The Governor’s Database

Source: Jake Bernstein, The Texas Observer, Vol. 99 no. 8, April 20, 2007

Texas is amassing an unprecedented amount of information on its citizens

Piece by piece, Gov. Rick Perry’s homeland security office is gathering massive amounts of information about Texas residents and merging it to create the most exhaustive centralized database in state history. Warehoused far from Texas on servers housed at a private company in Louisville, Kentucky, the Texas Data Exchange—TDEx to those in the loop—is designed to be an all-encompassing intelligence database. It is supposed to help catch criminals, ferret out terrorist cells, and allow disparate law enforcement agencies to share information. More than $3.6 million has been spent on the project so far, and it already has tens of millions of records. At least 7,000 users are presently allowed access to this information, and tens of thousands more are anticipated.

What is most striking, and disturbing, about the database is that it is not being run by the state’s highest law enforcement agency—the Texas Department of Public Safety. Instead, control of TDEx, and the power to decide who can use it, resides in the governor’s office.

National Center for Clinical Social Work Launched in Massachusetts

Source: Mental Health Weekly, Vol. 17 no. 17, April 30, 2007
(subscription required)

A national center for clinical social work was recently formed with the hope of representing the nation’s 200,000 clinical social workers, who constitute the largest mental health profession in the United States, said officials from the Salem, Mass., based Canter for Clinical Social Work, Inc. The Center is intended to be a unifying force amid the diversity and dynamism of the profession, said center officials.

GI Bill Fails Vets

Source: Terry J. Allen, In These Times, Vol. 31 no. 5, May 2007

Soldiers returning from Iraq aren’t receiving their education stipends until it’s too late

…Many veterans who applied under the 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) say they faced black-hole bureaucracy and college costs that far exceeded benefits….

…Because many colleges require payment upfront, and benefit checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) typically arrive months after the semester begins, veterans often have to pony up thousands of dollars in tuition, fees and living expenses to enter school…

Woe for the Working Classes

Source: Joe Connor, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, Vol. 50 no. 2, March-April, 2007
(subscription required)

It is hard to find any evidence that tax increases reduce the work-effort of high-income earners, according to this economist. Meantime, traditional families in the lower-income half of our population have been faring badly for most of the past quarter century even without comparing them to the top fifth and especially to the top 5 percent who have done so well. The only good years the traditional family has had in the past twenty-five followed a tax increase in 1993. All those gains have been lost since the tax decrease in 2001.

San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Law: A Canary in the Coal Mine?

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 24 no. 5, March 1, 2007
(subscription required)

In November, voters in San Francisco approved proposition F, a bill that requires employers within San Francisco’s city and county limits to provide an hour of sick leave to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees for every 30 hours worked. While it may be tempting to dismiss the law as something only a liberal city such as San Francisco would pass, doing so would be a mistake. Similar laws have been introduced in state legislatures and a federal paid sick leave bill is pending before Congress.

One More Thing in Life That’s Certain: Fees

Source: Andrea Martinez, Fedgazette, Vol. 19 no. 2, March 2007

Government fees are on the rise at both state and local levels.

The theme of these rising expenses is that they are all government fees. While fees don’t have the scale or the visibility of taxes, their presence and overall cost have been on a steady incline. And if you’re a user of these services, you can no more avoid these price hikes than you could the tax man.

Intensive Care For Rural Hospitals

Source: Ronald A. Wirtz, Fedgazette, Vol. 19 no. 2, March 2007

Critical access program brings life, hope back to some rural hospitals. But if access is the goal, it may be overmedicating.

For rural hospitals, many of which have been gasping financially for years, the answer has been the federal Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program. This Medicare-based program gives rural hospitals the organizational equivalent of CPR because it purposefully pays rural hospitals more to care for Medicare patients than urban institutions receive. These higher reimbursement rates have improved profit margins and offered the possibility of upgrading long-neglected facilities.

Old Promises, Emerging Bills: Considering OPEB in Public Finance Ratings

Source: Fitch Ratings, March 22, 2007
(subscription required)

As the first deadline for implementation of Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 45 (GASB 45) approaches, Fitch Ratings has further developed its thinking on the credit implications for state and local governments of providing long-term funding for other post-employment benefits (OPEB). This report follows up on Fitch Research in June 2005 titled “The Not So Golden Years (Credit Implications of GASB 45)” (available on Fitch’s web site at www.fitchratings.com). It focuses on how the various approaches to managing and funding the liability will affect Fitch’s credit analysis, rather than on meeting the reporting deadlines set forth by GASB 45, as Fitch expects such compliance from issuers it rates. Failure to comply will be considered a weak management practice. This report also examines several governments that have taken prudent actions related to OPEB.

Questions and Answers About Health Care Workers and the Americans With Disabilities Act

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, February 2007

Health care is the largest industry in the American economy, and has a high incidence of occupational injury and illness. Though they are “committed to promoting health through treatment and care for the sick and injured, health care workers, ironically, confront perhaps a greater range of significant workplace hazards than workers in any other sector.” Health care jobs often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, sharps injuries, and other dangers; many health care jobs can also be physically demanding and mentally stressful. Moreover, health care workers with occupational or non-occupational illness or injury may face unique challenges because of societal misperceptions that qualified health care providers must themselves be free from any physical or mental impairment.

Although the rules under Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act are the same for all industries and work settings, this fact sheet explains how the ADA might apply to particular situations involving job applicants and employees in the health care field.