June 24, 2015

The Senate’s proposed highway bill: Six years, $257 billion. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled language for its proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill that is scheduled for markup on Wednesday, June 24.  Of note heading into Wednesday’s markup hearing, the bill does not seek to expand a pilot program that allows up to three interstate highways or bridges to be converted into toll roads, something that truckers and other highway users have been watching closely. The tolling pilot program would remain status quo under the proposal, with a provision added to say that if a state does not act on federal approval to pursue tolls within two years, the slot would open back up for another state to apply. The three slots in the current program are held by Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina, but to date, no currently toll-free interstate has been converted into a toll road under the program.  Land Line Magazine

Privatizing Primer. You may wonder how this is sustainable. It isn’t, and it isn’t meant to be. Charters routinely drop out of the business, move on, dissolve and reform under new names, getting out of Dodge before they have to offer proof of success. This churn and burn is a feature, not a bug, and it is supposed to foster excellence. To date, there is no evidence that it does so. But in the long term, we get a two-tier system. One is composed of private, profit-generating school-like businesses that will serve some of the students. The other is a vestigal public system, under-funded and under-served, but still serving as “proof” that public schools are failure factories and so we must have a state-run system. Huffington Post

IL:  House votes to privatize state commerce agency. The Illinois House has approved a plan to partially privatizate Illinois’ commerce agency. It’s one of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s ideas for economic development. But the version sponsored by Democrats would only authorize the partnership for three years. Peoria Public Radio

CT: State mulls using private companies to fix roads, rail and bridges. A state panel charged with finding ways to fund a $100 billion upgrade of the state’s roads, rails and bridges on Tuesday received a crash course in how to partner with private companies and the highway tolls which typically fund the projects. CT Post

OH: Ohio decides to renew prison food contract with Aramark. Ohio on Tuesday renewed a contract to feed the state’s 50,000 prison inmates with a company whose early troubles getting the job done led to criticism over privatizing the service. The state rejected a counterproposal by the union representing prison guards and other workers after a four-person panel determined the union’s plan would cost too much. The $130 million agreement with Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services extends through June 30, 2017.The company faced criticism last year over understaffing, running out of food and a few cases of maggots near food prep areas. The State

MD: In Baltimore, Rec Centers Provide So Much More Than Just Fun. Local recreation centers, which have a long tradition in the city, provide a much-needed refuge. . . . “Most of the folks from this community at some point have stepped foot inside this center. As you can see it’s connected to the elementary school,” Fowlks says. “We had some great leaders over the past, that helped groom us to become adults.”That’s why the city has taken heat for closing or privatizing a dozen rec centers since 2012. Rachel Donegan, of the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work’s Promise Heights program, says closing some makes sense. Attendance has dropped as the city’s population declined. But she says it’s still left some feeling they have no place to go. NPR