May 27, 2015

MT: Groups bring private hunting schemes to Montana. Big Game Forever director Ryan Benson has been touting sage grouse as the end of public hunting on public land. Ironic, because BGF and their close ally SFW have done more to end public hunting in their home state of Utah. Both groups have done this with private landowner tags and a giant auction in which both groups net millions in profit while the regular sportsman is cut out of hunting opportunity. The real coup, the fact Benson has taken $4.6 million in sportsmen’s dollars over the past few years under the guise he’s defending hunting rights by fighting against wolves and sage grouse. Utah taxpayers and sportsmen have been duped by their own state government, while hunters see less and less opportunity yearly because of privatization schemes of that state’s public wildlife. Billings Gazette

PA: Nurses protest District plans to privatize school health services. Umbrellas in hand, more than 50 people demonstrated outside School District headquarters Thursday against District plans to outsource school-based health services, a move that could further reduce the ranks of unionized school nurses. Several speakers said that the proposal was nothing more than a union-busting move that would line the pockets of private health-care providers on the backs of children. Philadelphia Public School Notebook

OH: Fight over sale heads to Ohio Supreme Court. The status of the nation’s first privately-owned state prison is up for debate in Ohio as litigation brought on behalf of union workers displaced by the historic sale is argued before the state’s high court. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a group of individuals and the liberal think tank ProgressOhio sued in 2011 after Republican Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled state Legislature passed a biennial budget bill authorizing the sale of Lake Erie Correctional Facility in Conneaut, along the shores of Lake Erie, and placing a second state prison under private management. The union argues that placing the privatization plan in the budget violated the Ohio Constitution’s single-subject rule for legislation. Defiance Crescent News

NC: Study proposed of leasing historic sites. . . Senate Bill 486 sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and titled N.C. Trail Expansion/Economic Corridors, includes investigating leasing portions of several state-owned properties, including the North Carolina Zoo, to developers. The proposed bill also instructs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or any other department given responsibilities for the North Carolina Aquariums, to study economic development opportunities for the Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station related to fishing, boating, camping, hiking, general outdoor activities, lodging, special event rental and other tourism-related economic development. The historic structure is on the south side of Oregon Inlet and has been stabilized but never restored inside. The Outer Banks Voice

IA: Branstad rapped by critics as he signs mental health proclamation. Progress Iowa, a liberal activist group, submitted petitions to Branstad’s office prior to the declaration’s signing with the names of more than 2,500 people against plans to end state management of Iowa mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. In addition, about a half-dozen people showed up at the proclamation-signing ceremony wearing black armbands in an bid to call attention to a need for better mental health care for military veterans. The Des Moines Register

IA: Opinion: Government shrinks, but costs grow. . . Part of the impulse to privatize is ideological — the (mistaken) belief that the private sector can always do things more cheaply and efficiently than the public sector. Part may also be political — replacing Democratic-leaning and unionized public employees with Republican-leaning and non-union contracting businesses. Decisions to outsource ought to be made on a more rational basis than that. Which is why the state should pause in its rush to privatize health and social services. Before moving ahead, the state should undertake a nonpartisan review of when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t, to turn over government functions to private businesses. There should be an overall policy on privatization, rather than drifting into it piecemeal.

WI: Scott Walker Dumped as Chair of the Jobs Agency He Created. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his election in 2010 on a promise to create 250,000 new jobs. To lead the effort, Walker created his flagship Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in 2011 and named himself Chairman of the Board. Now, as allegations of cronyism and corruption engulf WEDC, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee has removed Walker as Chairman. Walker’s “love for Wisconsin” may also explain his effort in the same budget bill to shield a wide swath of WEDC documents and data from the requirements of Wisconsin’s open records law. Fortunately, the Joint Finance Committee also rejected that particular embrace. PRWATCH

WI: Legislature Wants to Privatize Low-Performing Public Schools. A radical privatization proposal has been inserted into the Wisconsin state budget and approved by the budget-writing committee. The plan initially applies to Milwaukee (where the public schools outperform voucher schools and get similar test scores to charter schools), but it could be extended to Madison, Racine and other “large, racially diverse” school districts. Under the plan, a commissioner would be appointed and have the power to fire all staff, both teachers and administrators, and hand the school off to a private operator to run as a charter or voucher school. In other words, public assets, schools paid for by the community, will be given away to private operators. Diane Ravitch’s blog