps on a makeshift bed on a sidewalk next to D.C.’s McPherson Square Metro Station. After the Senate voted to privatize its restaurants and cafeteria in 2008, it bid out the contracts to the lowest bidder, possibly decreasing salaries for people like Gladden, the sources said. Bayoubuzz

‘New rebels’ seek control of federal land. A growing movement to transfer federal land to state control in Western states, where the federal government is a big landowner, is drawing comparisons to the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and running into strong resistance from conservation and sportsmen groups. At issue is who should control some 300 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the West. USA TODAY

The military retirement system may need reform, but is privatization the best way? The current military pension system, in which you get a generous pension after 20 years of service but have no retirement plan if you serve 19 years, could use an overhaul. That doesn’t mean that dumping the military into the kind of privatized, vulnerable to stock market crashes, 401(k) system that has so many Americans headed for poverty-stricken retirement is a good idea, but it’s what the House Armed Services Committee is considering. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has also praised the idea. Daily Kos

Turning a Children’s Rating System Into an Advocacy Army. . . The group’s growing political influence also underscores the increasing privatization of American public education — and the complicated financial interrelationships that are developing as education technology proliferates. Common Sense Media earned about $6 million last year through the licensing fees it charges companies — including Amplify, AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Discovery Education and Time Warner Cable — that distribute its reviews and ratings. It has also received support from a number of foundations set up by technology executives and telecommunications firms. If Mr. Steyer’s efforts to increase government financing for education-related technologies succeed, some of these entities, or their benefactors’ companies, stand to benefit. New York Times

TX: Despite Controls, Texas Contracts Plagued with Scandal. A renewed effort to evaluate Texas contracting oversight could end up illustrating an uncomfortable reality. . . Even the strictest of safeguards will not work if not taken seriously by agency officials. . .. Part of the problem, the experts say, lies with state officials who have ignored the rules or exploited loopholes. . .. Another illustration that has gotten far less attention concerns a little-known section of the Texas Government Code that requires the health commission to give the attorney general a chance to review plans to outsource health services worth $250 million or more. Records suggest a meaningful review never has been conducted. The commission has failed to provide any notification of several plans. . .Several other deals also have come under scrutiny, including a botched state hospital privatization, a telephone deal with AT&T that grew from $1 million to $105 million, and a Medicaid claims processing deal awarded on an “emergency basis” that could last five years and cost $965 million. Government Technology

LA: Analysis: Lawmakers hear about gaps in LSU hospital deals. Two years after Gov. Bobby Jindal began privatizing the state-run charity hospital system, problems and financial questions continue to appear as lawmakers and communities sift through the spill-out effect. The private managers that now operate the hospitals say they’re $159 million short in Jindal’s budget of what they need to provide adequate care for the poor and uninsured in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Monroe News Star

DC: DC Toll Operators Are Scamming, Drivers Say. The operators of toll roads in the D.C. metro area assess illegal penalties against drivers over misfiring E-Z passes, a federal class action says. Jo-Ann Brown and Mary Pizarro, both of Virginia, filed the complaint Wednesday along with Maryland resident Michele Osborne against the corporations that operate the 95 Express Lanes and 495 Express Lanes, high-occupancy toll lanes that commuters use to avoid traffic congestion along the Capital Beltway. Claiming that the express lanes have not been as financially successful as projected, the women say that Transurban USA and others are attempting to buoy profits by maliciously charging excessive fees when commuters miss payments. Courthouse News

VA: Can a tolling and transit deal fix I-66 after decades of failure?. . . Layne said he believes that the broad framework of a deal has been struck: I-66 would be converted to a toll road inside the Capital Beltway, with carpoolers riding free. The tolls — tens of millions worth — would be channeled to just the types of Metro, bus, bike and pedestrian improvements that county officials have long argued are the best way to move growing numbers of people. . . . Virginia is in early discussions with the federal government, which regulates the tolling of existing highways and would need to sign off on any plan. . . . “If there’s not local support, I don’t care what the reasons are — the road’s not going to be successful,” Layne said. Washington Post

IL: How exactly is privatization better, Mr. Governor?. . . His summary of the bill chartering a private economic development group notes that Illinois trails states with such organizations in job growth and investment. Rauner thereby implies that privatizing economic development explains the performance gap. That’s quite a leap. After all, states with such organizations often offer other things employers like, such as low wage rates, low taxes and tighter limits on labor unions. When I asked Rauner’s media office about the plan, I got a statement echoing the bill summary.   Crain’s Chicago Business

GA: Opinion: Why competitive model fails schools. No one should lose in education. . . Regardless of the “miracles” claimed by proponents of competition and privatization efforts, it seems as though the dirty – and much more complex – truth comes out at some point. The Texas Miracle used to design No Child Left Behind was a case of cooking the books; the Atlanta Miracle included systemic cheating to save jobs and schools from being closed and educators are now sentenced to serve time behind bars; the New Orleans Miracle continues to be an embarrassment with the retraction of research reports indicating success and criticisms about bad data; and in 2013 there was confirmed test cheating in 37 states and Washington D.C., but surely it is more widespread than that given the high-stakes of the very tests that have been criticized for their bias, invalidity, very high cost, and damaging effects on what schooling has become. Not everything is a competition, not everything should be designed as a competition, and education – especially – should not be treated as a competition where there are guaranteed winners and losers. No one should lose in education. Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)

IA: Senate President Raises Concerns Over Privatizing Medicaid. Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize parts of the state’s Medicaid system is moving forward. Medicaid is the healthcare program for low income Iowans; that represents $4.2 billion in state and federal spending. The Department of Human Services estimates privatization will save about 50-million-dollars in the first six months. The Branstad administration says savings will come from avoiding duplication of services and offering better preventative care. But Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, has concerns. “First of all I don’t think the plan was very well thought out yet, (it was) too much too fast,” Jochum says. “I think all of us have been trying to do a lot of research ever since his plan was unveiled on what’s happened in other states that have attempted to do this.” Iowa Public Radio

HI: Gov. Ige: Not So Fast on Allowing Privatization of Maui Hospitals. In an unusual move, Gov. David Ige has intervened in a controversial proposal that would pave the way for the privatization of Maui Memorial Medical Center, which lost more than $43 million last year. The House was prepared to agree with the latest Senate draft of House Bill 1075, which creates a framework for transitioning Maui hospitals to nonprofit management. But Ige said Tuesday he had concerns about the proposal, and requested a meeting with House Speaker Joseph Souki from Maui, who sponsored the measure. Honolulu Civil Beat