Author Archives: afscme

Governor’s opposition to Puerto Rico fiscal plan could end up in court

Source: Brian Tumulty and Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 20, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The latest fiscal turnaround plan for Puerto Rico could be headed for a court showdown after Gov. Ricardo Rossello vowed he won’t implement key parts of the proposed austerity measures. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico approved the plan by a 6-1 vote Thursday after negotiations with the commonwealth’s government failed. “The Oversight Board expects the Governor to fully implement the certified fiscal plans,” Jaime El Khoury, the Board’s general counsel, said in an email. “Should the Oversight Board have to resort to litigation to carry out its mandate under [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act], the matter would be before Judge [Laura] Swain in the Title III court.” The controversy centers over whether the oversight board overreached the authority given to it by Congress for addressing the commonwealth’s debt problems. …

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AFSCME President Lee Saunders Slams Puerto Rico Oversight Board Plan
Source: AFSCME Press Release, April 20, 2018
 
The following statement was issued by AFSCME President Lee Saunders following the release of the federally-appointed Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board’s financial plan: “The Fiscal Plan issued by the Oversight Board is a betrayal of the people of Puerto Rico. By issuing a plan that relies upon unrealistic projections of economic growth, the Board is condemning Puerto Rico to economic decline for years to come. Ironically, the Board is engaging in the same fantastical thinking regarding Puerto Rico’s economic growth that created the current situation. We call on the Board to reconsider this disastrous decision and develop a plan in the interests of the people.” …

Hurricane Aid Has Eased Puerto Rico’s Finances. It May Not Be Enough. 
Source: Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times, April 19, 2018

Billions of dollars of disaster aid flowing into Puerto Rico since last fall’s devastating hurricane have boosted the bankrupt island’s finances, but the island’s federal overseers said Thursday that it would take still more austerity to translate those temporary gains into a lasting recovery. At a meeting in San Juan of the territory’s federal oversight board, members called on Puerto Rico to reform its labor laws and fix its insolvent government pension system quickly, while it still had the benefit of both the disaster money and court protection from creditors under a special new bankruptcy law for United States territories. Retired government workers would see their pensions, already less than $25,000 a year for many workers, cut by an average of 10 percent; current government workers would be shifted into a 401(k) plan; and workers in Puerto Rico’s private sector would lose mandatory perks like a holiday bonus, usually $300 to $600 a year. …

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Whittier-area schools have new bus provider — it’s the high school district

Source: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News, April 14, 2018

When Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old special needs Whittier Union High student, died after being left inside a parked, hot school bus in 2015, his death sparked a movement that culminates with what is essentially a new bus provider for seven Whittier-area school districts. Whittier Union High School District has left the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, or PTC, which had been providing bus transportation since 1984. Instead, starting July 1, it will run the buses for all seven PTC member districts — East Whittier City, El Rancho, Little Lake, Los Nietos, South Whittier and Whittier City. … After his death, Lee’s family received $23.5 million in a settlement with the PTC. In turn, the PTC sued the high school district last year for partial compensation of the settlement. That lawsuit since has been dismissed. Now, with the contracts approved Tuesday, the changeover from the PTC to the high school district is nearly ready to go. …

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Bus Company to upgrade safety policies after death of special-needs student in Whittier
Source: Miriam Hernandez, ABC7 Eyewitness News, September 16, 2015

Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place by Pupil Transportation Cooperative following the tragic death of a 19-year-old man with special needs in Whittier, the company announced during a press conference Wednesday. … PTC will be pushing for electronic notification devices to be placed in school buses and two adults will now monitor every bus to ensure no student is left on board. … DeLapp said the substitute driver was a 10-year veteran who may not have known Lee’s limitations. Yet there is evidence the driver ignored what is characterized today as a standard child check procedure, which is spelled out in the bus operator manual. “Walk the entire length of the bus interior, front to rear, and check for students who may still be on board,” the manual states. DeLapp said the procedure was signed off, but yet Lee was still inside the bus. …

Special Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus May Have Been Waiting for Instructions: Family
Source: Hetty Change and William Avila, NBC Los Angelos, September 14, 2015

When family members learned that Lee had been left on a school bus on a hot Friday afternoon, they thought he may have stayed there waiting for a cue. The 19-year-old was found alone and unresponsive. Police could not revive him. Lee, or Paul to those who knew him, had a severe form of autism. Leslie Perez’s mom was his caregiver. She says her mom waited outside for Lee’s bus to drop him off at 3:30 p.m., like she does every afternoon, but it never showed up. Police found the adult school student lying in the aisle near the front of the bus parked in a Whittier school district parking lot. He was declared dead — less than two weeks before his 20th birthday — after lifesaving efforts failed. … It’s also unclear whether drivers with the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, are required to do head counts. Family members say a different bus driver had picked him up that morning.

Ambulance cuts pave way for new ride providers in skilled nursing

Source: Kimberly Marselas, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, April 19, 2018

With mounting financial pressure driving some private ambulance companies out of business, more ride-hailing operators are stepping into the vacuum and providing non-emergency transportation to and from nursing homes. A convergence of private and alternative services has arisen as ambulance operators brace for a 13% cut to one of their bread-and-butter services: non-emergency dialysis transport. Some services have already stopped providing those type of rides to beneficiaries in advance of an Oct. 1 Medicare rate cut. …

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Ford launches on-demand medical transportation service
Source: Megan Rose Dickey, TechCrunch, April 18, 2018

Ford is launching an on-demand transportation service for non-emergency medical needs. The idea is to better help patients get to their doctor appointments. Ford is initially launching this in partnership with Beaumont Health in Michigan to serve more than 200 facilities. Called GoRide, the fleet has 15 transit vans to accommodate people with varying needs. By the end of the year, Ford plans to have 60 vans, all driven by trained professionals, as part of GoRide’s services. The GoRide fleet can accommodate people with wheelchairs, thanks to flexible seats that can flip up and a wheelchair lift. …

… In March, Lyft committed to cut the problem of healthcare transportation in half by 2020. Lyft provides API access to partners like Allscripts, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Ascension to integrate the ride-hailing service into its health platforms and electronic health records services. Meanwhile, people seem to be moving toward on-demand platforms for trips to the emergency room, as well. Last December, a study reported ambulance use has gone down about 7 percent nationwide since the rise of Uber. Though, neither Uber or Lyft are particularly accessible to people with mobility disabilities. In March, Disability Rights Advocates, on behalf of the Independent Living Resource Center and two people who use wheelchairs, filed a class-action lawsuit today against Lyft. The plaintiffs allege the ride-hailing company discriminates against people who use wheelchairs by not making available wheelchair-accessible cars in the San Francisco Bay Area. Uber also faces a number of lawsuits pertaining to the lack of services it offers to people with mobility disabilities. …

FTC ‘Misconduct’ Charges Loom as Uber Health Service Launches
Source: Fred Donovan, Health IT Security, April 16, 2018

Uber is being hit with additional federal penalties for “misconduct” in not reporting a major 2016 data breach at a time when it is launching its Uber Health service, which the ride-sharing company pledges will be HIPAA compliant. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced April 12 that Uber had agreed to expand a proposed settlement it reached last year over charges that it deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices. The FTC said it was expanding the settlement scope because it learned after the initial settlement that Uber had not disclosed a significant data breach that occurred in 2016 while the agency was investigating the company about the consumer deception charges. … Still, healthcare partners of Uber Health might be concerned about the FTC’s allegations that the parent company deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices and failed to disclose a major data breach at a time when it was under federal investigation.

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The Roots of Privatization

Source: Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily, April 23, 2018
 
The privatization of the pubic sector has been one of the defining policies of the world economy since the 1970s. State-owned utilities and monopolies have been sold off or transferred to the private sector on the neoliberal theory that “the market” is more rational and better able to manage such enterprises. Under the Pinochet dictatorship, Chile set the stage, moving towards privatizing the state in the 1970s. Under Thatcher, the U.K. began privatizing in the 1980s. The Spanish scholar Germà Bel addresses where the idea of privatization comes from. Neoliberalism, predicated on a primacy of the market, is the overarching ideology of privatization. …

A Troubled Accreditor’s Long-Term Outlook

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2018

A national accreditor at the center of the collapse of two for-profit college chains got another lease on life after a court ruling kicked back to the Department of Education a 2016 decision withdrawing federal recognition and, later, the Trump administration restored that recognition pending further review. Even with another shot at restoring federal recognition, though, the long-term outlook for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools remains murky. … But some higher education observers believe that even if the department ultimately restores the accreditor’s recognition, it won’t be around for the long haul. That skepticism is due to the number of colleges that have already made moves to depart ACICS and to the damage the accreditor’s brand has sustained as regulators have scrutinized its failures in oversight. …

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DeVos Restores Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor Terminated by Obama Administration
Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a signed order Tuesday that she was restoring the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the for-profit accreditor that had waged a fight for reinstatement since the Obama administration withdrew its recognition in 2016. DeVos took the action in response to a federal district court judge’s ruling last month that former secretary John King failed to consider key evidence before terminating the recognition of ACICS. The ruling kicked back to the department final consideration of the accreditor’s fate. But it left unclear whether the department would review the original 2016 petition or the appeal filed by ACICS in 2017. That latter scenario would involve a more strenuous process for the accreditor as a body no longer recognized by the federal government. …

Court Win For Students Over Predatory For-Profit Colleges
Source: David Halperin, Huffington Post, February 21, 2017

Minutes ago, United States District Judge Reggie Walton denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the U.S. Department of Education from proceeding with the de-recognition of the organization. ACICS needs Department recognition in order for the colleges it accredits to be eligible for federal student grants and loans. Judge Walton said in open court that ACICS had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, particularly because then-Secretary of Education John King determined in December that ACICS was in substantial noncompliance with the rules governing accreditor performance. … There were rumblings before the hearing that the new Trump-Betsy Devos Department of Education might back down and somehow try to reverse Secretary King’s decision, as lobbyists for predatory for-profit colleges have been openly and aggressively urging. It’s not at all clear how the Department could simply dump King’s decision; from the regulations it appears that ACICS would have to start all over again and re-apply. For today, at least, the Department of Justice, which represented the Secretary of Education in case, diligently and skillfully opposed ACICS’s motion. … ACICS has been the accreditor for some 240 institutions exclusively or primarily, and most of those are for-profit colleges. $4.76 billion in taxpayer dollars went from the Department of Education to ACICS schools in 2015.But ACICS has been the asleep-at-the-switch accreditor of some of the most notorious bad actors in the for-profit college sector, including Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Kaplan, EDMC (the Art Institutes), Career Education Corporation (Sanford-Brown), Alta Colleges (Westwood), Globe, FastTrain, and Daymar. …

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The Effects of State Delinquent Tax Collection Outsourcing on Administrative Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Procedural Fairness

Source: Sungkyu Jang, Robert J. Eger,
The American Review of Public Administration, April 6, 2018

Abstract
Since the 1980s, state governments have been using private debt collection agencies as facilitators and expediters in the delinquent tax collection process. The use of private collection agencies incorporates administrative effectiveness, efficiency, and procedural fairness, which can lead to an increase in revenues without affecting either the tax base or rate while protecting taxpayers. Using state-level panel data for the years 2000 to 2011, the administrative effectiveness outcome is that private collectors do not reduce the aggregate delinquent tax inventory, but the administrative efficiency outcome is that private collectors reduce collection cost. For procedural fairness, private collectors have a positive effect on the number of tax appeals filed in a state tax department with a Republican governor; however, they decrease the number of tax appeals filed with an outside-independent tax appeal agency.

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Labor Dept. to Relax Obama Pay Bias Policy, Hand Reins to Businesses

Source: Ben Penn and Porter Wells, Bloomberg Law, April 19, 2018
 
The Trump administration plans to ease the way it reviews federal contractors for pay discrimination by letting businesses help shape those investigations, two sources with knowledge of the plans told Bloomberg Law. The Labor Department will rescind an Obama-era policy as soon as tomorrow, instructing investigators to analyze pay rates among groups of workers at a particular business based on job categories set by the companies. The DOL currently audits federal contractors for salary bias by determining for itself whether certain workers should be considered to be doing the same job. The change could have significant consequences for companies—and their workers—that do business with the federal government. It would allow businesses to shape the random Labor Department audits by determining which workers investigators should be comparing for possible pay bias. …

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Federal Contractors Face Broader OFCCP Pay Probes
Source: Kevin McGowan, BNA, Daily Labor Report, 147 DLR C-2, July 31, 2015
(Subscription Required)

Federal contractors must prepare for Labor Department compliance reviews in which all forms of employee compensation, not just base pay, will be subject to federal agency audits seeking evidence of sex- and race-based disparities, management lawyer Mickey Silberman said July 30. Speaking at the National Industry Liaison Group’s annual conference in New York, Silberman said the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has four new tools at its disposal to pursue the administration’s objective of closing the gender pay gap by collecting more data and conducting more comprehensive reviews of federal contractors’ compensation practices. ….

Middleton plan commission delays action on psychiatric hospital

Source: David Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal, April 11, 2018

Middleton officials on Tuesday delayed action on a proposed psychiatric hospital after asking executives with the company behind it to explain its regulatory record, including immediate jeopardy citations in other states. “How are you going to apply the lessons which you have learned from other facilities to Middleton?” Mayor Gurdip Brar asked representatives of Strategic Behavioral Health, which plans a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in the city’s Airport Road Business Park. Jim Shaheen, founder and president of the for-profit company in Memphis, Tennessee, said the citations, reported by the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, stem from occasional problems at the company’s 10 hospitals in six states. … Strategic Behavioral Health has had nine immediate jeopardy violations at four facilities in three states since 2014, plus other sanctions in other states, the State Journal reported. Immediate jeopardy citations are rare and could indicate systemic problems, experts said, but they’re also given out more in some places than others.

CPS fails to count schools in janitorial contract, costing millions

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

It’s the latest wrinkle in a controversial contract to privatize custodial management with Aramark, which has faced sharp criticism for failing to keep schools clean. Aramark was supposed to save CPS $18 million this year. But the district understated the square footage that would need cleaning in its request for proposals, spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, at a cost of $7 million over the projected $64 million CPS expected to spend this year. … Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the $260 million Aramark deal to the Board of Education and the public by saying it would free up principals from managing custodians, result in cleaner schools and save the cash-strapped district millions of dollars. Some of the savings was to come from layoffs of hundreds of custodians. But the district was on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than it promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in its first of three years, as first reported by WBEZ. …

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CPS to spend additional $7M to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

Two days before most of the school janitors’ union planned a strike vote, the union says Chicago Public Schools officials agreed Thursday to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools. … The Chicago Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where the custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor for CPS. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed. Janitors have said they can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools. Two of them also accused their supervisors of cheating on the independent inspections CPS paid for to monitor the cleaning. CPS has since made changes to that inspection process and stepped into the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. …

CPS inspections ‘blitz’ finds rat droppings, bugs, filth in schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, February 28, 2018

The discovery of rats and rodent droppings throughout the building at Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville and two failed health inspections there last fall prompted Chicago Public Schools officials to declare they were ordering an all-hands-on-deck series of inspections citywide. That “blitz” was supposed to inspect 220 schools to start, CPS said. But despite initially finding that problems such as rodent droppings, pest infestations, filthy food-preparation equipment, and bathrooms that were dirty, smelly and lacked hot water, CPS quietly halted the inspections before completing them all, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show — shortly after the newspaper requested information on the early results. CPS provided blitz reports from 125 facilities that show only 34 of those schools passed inspection by inspectors from the district’s facilities department and Aramark, the private company that manages the custodians and oversees food service. And not all of the schools that were re-inspected passed the second time around, according to hundreds of documents and photos taken at nine schools that were provided under the state’s public records act. …

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Wastewater company to pay state $1.6 million to settle spill

Source: Sarah Betancourt, Associated Press, April 10, 2018

A wastewater treatment firm agreed Tuesday to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit with Massachusetts for a spill in which more than 10 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into state-owned woodlands in Plymouth and Plymouth Harbor. The settlement by Veolia Water North America Northeast is believed to be the largest ever paid for violations of the state’s Clean Waters Act, officials said. Attorney General Maura Healey said the company failed to properly maintain a piping system that carried wastewater from customers to the treatment facility in Plymouth, causing a spill from December 2015 to January 2016. Veolia also allegedly discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor in three separate incidences in 2012. … Veolia continues to operate the Plymouth wastewater plant. Plymouth has a separate suit against Veolia North America that contends the company also is responsible for a 2015 sewage spill that officials claim impacted the town. The Attorney General’s office also has a separate lawsuit against Plymouth, filed in 2016.