Seven Things to Know about the County’s Plan to Partially Privatize Liquor Distribution

Source: Andrew Metcalf, Bethesda Magazine, July 31, 2015

However, two council members on the ad hoc committee, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, scaled back talks about full privatization, pointing out that the DLC’s estimated $30 million in annual profits is spent on other county priorities. The loss of that revenue would be noticeable, especially because the county is facing the possibility of a property tax hike in order to raise enough funds to pass the fiscal year 2017 budget. … The department also employs more than 300 union employees who work in the retail stores and wholesale operations. UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne has said the employees will lose their jobs and benefits if the department is privatized.

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On Loosening Some Alcohol Sales Rules, Montgomery County Makes It Official
Source: Matt Bush, WAMU, July 29, 2015

For the first time since Prohibition ended in the U.S. more than 80 years ago, Maryland’s Montgomery County – which owns all the liquor stores within its borders — is taking steps to privatize the sale of alcohol. The county Council is formally asking the Maryland General Assembly to allow bars and restaurants to “special order” beer and wine from private stores. They now must buy it from county-owned stores or through the Department of Liquor Control….Montgomery County is one of the few local governments in the U.S. with complete control over its liquor stores. Many bars and restaurants have long complained the county does not offer a broad enough selection of wine and beer to fit customer demand. …

Council Agrees On Partial Privatization of Liquor Control, But Some Want More
Source: Aaron Kraut, Bethesda Magazine, July 28, 2015

The Montgomery County Council Tuesday approved a resolution that could lead to partial-privatization of the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC), especially when it comes to the distribution of specialty craft beer and fine wines. … “For nine years I have asked myself why our County is the only county in the country to have a monopoly in the liquor business,” Berliner said in a prepared statement. “The answer, it seems, is simple: revenue and county employee jobs. I don’t find that answer satisfying… Council member Marc Elrich, a member of the committee, again said the DLC can make common-sense changes to improve its delivery services that will allow the county to continue collecting close to $30 million annually that goes into the county’s general fund. But Berliner said the revenue and county jobs don’t justify keeping the department open….

Dems press White House to end family detention centers

Source: Mike Lillis, The Hill, July 31, 2015

House Democrats are escalating their calls for the Obama administration to shutter the family detention centers housing thousands of illegal immigrant women and children. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, 178 Democrats contend the centers — which were established last summer, largely to accommodate the flood of immigrants arriving at the southern border – are illegal and impose prison-like conditions that risk physical and mental harm to detainees. …

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“Deplorable”: Federal Judge Condemns For-Profit Texas Detention Centers for Immigrant Families
Source: Democracy Now! July 29, 2015

In what could be a major victory for human rights advocates here in the United States, a federal judge has issued a harsh condemnation of the mass detention of immigrant women and children, calling conditions in the privately run prisons “deplorable.” The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee gives the Obama administration 90 days either to release the more than 2,000 women and children being held in two Texas facilities or to show just cause to continue holding them. Immigration lawyers say the ruling has already had a “groundbreaking” impact as Texas judges have started ordering women and children’s release without bond, though many have been forced to wear electronic ankle monitors. Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to appeal the ruling….

Exclusive: Family detention social worker speaks out
Source: Franco Ordoñez, McClatchy, July 27, 2015

In an exclusive interview with McClatchy, López shared an inside perspective of troubling operations at the Karnes County Residential Center, which has been at the center of controversy over the Obama administration’s family detention policy. She described a facility where guards isolated mothers and children in medical units, nurses falsified medical reports, staff members were told to lie to federal officials and a psychologist acted as an informant for federal agents. The facility is operated by the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, Boca Raton, Fla.,-based GEO Group, and overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Deplorable Conditions One Former Employee Witnessed At A Family Detention Center
Source: Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, ThinkProgress, July 27, 2015

….Pro-bono immigrant advocacy groups like Immigrant Justice Corps, which has been going down to the two Texas detention facilities in Karnes and Dilley since mid-June, have similar horror stories. Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director at Immigrant Justice Corps, told ThinkProgress that her immigration fellows report “massive inconsistencies” with the way that Immigration and Customs Enforcement handles women’s cases.

CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project
Source: American Immigration Lawyers Association, AILA Doc No. 14100656, June 29, 2015

In December 2015, the federal government opened the newest and largest immigrant family detention center, the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas, approximately 80 minutes southwest of San Antonio. As of June 2015, Dilley will have 2000 beds filled with families. Nearly all are seeking asylum. There is virtually no one on the ground providing pro bono representation to these families. In the absence of pro bono counsel, Dilley is a deportation mill that rapidly processes families out of the country. … CARA is also delivering pro bono legal services in another large detention facility in Karnes City, Tx. The Karnes Residential Center is an hour southeast of San Antonio. This facility originally only operated as an all-male facility. However, since August of 2014 the Karnes Residential Center began holding families. Karnes currently has 226 family units.

Jail authority to reconsider request for proposals from private contractors

Source: Jarrel Wade, Tulsa World, July 31, 2015

The jail authority is scheduled Friday to reconsider pursuing private contractor bids to take over operations of the jail. The Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority’s original action on July 17 to pursue bids was complicated by a majority of board members saying they have no actual intention to move the Tulsa Jail to private operations — and two said they would oppose it no matter the circumstances. … The postponement discussion on Friday comes after a rash of recent resignations at the jail, which jail administrators have said is related to the authority’s discussion of privatization.

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Editorial: No privatization: Keep Tulsa Jail under public control
Source: Tulsa World, July 26, 2015

The Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority again is talking about returning the Tulsa Jail to private management. Privatization turned out to be a bad deal for taxpayers the first time around — from 1999, when the new jail opened, until March 2005, when the sheriff’s office won a bid to take over jail operation. We don’t think a second experience would be any better.

Over the years that Corrections Corporation of America ran the jail, its fees increased 42 percent, and it saddled the county with a $2.9 million deficit during its last year. CCA also grossly neglected the physical plant requiring costly repairs. The kitchen had to be rebuilt. CCA also turned out to be an opaque operation with not enough accountability or transparency, and taxpayers became a prisoner of circumstances.

State officials ponder cattle ranching and more to make money off state parks

Source: Craig Pittman, Tampa Bay Times, April 25, 2015

The new boss of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Jon Steverson, wants to make the award-winning Florida State Park system pay for itself. That means letting some things into the parks that until now have been kept out. Timber companies chopping down the state’s trees. Cattle grazing on taxpayer-owned grass and leaving behind cow pies. Metal cell phone towers looming over the tallest pines, palms and oaks. … A pair of bills to make this experiment mandatory have been working their way through the House and Senate, even as the DEP is quietly testing the idea out with a proposed cattle lease at Myakka River State Park near Sarasota. … That’s also the goal of HB 7135 and SB 7086, bills that are rapidly nearing a final vote in the Legislature. Both call for state park management plans to include “preservation of low impact agriculture” among their mandated goals, and to find parks that could support low impact agriculture. The bills do not really define “low-impact agriculture” except to say it’s the kind of farming or ranching that doesn’t pollute too much or interfere with recreation in the park. … The DEP has been putting together a request for cattle ranchers to bid on taking over 6,630 acres of the 37,000-acre park, which hasn’t had any cattle in it since the state bought it in the 1930s. The proposed lease documents, which have not yet been released publicly, include a number of requirements to limit the impact from the cows’ grazing and subsequent fecal output. The taxpayers may not get any money for leasing all that public land to a rancher, though. The proposal calls for the rancher to build fences and do other chores for free in exchange for parking his or her herd on public property.

Hospital manager offers rebuttal to LSU mismanagement claims

Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, July 30, 2015

The foundation that manages LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals under a privatization deal says it has sought to bring in an outside mediator to work out disputes with LSU, but the university has rejected the effort. LSU has charged that the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, known as BRF, failed to live up to its contract. … BRF took control of the two north Louisiana hospitals in October 2013 through a no-bid contract, part of Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. It had never previously run a patient care facility.

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Privatization deal for LSU Shreveport hospital falling apart
Source: Susan Morse, Healthcare Finance News, July 20, 2015

Louisiana State University Health President F. King Alexander has given the foundation operating its hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe 15 days to correct problems or face a breach of contract. Alexander’s July 10 letter to Steve Skrivanos, chairman of Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, is an 11-page list of complaints and requirements for a remedy, though Alexander expressed doubt the situation could be rectified….Among other requirements, Alexander has called for a detailed plan of action, an immediate retraction of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid report alleging discriminatory practices by Health Sciences Center-Shreveport and its physicians in the delivery of patient care; and the immediate resignation of Dr. John George from the BRF Board of Directors and any other positions he holds with BRF….BRF has failed to act collaboratively with LSU and the state, Alexander said, indicating problems have been ongoing for two years. Alexander outlined IT issues with HIPAA security and electronic health records; issues over reimbursement from CMS due to Shreveport Hospital’s outpatient clinics not being compliant with administrative requirements along with BRF’s counter-accusations against physicians of inappropriately caring for the uninsured; and damage to the hospital’s reputation.

Analysis: Deal for LSU Shreveport hospital falling apart
Source:Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, July 19, 2015

The privatization deal for LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals seems to be imploding. Maybe that was inevitable when university leaders agreed to a contract filled with blank pages or when they chose a manager with no experience running a patient care facility.
The hospital manager — the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana — has one more week to devise a plan for correcting LSU’s complaints about its oversight of the facilities or the university system will seek to remove the manager, claiming breach of contract….The research foundation, known as BRF, took control of the two north Louisiana hospitals in October 2013 through a no-bid contract, part of Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system.

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Editorial: Consider privatizing services

Source: Press-Enterprise, July 30, 2015

With local government budgets set, it is time for all city and county governments to evaluate what services they provide in-house and, at the very least, consider alternative means of providing services. In a problem seen throughout the state, local governments in the Inland Empire are all too often faced with the specter of rising expenditures and lagging revenues. And as public safety costs and pension contributions escalate, options are running out. … For example, a report released by the Manhattan Institute in April, entitled “California Crowd-Out: How Rising Retirement Benefit Costs Threaten Municipal Services,” discussed how the rapid growth of public employee retirement costs imperils the provision of services. With greater portions of budgets devoted to pensions alone, there is less room for actual, tangible service delivery.

Referenced Report:
California Crowd-Out: How Rising Retirement Benefit Costs Threaten Municipal Services
Source: Stephen D. Eide, Manhattan Institute, Civic Report No. 98, April 2015

Executive Summary: In recent years, California municipalities have seen retirement benefit costs grow at a rate above that of taxes, fees, and charges. “Crowd-out” is the term given to this condition by some public officials forced to deal with the resulting fiscal strain. Balanced budget requirements mandate that when costs grow more rapidly than revenues, something must give. All too often, this has meant reductions in core government services, most of which—police, fire, libraries, parks, and street and sidewalk maintenance—are delivered at the local level in California. Retirement benefit costs have caused California localities to underfund basic infrastructure maintenance needs, even in affluent areas such as Sonoma County. Teachers in Los Angeles are threatening to strike over stalemated contract negotiations, as the school district has found itself unable to satisfy union demands for increased personnel and salaries, as well as its long-term benefit commitments. This paper takes a broad look at California crowd-out, documenting the phenomenon across the local government sector. It will compare rates of growth between revenues and retirement costs and examine workforce levels, salary trends, infrastructure spending, and other service indicators.

Save Your Public Library!

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, July 30, 2015

In 2010, the chief executive of LSSI admitted to The New York Times that the company saves money by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Cutting overhead” can mean fewer services and reduced hours. Privatized libraries make up for less professional staff by depending on unpaid volunteers and automation. …. Even LSSI’s basic sales pitch that they can operate libraries for less than the public is suspect. When the town of Dartmouth, MA, evaluated a proposal to privatize their libraries, they found there was no evidence that privatization saved communities money. San Juan, TX, remunicipalized their libraries after contracting with LSSI for five years due to frustrations with the company’s refusal to divulge its profit margin. After bringing their libraries back under local control, town leaders were able to extend branch hours, giving residents better flexibility and access. The California town of Calabasas canceled its contract with LSSI and saved $68,000 in their first year back with public library service.

Legislative committee denies request for audit of foster care system

Source: Bryan Lowry, Wichita Eagle, July 29, 2015

A legislative committee on Wednesday voted down a request for an audit into Kansas’ foster care system. The request was brought by House Democrats in response to recent media coverage of cases where children have died either when placed in a foster care home or after being reunited with family members. Democrats requested that the audit begin in August so that data would be available by the start of the next legislative session. The Legislative Post Audit Committee voted down the request 5-4, splitting along party lines. A second vote to keep the proposal alive so it could possibly be revisited passed with bipartisan support. The cases that raised concern included the death of a 10-year-old boy in Wellington five days after the Department for Children and Families had been alerted to problems in the home. The boy’s mother has been charged with first degree murder. Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, who brought forth the request along with Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, argued that privatization of the foster care system in recent years had lessened state oversight and that an audit was needed to determine whether the DCF had ensured the safety of children in the system.

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Federal review of foster care spending could cost state $12 million /Funds to pay back federal government in budget bill
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, March 25, 2015

…At the time the state privatized, the Kansas Department for Children and Families presented the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) a payment and claiming structure for use under the privatized system. The federal agency approved the plan, according to DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed. Four years ago, ACF began auditing Nebraska’s child welfare system. The state attempted to privatize its system in 2009, but the companies that contracted with the state eventually lost their contracts. ACF ordered the state to pay back millions in federal funds after finding it improperly spent some of the funds. ACF then conducted a similar review of Kansas, Freed said. In essence, the federal agency found the state had been improperly classifying all payments to the state’s foster care contractors as maintenance spending — which should be limited to covering the cost of shelter, food and clothing for children….

Kansas child support, cost to collect it down
Source: Associated Press, December 14, 2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says privatization of the state’s child support collection system has been a good move because it made collecting the money more cost-effective. But while the governor says Kansas collected $5.89 for every $1 spent collecting it in fiscal year 2014, other data indicate the state collected the lowest percentage of child support in the past 14 years.

With Kansas DCF privatization, some child support measures fall
Source: Chris Neal, Capital-Journal, November 9, 2014

…. Last year a wave of privatization swept across the state’s child support system. Kansas’ child support services, previously a function of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, were handed over to a handful of companies in contracts worth millions. More than a hundred state employee positions were eliminated as officials promised more aggressive collection and greater efficiency. But data obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal through an open records request shows Kansas now does a worse job collecting current child support than before privatization — and the percentage of current support collected stands at a 14-year low.

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The Value Of The Nonprofit Hospital Tax Exemption Was $24.6 Billion In 2011

Source: Sara Rosenbaum, David A. Kindig, Jie Bao, Maureen K. Byrnes, and Colin O’Laughlin, Health Affairs July 2015 34:1225-1233; published ahead of print June 17, 2015

Abstract: The federal government encourages public support for charitable activities by allowing people to deduct donations to tax-exempt organizations on their income tax returns. Tax-exempt hospitals are major beneficiaries of this policy because it encourages donations to the hospitals while shielding them from federal and state tax liability. In exchange, these hospitals must engage in community benefit activities, such as providing care to indigent patients and participating in Medicaid. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the value of the nonprofit hospital tax exemption at $12.6 billion in 2002—a number that included forgone taxes, public contributions, and the value of tax-exempt bond financing. In this article we estimate that the size of the exemption reached $24.6 billion in 2011. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) brings a new focus on community benefit activities by requiring tax-exempt hospitals to engage in community wide planning efforts to improve community health. The magnitude of the tax exemption, coupled with ACA reforms, underscores the public’s interest not only in community benefit spending generally but also in the extent to which nonprofit hospitals allocate funds for community benefit expenditures that improve the overall health of their communities.

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The Limits of Federal Disability Law: State Educational Voucher Programs

Source: Wendy Fritzen Hensel, Georgia State University College of Law, Journal of Law & Education, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 199-286 (2015), Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-21

Abstract: The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating the state of Wisconsin with respect to its administration of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), which provides low-income students with public money to attend private schools. Faced with complaints of disability discrimination by private schools accepting voucher students, DOJ has ordered Wisconsin to oversee and police these schools to ensure compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which applies to states and their agencies, and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which applies to recipients of federal funding. Although conditioning its directive on the state’s coverage under these statutes, DOJ in an unprecedented move also strongly hinted that participating schools may themselves be subject to Title II by accepting voucher students. If correct, this contradicts existing agency precedent, has significant implications for states administering voucher programs, and may impose burdens on private schools far beyond Wisconsin’s borders.

Complicating this inquiry is the sensitive context in which it takes place – the education of children with disabilities. This vulnerable population has routinely and indisputably been the target of discrimination and diminished opportunities in education. The ability to ensure equal access and opportunity for these students is both compelling and critical as a matter of their civil rights.

This article evaluates the legal authority for DOJ’s directives to Wisconsin and explores the broader question of whether Title II and § 504 obligations attach to the actions of private schools participating in voucher programs.