Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

For-profit prison companies back criminal justice reform. It could be good for business.

Source: Steve Contorno, Tampa Bay Times, December 13, 2018

A bipartisan push in Congress backed by President Donald Trump to slow America’s rising prison population has a puzzling supporter: A Boca Raton-based for-profit prison company. GEO Group, one of the country’s largest detention companies, is publicly urging the Senate not to adjourn without passing the FIRST STEP Act, a bill that seeks to shorten some federal drug sentences and reduce the likelihood inmates will end up back behind bars. GEO’s biggest competitor, CoreCivic, is backing the bill as well. On the surface, it’s a curious position for leaders of a $4.8 billion industry enriched by tough-on-crime policies that swept millions of Americans into lengthy sentences over the past three decades. But others see two companies well-positioned to profit if Congress goes through with this reform. …

Audit: Privatized Medicaid is saving Iowa millions of dollars. Democrats aren’t convinced

Source: Tony Leys and Barbara Rodriguez, Des Moines Register, November 26, 2018

After two years of releasing see-sawing estimates, Iowa Medicaid leaders are correctly calculating how much the state is saving by hiring private companies to manage the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program, the state auditor concluded Monday. State Auditor Mary Mosiman said the May 2018 estimate of $141 million in annual savings was more accurate than earlier state estimates of $234 million and $47 million. Using the most recent estimation method with updated financial information, Mosiman’s office estimates the fiscal year 2018 savings at $126 million. The auditor chided the Iowa Department of Human Services for failing to have an accurate way to estimate the savings when the state made the shift to private Medicaid management in 2016.

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Iowa’s Medicaid privatization: Kim Reynolds says right track; Fred Hubbell says ‘disaster’
Source: William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register, September 4, 2018

Two months ahead of Election Day, Iowa’s gubernatorial candidates painted a vastly different portrait of the state’s Medicaid system Tuesday. In the morning, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the state’s decision to shift administration of the program that serves 685,000 low-income or disabled Iowans to private management, telling reporters that initial problems have been addressed and the system is on the right track. In the afternoon, Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell held a roundtable with providers where he described a system in crisis and criticized Reynolds’ handling of the program. The results of privatizing the massive federal and state program in Iowa have become one of the issues that will influence — and may decide — this year’s governor’s race. …

A private Medicaid company that pulled out of Iowa has yet to pay thousands of medical bills
Source: Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, August 30, 2018
 
A Medicaid company that terminated its Iowa contract almost a year ago has yet to pay as much as $14.6 million for medical care provided to disabled, poor and elderly Iowans, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.  AmeriHealth Caritas’ outstanding bills include nearly 6,000 individual charges totaling more than $1 million at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and $541,000 at Broadlawns Medical Center, public records obtained by the Register show.  Several private and nonprofit medical groups told the Register they have tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding bills that they say are hamstringing their operations and efforts to provide medical care. …

Iowa agrees to give Medicaid management firms 7.5% raise to continue running program
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, August 24, 2018
 
Iowa has agreed to give 7.5 percent more state money to the two private companies managing its $5 billion Medicaid program, officials announced Friday.  The agreement will keep UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup in Iowa, but it will mean state leaders must come up with about $103 million more than last fiscal year.  The new agreements cover the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The increase in state spending is more than double the 3.3 percent increase the state agreed to for last fiscal year.  Overall, the new contracts will give the two companies raises of 8.4 percent in state and federal money, totaling $344 million. …

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Justice says he’s working on PEIA possibilities independently of Task Force

Source: Brad McElhinny, West Virginia Metro News, August 26, 2018
 
Gov. Jim Justice wants the PEIA Task Force, which has been meeting for a half-year now, to continue its work aimed at shoring up health insurance for state employees and retirees.  But Justice said in a Friday interview that he’s also working independently on possible changes to the Public Employees Insurance Agency.  He hinted that might have an element of privatization, the way the state dealt with workers compensation years ago, and also that he is looking toward long-term stabilization of the program that he believes is possible because of West Virginia’s improved economic outlook. …

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WV officials unsure PEIA would benefit from privatization
Source: Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail, September 19, 2017
 
Privatization of West Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation insurance was successful, particularly in lowering employer premiums and increasing competition, Brickstreet Insurance CEO Greg Burton told legislators Tuesday.  Whether those successes would apply to privatization of the state Public Employees Insurance Agency health insurance remains to be seen, he said.  “I’m not sure all the successes that happened with Workers’ Comp privatization, particularly with the decreases in rates…would translate over to PEIA,” he told a legislative interim committee studying PEIA. … According to a report on state employee health benefits published by the National Conference of State Legislatures on April 2, only two states exclusively use private insurers to provide health insurance to public employees, Idaho and North Dakota. According to the NCSL, 29 states, including West Virginia, have fully self-funded health insurance plans, while the remaining 19 states provide employees with coverage options, including self-funded plans. …

Auditors confirm company did not comply with medical services contract at Milwaukee County Jail, House of Correction

Source: Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 20, 2018

he private company responsible for medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction failed to meet contract staffing requirements during the time that several people died while in custody at the jail, county auditors said Monday in a report.  Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., the Miami-based company hired by the county, provided an average of 89% of its staffing requirements from November 2015 to August 2017, according to county audit director Jennifer Folliard. The company only achieved that level of service by relying on employees brought in from outside employment agencies, the report says. Staffing levels for several key jobs fell below the overall average, with only 83% of registered nurse hours and 85% of mental health staff hours covered, according to the report. … In February, Armor was charged in Milwaukee County Circuit Court with falsifying health care records of inmates at the jail, including Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration while in custody in April 2016. Armor employees allegedly “engaged in a pattern and practice of intentionally falsifying entries in inmate patient health care records,” a criminal complaint says. …

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Sheriff ‘aggressively worked’ to correct problems found in review of Milwaukee County Jail operations
Source: Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 5, 2018

An outside review of the Milwaukee County Jail found outdated policies, lengthy waits for inmate medical screenings, widespread use of overtime because of staff shortages and other problems. … Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt asked the National Institute of Corrections to review all operations at the jail in the wake of seven custody deaths over two years. One of those deaths — that of Terrill Thomas who died of dehydration in April 2016 — led to criminal charges being filed against three jail staffers and Armor Correctional Health Services, the private medical contractor at the jail. …

Company Hired to Provide Health Care for Milwaukee Inmates Charged With Falsifying Records
Source: Marti Mikkelson, WVUM, February 21, 2018

The company that cares for inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail is facing criminal charges. Employees allegedly lied about checking on a man who died of dehydration, after water to his cell was shut off. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday charged Armor Correctional Health Care Services with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying health records. The company is the latest defendant to face charges in the death of Terrill Thomas,who spent a week without water in his cell as punishment in 2016. …

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Calif. Legislature Approves McCarty Measure to Ban For-Profit Charter Schools – AB 406

Source: Christopher Simmons, California Newswire, August 23, 2018
 
The California State Legislature today approved AB 406 by Calif. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), which would prohibit for-profit corporations from managing and operating charter schools in the Golden State. This bipartisan measure was approved by the State Senate on a 28 to 7 vote and by the State Assembly on a 49 to 15 vote. … A broad alliance across the state also supported AB 406 including the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Labor Federation, the California School Boards Association, the California School Employees Association and the California State PTA. …

JobsOhio will likely survive the election

Source: Jay Miller, Crain’s Cleveland Business, August 19, 2018
 
It looks likely that JobsOhio,, the private-sector economic development nonprofit created by outgoing Gov. John Kasich, will survive in 2019, regardless of whether Democrat Richard Cordray or Republican Mike DeWine becomes the next governor. Both candidates issued statements indicating that they intend to keep the state’s principal business attraction organization outside of state government. The only question may be who will get to choose the nonprofit’s next leader: the current, nine-member board, all named by Kasich, or the board that will lead the organization after the new governor fills five seats that have four-year terms that expire in July 2019? …

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Despite 34 making six figures, true amounts of JobsOhio salaries still lowballed
Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, March 12, 2018
 
JobsOhio continues to under report the amounts it pays employees — including 34 workers who make at least six-figure annual salaries — in a move that could run contrary to state law. In its 2017 filings with the state, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development agency again reported employees’ taxable income — which does not include salary diverted to non-taxable retirement contributions and health insurance costs — instead of their gross income. State law requires the nonprofit to report “total compensation.” But its practice of reporting only taxable income serves to understate employee earnings by thousands of dollars each. …

Justices again rule JobsOhio can’t be challenged
Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, August 31, 2016

The Ohio Supreme Court stood on identical ground Wednesday to reject another attempt to declare JobsOhio unconstitutional. In a 6-1 vote, the court ruled that Victoria Ullmann, a Columbus lawyer, lacked the legal right — or standing — to pursue her action seeking to declare Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development agency as illegal. … The court threw out another challenge to JobsOhio in 2014 on grounds the parties lacked proper standing, leaving some to question then if the legality of the nonprofit could ever be questioned in the courts. Ullmann argued she had standing to sue since she, and other Ohioans, support JobsOhio through their purchase of liquor, the profits from which support the entity under its long-term lease of state’s liquor sales enterprise. … Ullmann sued Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Auditor Dave Yost, asking that the court order the Republicans to take steps to dissolve JobsOhio. A spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, who defended the officeholders, said his office was pleased with the ruling. … JobsOhio reported earlier this year it attracted a record 23,602 new jobs and $6.7 billion in corporate investment in 2015. The agency reported revenue of slightly more than $1 billion last year, largely from the state’s liquor-sales operation, which racked up record sales last year to produce net income of $235.2 million. …

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P3 bill signals new infrastructure path for New Jersey

Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, August 15, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
Legislation signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to expand the state’s use of public-private partnerships lays the groundwork for increased infrastructure investments throughout the state, supporters say. The bipartisan bill Murphy signed Tuesday enables local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges to enter into P3s for capital projects. P3 opportunities in New Jersey previously only applied to public colleges and universities. …

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New Jersey bill seeks P3 expansion
Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
New Jersey lawmakers are pushing again for an increase in the use of public-private partnerships to jump-start infrastructure improvements in the cash-strapped state. Two and a half years after former Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed an expansion of New Jersey’s P3 program, a state senate committee advanced legislation on April 5 that if enacted would permit localities to enter into P3 agreements for building and highway infrastructure projects. The measure would make local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges eligible to enter into P3s where the private entity would assume full or partial financial and administrative responsibility for capital projects. …

Labor Dept. Wants Religious Freedom Focus in Bias Probes

Source: Ben Penn, Bloomberg Law, August 10, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The Trump administration is expanding the circumstances in which federal contractors can use religious beliefs as a defense against job discrimination charges, a move likely targeting the Obama Labor Department’s ban on bias against gay and transgender workers.  The DOL’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs issued a new enforcement directive Aug. 10 calling for investigators to factor in recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and White House executive orders that protect religious freedom. Lawmakers, administrative agencies, and courts have grappled with drawing a line between religious liberty and unlawful discrimination. …

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“We just get by check to check”: Workers cheated as federal contractors prosper
Source: Talia Buford and Maryam Jameel, Salon, April 6, 2017
 
… But each year, thousands of contractors enriched by tax dollars skirt federal labor laws and shortchange workers. In fact, U.S. Department of Labor data show that upwards of 70 percent of all cases lodged against federal contractors and investigated by the department since 2012 yielded substantive violations. … The Center for Public Integrity examined a subset of 1,154 egregious violators — those with the biggest fines, highest number of violations or most employees impacted — included in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division enforcement database and cross-referenced them with more than 300,000 contract records from the Treasury Department. The Center found that between January 2015 and July 2016:

  • Federal agencies modified or granted contracts worth a total of $18 billion to 68 contractors with proven wage violations. Among them: health-care provider Sterling Medical Associates, Cornell University and Corrections Corporation of America
  • Of all agencies, the U.S. Department of Defense employed the most wage violators – 49, which collectively owed $4.7 million in back pay to almost 6,200 workers. The department paid those 49 contractors a combined $15 billion
  • Violations by the 68 contractors affected some 11,000 workers around the country — about the same number of people who moved to D.C. in 2016.

…The Labor Department tried to address the problem in 2016 with a rule that would have required federal contractors to disclose wage and safety violations and come into compliance with the law if they wanted to keep doing business with the government. Invoking a statute rarely used prior to the Trump administration, however, Congress voted to undo the regulation — already on hold because of a legal challenge — and Trump sealed its fate with his signature. …

Trump’s Courageous, Valiant Decision to Gut Government Worker Safety
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, April 5, 2017
 
As he gets ready to put Americans to work on big-league federal projects, President Trump seeks to cut “burdensome red tape” for federal contractors. But that might mean cutting a few fingers and toes, too. That’s because Trump has repealed an Obama administration executive order ensuring fair pay and safety standards for workers contracted for government projects. So the workers Trump wants to supposedly rebuild bridges and highways will be working under a regulatory regime that’s now more likely to ease up on abusive employers in “public-private partnerships.” …

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Bill Protecting Social Services Determinations Against Privatization Passes Legislature

Source: Oakland Post, August 11, 2018
 
AB 3224, authored by Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), will protect Californians against private sector employees determining eligibility for Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKs applicants. The bill passed out of the Legislature with bipartisan support and now heads to the Governor for consideration. … AB 3224 ensures that Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKs employee determinations will remain unchanged, regardless of federal law.  This bill is sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and is supported by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. …

White Hat Management Leaves Ohio Charter Industry

Source: Mitch Felan, WKSU, August 8, 2018
 
White Hat Management, the once-prolific Ohio charter school operator and early advocate for school choice in the state, is leaving the charter school business. The company has been steadily losing contracts over the past few years in the competitive market. …

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When it comes to facing down Ohio’s well-heeled charter school lobbyists, will state lawmakers be leaders — or lapdogs?
Source: Brent Larkin, Northeast Ohio Media Group, July 24, 2015

…… In the past 17 years, Ohio’s two largest charter school management companies — David Brennan’s Akron-based White Hat Management and William Lager’s Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — have funneled more than $6 million to Republican candidates and causes. In the last election cycle, ECOT alone gave more than $400,000. The payoff? About $1.76 billion in taxpayer money has flowed into charter schools run by Brennan and Lager since 1998.

Start the investigation of the state Department of Education
Source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal, July 18, 2015

Let the formal investigation begin, preferably by David Yost, the state auditor, or an independent investigator tapped by the State Board of Education. The target? The Ohio Department of Education, its director of school choice admitting last week that he removed or ignored failing grades for online and dropout recovery charter schools as part of evaluating the performance of sponsors, those organizations that oversee the publicly funded yet privately run schools.

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