Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Iowa’s estimated savings from Medicaid privatization triples to $141 million, after plummeting 80 percent

Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, May 18, 2018
 
The state’s official estimate of how much Medicaid privatization is saving Iowa taxpayers has suddenly tripled, a few months after it had plummeted 80 percent.   The Iowa Department of Human Services provided no explanation of how it came up with the new number.  State administrators now estimate the annual savings at $140.9 million, according to a letter they sent this week to a legislator. In December, their savings estimate was $47 million for the current budget year, which runs through June.  Former Gov. Terry Branstad predicted in 2017 that the savings for this budget year would be $232 million.  David Hudson of Windsor Heights, who leads an official advisory committee on Iowa’s Medicaid program, expressed frustration after reading a letter from the department to a legislator who asked for the savings estimate. …

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Iowa House again passes Medicaid oversight legislation
Source: James Q. Lynch, The Gazette, April 23, 2018
 
The Iowa House once again has unanimously approved legislation providing oversight of Medicaid managed care to deal with what the bill’s manger called “bumps in the road.”  The House earlier passed similar legislation, but it failed to meet a deadline in the Senate. So the House passed House File 2483 on a 95-0 vote. The earlier version was approved 97-0. … The bill makes a statement “to the Department of Human Services, to the citizens out there who are being served by these managed care organizations, to the providers, that we feel very strongly in doing what we can to provide oversight over the process of this privatized Medicaid approach that has created so many bumps in the process and taken up so much of our time,” Heaton said. …

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidates ready to reverse Medicaid privatization
Source: Paige Godden, Des Moines Register, April 11, 2018
 
Six Democrats in the running to be Iowa’s next governor made it seem as though nearly all the state’s problems could be solved by reversing Medicaid privatization during a recent forum hosted at Simpson College. Candidates were asked questions ranging from how they’d help veterans to how they’d save rural Iowa, and their answers kept circling back to Medicaid.…

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The Woman Standing in the Way of the Privatization of Thousands of Jobs in Tennessee Was Just Fired

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 7, 2018

A university chancellor who took a controversial stand to protect the jobs of thousands of public workers has now lost her own. University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport was abruptly fired from her post last week, in a move representatives for unionized campus workers are calling another step toward the privatization of thousands of facilities management jobs. The battle in Tennessee pits the state’s GOP governor, Bill Haslam, against its public workers, and UT-Knoxville is where the workers, backed by a student movement, have made their stand. The workers see Davenport’s firing as an effort to remove a key obstacle to privatization. …

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Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

Last year, Tennessee’s governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

University of Tennessee campuses will not outsource facilities jobs
Source: Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY, October 31, 2017

In a move celebrated by state workers on college campuses, University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center ended more than two years of speculation about whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract
Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Majority of lawmakers ask state to slow down on outsourcing
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 2, 2017

Seventy-five state lawmakers have signed a letter urging Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to postpone a plan to outsource jobs on college campuses and other state-owned property, delivering yet another blow to the controversial proposal. In the letter to Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin, signed by Republicans and Democrats from both chambers, the lawmakers ask to delay the outsourcing plan to allow “enough time to address concerns from the General Assembly.” … This is only the latest sign of deep reservations surrounding the project, which Haslam has championed against wide-ranging criticism for more than a year. Workers’ rights advocates, including a union representing campus workers, have blasted Haslam for prioritizing money over state workers and their families. College leaders have predicted the change would hurt services on campus. …

Tennessee’s billionaire governor works with his corporate buddies to privatize government jobs
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 27, 2017
 
Tennessee’s state government has inked a sweetheart deal with a company linked to the state’s billionaire governor to privatize thousands of facilities and management jobs at colleges, prisons, and other public buildings.  It’s being touted by some officials in other states as a model for the nation.  The $330 million, five-year contract covers custodial services, groundskeeping, and repair and maintenance work. Government officials say that each public facility can choose to only partially comply, or opt out, keeping their employees on the public payroll. “If they’re happy with business as usual, there’s nothing to do,” said Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for the office that issued the contract. …

Jones Lang LaSalle Wins Bid for Haslam’s Campus Outsourcing
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2017

Real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected as the winning bidder for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize property management on the campuses of the Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/2nwO7Dh) the Chicago-based company that already manages a large number of general state government buildings beat out proposals by Aramark and Compass Group. It’s not yet clear how many campuses will choose to participate in the privatization plan. Final cost details won’t be known until the five-year contract is signed. …

Officials say state outsourcing is working, but plenty of skepticism remains
Source:Jake Lowary, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, March 8, 2017

Despite $26 million in savings reported by state administration officials, some lawmakers and state employees remain skeptical or outright opposed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to privatize many state agencies or operations within state government. Privatization of facility management, especially at public colleges and universities, has been a sort of sidecar initiative of Haslam for the past three years, in an effort to make state government more efficient and reduce costs. But many state workers still fear they will either lose their job or the areas that some have committed their lives to will suffer in quality. Larry Martin, state finance commissioner, was flanked by several officials from his department and told a Senate Oversight and Investigations Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s plan is working.

… Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s not been able to fully ascertain how the state arrives at the data it does regarding its overall savings, and requested that information from Martin and Hull. He questioned the data, specifically as it relates to the labor force, where the savings have not come. … Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, also questioned the notion of privatization, saying that it’s almost impossible for the state to restart or regain the management of those services once they’ve been outsourced to private companies. Representatives from the United Campus Workers offered some of the sharpest criticism to the privatization proposal from Haslam’s office, which has yet to be finalized and was indefinitely delayed last week. Melanie Barron, an organizer with UCW, said the request for proposal laid out by Haslam is “rife with loopholes” and despite promises from Haslam and other state leaders that agencies will be able to opt out of the RFP, little clarity about how to opt out has been provided. … The RFP for public facility management, which is separate from a different RFP to manage Fall Creek Falls State Park facilities, closed at the end of February. The state intends to issue a letter of intent to award at the end of March, Martin said. …

Opinion: Outsourcing state jobs hurts Tennessee
Source: Rep. John Ray Clemmons, The Tennessean, December 20, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam is gambling with our tax dollars and Tennesseans’ lives. His outsourcing scheme involves eliminating up to 17 percent of current state employees’ jobs at state college and universities, parks and elsewhere. Outsourcing public jobs will result in great profits for private corporations but less oversight, lower quality, and the elimination of all accountability for citizens. The tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga is an unfortunate illustration of this fact. Hamilton County Schools contracted with Durham School Services, a private company, to operate its school buses. After 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014, Durham was still transporting children. … Haslam’s steadfast outsourcing efforts, in the face of statewide opposition, stand in stark contrast to his other endeavors. For instance, his administration spent 18 months crafting Insure Tennessee, a plan supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Though Haslam publicly professed a passion for the cause, he exerted such little effort behind the scenes that he willingly raised the white flag to a vocal minority within his own party after less than three days of a special session. … These lackadaisical efforts on healthcare and transportation are easily contrasted with Haslam’s exhaustive efforts on outsourcing, a solution in search of a problem. Our governor created a new office focused solely on outsourcing and focused the bulk of his energies on an effort to pay private corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to perform jobs that state employees already do well and reliably. …

Democrats Say Nashville Firm Reviewing Benefits Of Outsourcing Is Too Close To Haslam
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2016

Tennessee Democrats say they’re still not sold on the benefits of potentially outsourcing thousands of state jobs at college campuses, parks and prisons. They’re calling for yet another round of analysis on the proposal, even though two so far have found it could save the state more than $35 million a year. State officials were the first to come up with that estimate for what Tennessee could save from privatizing jobs currently done by public employees. But when questions were raised about their analysis’s validity, Nashville-based KraftCPAs stepped in. And after reviewing the state’s calculations for several weeks, the firm has decided Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration was more or less correct. That doesn’t satisfy state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. He wants an out-of-state firm brought in to take a third look. He notes that Kraft has done work for Haslam’s campaign and that some Kraft employees have made donations to it — connections, Democrats say, call Kraft’s independence into question. …

Haslam administration: Review confirms outsourcing savings
Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2016

An outside firm hired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration agrees that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year. Haslam’s outsourcing advisers and consultants have touted the outsourcing plan as a way to save money while protecting the jobs of all currently employed campus maintenance workers who are deemed to be “qualified and productive.” The outside review was conducted by KraftCPAs PLLC.

Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money
Source: Randy Stamps, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 19, 2016

Saving taxpayer money is the main selling point behind every proposal to outsource a state service. But, when analyzed, outsourcing is often found to be more expensive than promised. For example, in January 2012 the state paid Jones Lang LaSalle $1 million to assess the condition and management of state properties. That November, the state expanded JLL’s contract to include procuring outside leases, a job previously handled by state employees. JLL would also receive a 4 percent commission on any leases it procured. By April 2013, funding for the contract had increased from $1 million to $7.6 million. In June 2013, Tennessee signed a $330 million, five-year contract with JLL to outsource the facilities management of all state buildings. In November of 2013, the state comptroller found JLL’s contract “created an organizational conflict of interest whereby Jones Lang LaSalle can profit from its own planning recommendations.” … In 2014, the state signed a $276 million contract with Trousdale County for a 2,400-bed private prison for Corrections Corporation of America. This contract also includes a 90 percent occupancy guarantee for CCA for per diem fees, which means if the private prison doesn’t remain above 90 percent occupied, taxpayers will pay per diem fees for empty beds. The contract also guarantees annual 2.5 percent operating per diem rate increases. In contrast, state employees do not receive guaranteed pay increases. … Tragically, in July, a man committed suicide by jumping off the Tennessee Tower in Downtown Nashville. According to a WSMV report, “Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.” In August, an accident at a Tennessee county fair sent three children plummeting 45 feet to the ground, severely injuring one. The Associated Press reported, “The state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.” State employees used to handle this work. In conclusion, as taxpayers, we must ask harder questions and demand more oversight on any contracts that outsource a state service. The notion of cost savings from outsourcing is simply no longer credible.

America’s Richest Politician Is Putting Thousands of Jobs at Risk
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who won’t release his tax returns. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion. … It matters because Haslam has a plan that could plunge thousands of state workers into poverty. Since being elected, he’s slowly handed over management and operation of public buildings to a private company. All state-owned real estate is on the chopping block—from college campuses and prisons to state parks. The company, the Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, is the world’s second largest commercial real estate brokerage. While running for office in 2010, Haslam held a financial stake in the company. He might still be invested but we don’t know for sure—he’s since placed many of his investments in a blind trust. The governor clearly hasn’t read our new report, How privatization increases inequality. …
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Kentucky’s first charter school director resigns after less than a year. Here’s why.

Source: Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader, May 9, 2018

Less than a year after he was hired as the first director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s charter school division, Earl Simms said he is resigning May 25 so that his wife can go back to her previous job in St. Louis. Simms told WDRB-TV in Louisville and the Herald-Leader that he was not leaving because former Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt suddenly resigned in April at a state school board meeting, one day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new board members. The board of all-Bevin appointees that same day hired charter school proponent Wayne D. Lewis Jr. as an interim Commissioner. … Though the charter school movement appears to be stalled, Lewis has said he will work with Kentucky Department of Education officials to determine if there is a path for charter schools that doesn’t require the General Assembly to approve a funding mechanism. …

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A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky
Source: Emilie Arroyo, WKYT, April 18, 2018

The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week. Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place. … While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work. …

Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law
Source: Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, March 15, 2017

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate. … Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed. The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. … And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. …

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Bill passes in Senate that avoids strike of group home workers

Source: Rick Lessard, Fox61, May 5, 2018
 
Senate passed a bill Saturday afternoon that will raise wages non-profit group home workers, which prevented a worker strike that was scheduled for May 7. The bill would provide a $14.75 minimum wage and a 5% increase for workers above $14.75 effective January 1, 2019.  This wage increase will cover 18,000 union and non-union workers who care for the disabled. …

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Without new workers contract, costly strike preparations loom for state
Source: Emillie Munson, CT Post, May 1, 2018
 
The state will commence costly strike preparations on Thursday if the General Assembly does not act in the next 36 hours on a new contract for workers who care for disabled people, House Democrats warned Tuesday. Some 2,400 unionized workers have threatened to strike on May 7, two days before the end of the legislative session. They are pressing for a contract that would impact thousands of employees in privatized homes and day programs for the disabled. Many of these workers have not received raises in years. Strike preparations involve hiring replacement workers and security to work while striking employees are protesting. Each day of the strike might cost the state close to $1 million, said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, on Tuesday.

Connecticut Nonprofits Support Strike of Their Caregiver Workforce
Source: Ruth McCambridge, NonProfit Quarterly, April 30, 2018

Even as news stories proliferated over the weekend on the crisis in the caregiver workforce serving people with disabilities, in Connecticut, 2,400 employees of nine nonprofit agencies voted to authorize a strike that will begin in the early morning of May 7th. Supporting the strike are not just the agencies employing the workers but also the state’s nonprofit alliance (join yours today). … “We’ve reached a crisis of underfunding in the care our state provides people with disabilities and the workers who care for them,” SEIU 1199 spokesperson Jennifer Schneider said. “When privatized group homes and programs are shuttering and workers are forced to work 80 hours a week just to make ends meet, something has to change. …

Proos and MDOC spar over prison budget

Source: Cheyna Roth, WNMU, April 30, 2018
 
A Republican Senator is sparring with the Michigan Department of Corrections over privatizing prison services. The department is already trying to end one type of privatization – and they don’t want a new one.  This year, the DOC asked the Legislature to give it enough money to stop outsourcing food services to a private contractor. The Legislature appears to be on board, but now Senator John Proos wants to have a private contractor put in charge of employing the prisons’ nurses. … The Department of Corrections says it’s already having a hard time filling open nurse positions. Paying them less and without state benefits – which they say would happen with a private contractor – would make filing positions even more difficult. …

Florida Moves to Shut Down For-Profit Residence After Finding Horrific Abuse and Neglect

Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, April 19, 2018

After another patient died under suspicious circumstances and reports surfaced of more instances of abuse and neglect, Florida regulators moved this week to shutter a for-profit school and residential campus for children and adults with severe developmental disabilities. The action Tuesday by Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities came after years of complaints that patients at the Carlton Palms Educational Center were violently mistreated by staff and subjected to physical restraints known as “wrap mats,” which resemble full-body straitjackets. Carlton Palms and its owner’s other facilities were the subject of a ProPublica investigation two years ago that chronicled the deaths of three teenaged patients, patterns of abuse and neglect, and company executives’ often-successful efforts to stave off regulation. …

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vFlorida Lawmakers Look to Roll Back Favored Status For For-Profit Group Home
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, February 17, 2016

… The facility has enjoyed a special status — and higher Medicaid payments from the state — because of language embedded in Florida law. Until last year, law said the state should continue to contract with facilities licensed before 1989, when Carlton Palms was already in operation. Instead of needing to prove it offered the highest quality care in the most cost-effective way, Carlton Palms continued to get the state’s business automatically. The only way the state could have stopped doing business with Carlton Palms would have been for public officials to prove the facility had broken state laws or regulations. Last year, the Florida legislature passed a temporary provision to lift the obligation to work with Carlton Palms. But the measure, approved through a budget bill, expires in July.

Unrestrained
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 10, 2015

While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability.

Three years ago, it looked like the Florida agency that oversees care for children and adults with disabilities had finally had enough. It filed a legal complaint that outlined horrific abuse at Carlton Palms, a rambling campus of group homes and classrooms near the small town of Mount Dora.

A man called “R.G.” was punched in the stomach, kicked and told “shut your fucking mouth,” the complaint said. “R.T.” was left with a face full of bruises after a worker hit him with a belt wrapped around his fist. A child, “D.K.,” who refused to lie face down so he could be restrained, was kicked in the face and choked until, eyes bulging, he nearly passed out.

State officials wanted to bar Carlton Palms from accepting new residents for a year.

“[A] moratorium on admissions,” wrote a lawyer with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, “is necessary to protect the public interest and to prevent the continuance of conditions that threaten the health, safety and welfare of Carlton Palm’s (sic) residents.”

Two months later, the state backed down…..

What Happened to Adam
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 11, 2015

It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos.

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
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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. ….

FEMA faulted for failed contracts to deliver hurricane aid

Source: Associated Press, April 10, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts for hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee. The investigation followed disclosures by The Associated Press in November that a newly created Florida company with an unproven record had won more than $30 million in FEMA contracts to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for repairs after Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes in Puerto Rico. That vendor, Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida, never delivered those urgently needed supplies. The report from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs described failures by the Trump administration that prevented timely delivery of tarps and sheeting to hurricane victims after the summer’s storms. It focused on the Bronze Star contract and another awarded to Global Computers and Networks LLC of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. …

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Lawmakers seek probes of award for Hurricane Maria tarps
Source: Tami Abdollah, Associated Press, December 1, 2017

Democrats in Congress are pushing for investigations into how the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts worth $30 million to a fledgling company for Hurricane Maria disaster supplies that it failed to deliver to Puerto Rico. The senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, wrote Thursday to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, seeking more information about how FEMA evaluated Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida. The Associated Press reported this week that FEMA awarded the small firm contracts for tarps and plastic sheeting that were never delivered. The agency ultimately terminated the contracts earlier this month without paying any money, but the episode caused a delay of four weeks. …

… Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., wants the Homeland Security Department inspector general to investigate. He sought the review in an amendment to the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2017, which cleared the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. Maloney’s amendment cleared the committee with unanimous bipartisan support, though it was unclear when the House will vote on the measure. The amendment specifically requests an inspector general audit of all contracts awarded for tarps and plastic sheeting for the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The review would include the contracting process used to evaluate bidders and award the contracts; the assessment of past performance and technical capacity to fulfill the contracts; and how FEMA ensures the contractors meet the terms. …

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. …

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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. …

Shortage of medical staff plagues Milwaukee jails
Source: Jacob Carpenter, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, October 29, 2016

The private contractor responsible for medical care at Milwaukee County’s jails has failed to meet basic standards of care and staffing mandates, putting inmates’ health at risk, newly obtained documents and interviews with former employees show. At one point this spring, a court-appointed watchdog found that 30% of all medical jobs at the county’s two jails weren’t filled, a rate he called “inconsistent with adequate quality of service.” Inadequate staffing by Armor Correctional Health Services and poor record-keeping by employees have led to a failure to deliver timely medical treatment, according to the records and former employees. … Armor’s issues come as investigators look into four deaths since April at the Milwaukee County Jail, including one reported on Friday. It’s not clear whether Armor’s performance contributed to any of the deaths, but one inmate died of dehydration and a woman gave birth to a stillborn child without jail or medical staff noticing. Armor’s failures are documented in a May report by Ronald Shansky, who monitors overcrowding and medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction. Shansky, a medical doctor, inspects the jail twice a year under terms of a 2001 legal settlement between the county and inmates. … In separate interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the former staffers said they saw inmates who didn’t get necessary medications and went weeks without being seen by a nurse or doctor. Sandra Baumgartner, a former nursing supervisor at the House of Correction, said she was stretched so thin that she feared being unable to respond to a major medical emergency — which could put her nursing license at risk.

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Inviting Private Sector to Build Roads Raises Wage Questions

Source: Chris Opfer and Jasmine Ye Han, Daily Labor Report, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The Trump administration wants the private sector to take the wheel on many U.S. road and other upgrades, raising questions about whether construction workers will still get the compensation required under federal contracts. The Davis-Bacon Act obligates contractors to pay workers on federally funded construction projects a local prevailing wage and certain benefits set by the Labor Department. The law is meant to ensure that the government doesn’t shortchange workers. But some Republican lawmakers, businesses, and conservative advocacy groups say “prevailing wages” exceed market rates and bloat taxpayer-funded construction projects as a handout to labor unions. Although the law isn’t likely to be scrapped anytime soon, lobbyists have stayed busy pushing to get Davis-Bacon provisions explicitly included in new spending legislation. That activity ticked up following a post-recession infrastructure spending binge and kept the questions coming about which projects require prevailing wages. …

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Trump’s Davis-Bacon Quote Turns Construction Industry Heads
Source: Elliot T Dube, Bloomberg BNA, April 14, 2017
 
Construction industry stakeholders got a jolt when President Donald Trump recently approached what a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official called a “third rail issue” for building trades unions: changes to the Davis-Bacon Act. Trump said in a New York Times interview published April 5 that he was “going to make an announcement in two weeks” regarding Davis-Bacon. The law requires contractors on federally funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages for a given area. …

Trump’s promised announcement on labor law unnerves unions
Source: Lindsay Wise, McClatchy, April 10, 2017
 
President Donald Trump shocked organized labor by saying he would soon have an announcement to make about a law that guarantees wage levels for workers on most federally funded construction projects. And since then, the White House has declined to reveal his position publicly.  But behind closed doors, the Trump team appears to be scrambling in recent days to calm nerves among the very unions whose workers helped power the president’s Election Day victory. After a meeting with White House staff on Monday, Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said he was confident the president was misquoted or misspoke when he told The New York Times he would make an announcement about the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. … Signed by President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the Davis-Bacon Act requires contractors hired by the federal government for public works and building projects to pay certain classes of laborers and mechanics at prevailing wage rates. The Department of Labor calculates the rates by county, based on data it collects on similar projects in the area. Conservatives in Trump’s own Republican Party would be delighted if the president announced plans to repeal or replace the law. They say it artificially drives up costs for taxpayers and gives a competitive advantage to unions. Unions are anxious to protect Davis-Bacon, and ensure its wage protections are enshrined in Trump’s promised trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Any move by the president that threatens the law could jeopardize their support for a Trump infrastructure bill, and thwart its prospects for winning votes from congressional Democrats, the unions’ traditional allies. …

Trump Says He May Use His $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan as a Political Incentive
Source: Reuters, April 5, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was considering packaging a $1 trillion infrastructure plan with either health care or tax reform legislation as an incentive to get support from lawmakers, especially Democrats. Trump also said in an interview with the New York Times he may move up the unveiling of a plan to rebuild the country’s deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels, which had been expected later this year. … Some of the infrastructure projects may be built through public-private partnerships, Trump said, declining to say how the total spending would split between public and private sources. But he also said that with interest rates low, the government may be better off financing the projects itself. … Trump said he would make an announcement in two weeks about whether he would seek changes to a wage law for federal projects blamed by conservative groups for inflating costs, though he declined to say what the announcement would be. Conservative groups have pressured the White House on the law, known as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors on federal projects to pay local prevailing wages – a measure backed by labor unions and Democrats. …

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