Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

The Oil and Gas Industry’s Latest Scheme Would All but Privatize Public Lands

Source: Jimmy Tobias, Pacific Standard, September 11, 2017

Having failed to turn over control of federal lands to state governments and private interests, anti-conservationists in Congress are at work on their next scheme: partially privatizing the public domain by allowing states to take charge of energy development on vast swaths of land owned by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. This agenda was on full display at a Capitol Hill hearing last week when the House Natural Resources Committee convened a forum on the Federal Land Freedom Act of 2017, a bill that has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with avarice. The bill would allow industry-dominated state governments like Wyoming and Utah and Oklahoma to manage the leasing, permitting, and regulating of oil, gas, and other fossil fuel production on national lands. It would allow states to have near-total dominion over huge accumulations of federally owned mineral resources. And it would effectively exempt oil and gas drillers from the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws meant to protect public resources from pollution and destruction at the hands of commercial enterprise. For its right-wing proponents, the Federal Land Freedom Act is a solid step toward full disposal of some federal lands.

… According to the Wilderness Society, a land conservation non-profit, the Federal Land Freedom Act represents just “the latest push in a broader anti-public lands movement that has exploded into prominence in the last few years at the state, congressional, and administrative levels.” It is just the latest “land seizure” scheme, as the Center for Western Priorities calls it, to emerge from the muck of Washington, D.C. But what a shameless and telling scheme it is: An extremely powerful industry dominates state governments and hopes to dominate the federal government too. It essentially hires elected officials to do its bidding, and those officials deliver a proposed law that would allow said industry to have its way with millions of acres of land that rightfully belong to all Americans. They deliver a bill that would gut public interest laws and eliminate conservation protections in the name of corporate profits and private gain. …

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. …

Editorial: Another round in the Hogan-teachers union feud

Source: Baltimore Sun, September 18, 2017 
Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement that he will not sign Maryland’s proposed plan to implement the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the Obama era successor to No Child Left Behind — got him some swift criticism from the Maryland teachers union and its allies, including a claim from one of his prospective 2018 opponents that he is the “anti-public education governor.” The critics claim that he is putting some $250 million in federal funding for Maryland schools at risk and aligning himself with the extreme school privatization agenda of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. …

Related:

Despite veto threat, Maryland lawmakers send Hogan bill to limit school reforms
Source: Erin Cox, Baltimore Sun, March 28, 2017

Disregarding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto threat, the Democrat-dominated General Assembly passed a bill Tuesday to forbid the state from using vouchers or charter schools to fix struggling schools. Both the Senate and House approved the bill by veto-proof margins, setting in motion a political showdown with Hogan for the final two weeks of session. …

Maryland Democrats blast Hogan’s education agenda, likening it to Trump’s
Source: Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun, February 7, 2017

Maryland Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday made their case against a series of state education bills that they say push a “privatization agenda” also championed by President Donald Trump and his controversial new education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Dozens of Democrats joined the state teachers union to decry bills backed by Gov. Larry Hogan that would provide scholarships to private schools and encourage more charter schools in Maryland. They said the Republican governor is following the same philosophy as Trump and DeVos, promoting private and charter schools at the expense of public schools. … Weller criticized Hogan’s plans to increase the amount of tax dollars used to help poor children afford a seat in private schools, as well as to set up a new state panel that would approve applications to open new charter schools, an authority currently held by local school boards. … The teachers union and Democrats rattled off a list of bills they plan to pass and Hogan efforts they plan to defeat this General Assembly session. They’re proposing a bill that would prevent the state from looking to school privatization as a way to comply with a federal law requiring turnaround plans for poor-performing schools. … The Democrats also are mobilizing to block Hogan’s proposal to help charter schools by, among other things, creating a new state board that will review and authorize new charter schools to open. Critics say Hogan can stack the panel with allies who will allow a flood of new charter schools that will siphon funding from public schools. … The Democratic lawmakers said they will oppose Hogan’s promise to gradually increase funding for a private school scholarship program known as Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today or BOOST from $5 million to $10 million. …

New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System

Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

Related:

Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

House approves Senate bill to expand foster care privatization
Source: Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, May 17, 2017

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. …

Battle may be looming over how quickly foster care bill outsources CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2017
 
The Texas House sponsor of the big foster care bill signaled Monday he’s going to fight for his version of “community-based foster care,” including a slightly slower outsourcing of Child Protective Services workers’ duties. Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank said in an interview that he made some concessions to the Senate by importing elements of the senators’ main foster-care bill on prevention and foster children’s medical care. … The outsourcing, long sought by foster-care providers, would not happen until the lead contractor showed it successfully has taken over placing all new or existing foster kids in a region. Under a Senate-passed bill by Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who runs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the state would simultaneously shift responsibility for both placements and case management to the contractor. …

Continue reading

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. …

Related:

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. …

Continue reading

KDADS Secretary makes pitch to privatize Osawatomie

Source: Melissa Brunner, WIBW, August 30, 2017
 
The Kansas Dept. for Aging and Disability services is making the case to privatize the Osawatomie State Hospital.   Secretary Tim Keck presented information Wednesday to state lawmakers and community leaders. Over nearly two hours, Keck detailed the history Osawatomie, the issues it has experienced in recent years and steps the state has taken to address the problems.  Looking to the future, Keck detailed a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions to rebuild and run Osawatomie, which lost federal certification in 2015. Correct Care runs mental health facilities around the country. …

Related:

State officials hope to replace, privatize Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal-World, August 30, 2017

State officials in Kansas began laying out their case Wednesday for why they think the state should replace the aging and troubled Osawatomie State Hospital with a new facility and hand over management of the facility to a for-profit, out-of-state corporation. Tim Keck, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which manages the psychiatric hospital, said the hospital has become too challenging for the state to manage, and it is time for the state to make a decision. …

Kansas Lawmaker Leary Of Plans To Privatize Osawatomie
Source: Celia Llopis-Jepsen, KMUW, August 23, 2017

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has unveiled a proposal to build a new mental hospital at Osawatomie, which a Tennessee company would run. But Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says the agency should be exploring in-house options. “This administration has a terrible history of privatization. Whether it be child support collection, DCF, KanCare,” Ward says. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck says the private operator would bring expertise and the ability to recruit mental health professionals. But, he says, his department is keeping an open mind. …

Kansas agency may privatize state psychiatric hospital working to regain federal funds
Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 16, 2017
 
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is considering privatization for a troubled state psychiatric hospital that has now passed an initial step toward regaining some federal funding. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said the department was considering a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, which runs other mental health facilities across the country, to rebuild and privately run Osawatomie State Hospital.  The department also announced in a press release Wednesday that the acute care unit at the state psychiatric hospital had passed an initial survey required to get that part of the hospital re-certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. …

Kansas Official To Outline Privatization Plan For Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Jim McLean, KCUR, August 14, 2017
 
One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.  Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.  On Tuesday Keck will outline a privatization plan submitted by a Tennessee-based company to stakeholders and legislators during a 1 p.m. meeting at hospital’s administration building. …

Osawatomie Contract Bidder Has History Of Safety Issues At Its Florida Psychiatric Facilities
Source: Meg Wingerter, KMUW, February 23, 2017

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. The department is evaluating the proposal and hasn’t given a timeline for whether or when it would bring it before the Legislature. Under a law they approved last year, lawmakers must approve the contract before KDADS can move forward. …

‘Tough’ Budget: New Funding Unlikely For Kan. Mental Health System
Source: Meg Wingerter, Hays Post, February 12, 2017

A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse. The report, the second from a task force created in 2015 to advise the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, says the system has continued to deteriorate. The task force’s first report, issued about 18 months ago, concluded the system was “stretched beyond its ability to provide the right care at the right time in the right place.” Rep. Brenda Landwehr, who chairs the House Social Services Budget Committee, agreed there are substantial gaps in the system but said lawmakers are virtually powerless to respond because of the depth of the state’s budget problems. … Given the amount of projected red ink, Landwehr said the state can’t afford to implement task force recommendations that would require significant new spending. Specifically, she said, it can’t afford to add psychiatric residential services for people covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. … In the updated report, task force members also signaled their opposition to privatizing Osawatomie State Hospital, citing concerns about the quality of care delivered by for-profit contractors in other states. … More than 60 [House members] have signed on to a bill that would prohibit the privatization of either of the state’s mental health hospitals unless authorized by the Legislature. …

Read full report.

Privatization considered at Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, November 23, 2016

After more than a year of improvements, renovations and the pursuit of recertification, the Osawatomie State Hospital’s (OSH) future continues to remain in a state of flux. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Interim Secretary Tim Keck recently announced that a request for proposal (RFP) for privatization of the operation of OSH has been put into effect. The RFP entails several specifications and could allow for a partial privatization of the hospital or a full bid for the entire operation. The RFP states that the state may award one contract to assume responsibility for providing at least 206 inpatient beds within the state of Kansas, but a minimum of only 94 inpatient beds would be required to be maintained at the current Osawatomie State Hospital campus. The remaining beds could be maintained at the OSH campus or at another KDADS-approved facility within the state hospital’s 45-county catchment area. Despite the RFP, Keck said it in no way means that privatization is a certainty in OSH’s future. He said he believes it is worthwhile to consider all the options even those that may not come to fruition. The RFP can be rescinded at any time for any reason at the state’s discretion. … Jones went on to say that he does not agree with an RFP that plans to move beds away from OSH and not increase functions there. He said the RFP seems to allow for a move of beds away from the state hospital as an option, which he does not favor. … It’s his belief that the legislators need to push back and make sure the RFP does not make it through the legislature. …

Continue reading

California Today: Battle Over a Bill Reaches the State Senate

Source: Mike McPhate, New York Times, August 24, 2017

An intense debate is being waged in Sacramento over a proposal that would alter how crucial services are provided to Californians. Sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, the measure would require that counties adhere to a raft of new conditions before contracting out for services in health care, housing, public safety and other areas. …

Related:

Editorial: California Democrats’ labor of love for unions
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2017

A union-backed bill to pad local government payrolls has been steadily diminished by those with the clout to fend off organized labor and its numerous friends in the California Legislature. The state’s cities got a reprieve from the bill en masse. So did San Francisco, the state’s only city and county, and Santa Clara County. All that’s left for the state Senate is to finish the job and kill this misbegotten bill altogether. … The bill’s onerous conditions leave little doubt that its intent is to discourage and eliminate private contracts in favor of expanding government payrolls and union membership. It threatens to needlessly inflate public spending and disrupt a range of services, many of them routinely provided by nonprofits serving the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable people. A legislative analysis found that the bill would bring about “potentially major local cost increases or service reductions” and could affect “a broad array of services.” …

Bill benefits unions at expense of needy
Source: Senator Jeff Stone, August 18, 2017

Assembly Bill 1250, introduced by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is a blatant power grab by the leadership of two of the largest public employee unions in California, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  AB 1250 would virtually ban counties from contracting with nonprofits, licensed experts and community businesses for the vital services they provide Californians. It would do so by establishing a process so onerous and burdensome to comply with that it would make the contracting out process effectively impossible. …

Michigan begins to design 4 pilot projects to test mental health integration

Source: Jay Greene, Crain’s Detroit Business, August 4, 2017

What is going on at the Michigan health department about designing four pilot programs to test a controversial plan to combine physical and behavioral Medicaid services among mental health agencies, providers and HMOs? So far, nothing, at least on the selection and design of the pilots. … Section 298 is a controversial budget section that, under Snyder’s original plan put forth in early 2016, would have allowed some of the state’s health plans to manage the $2.6 billion Medicaid behavioral health system. The Medicaid HMOs already manage a nearly $9 billion physical health system. Over the past two years, Michigan’s 11 Medicaid health plans have lobbied legislators and the public to try a semi-privatized approach under Snyder’s plan, which was finally approved in June. … Republicans in Michigan want to test the concept in four pilot projects that everyone believes will be Kent County, an urban area like metro Detroit, a northern Michigan rural area and in western Michigan, which could include Kalamazoo County, sources tell me. Lori said the state has not received any formal suggestions for where the four pilots would be located. …

Related:

Plan to privatize Mich. mental health aid advances
Source: Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, June 20, 2017
 
The first step in a plan to turn control of Michigan’s $2.6 billion mental health budget over to privately owned insurance companies is poised for inclusion in next year’s state budget, despite a wall of opposition from mental health providers, patients and families across Michigan.  The contentious plan is embedded in two provisions of the state budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the Omnibus Budget bill approved by the state House on Tuesday expected to be approved by the state Senate on Thursday. …

Lobbying ramp-up precedes mental health funding proposal
Source: Justin A. Hinkley, Lansing State Journal, April 27, 2017

Physical health insurers ramped up lobbying operations and far out-spent their behavioral health counterparts in the months before lawmakers pulled an about-face on who should manage billions of Medicaid dollars for mental health services. Community mental health groups and allied advocacy groups spent about $52,400 on lobbying in 2016, nearly $8,700 more than their average from the previous three years, state records show. That happened as they fought to maintain management of Medicaid money for behavioral health. However, lobbyists for the private insurers who currently manage Medicaid dollars for physical health spent a combined nearly $838,000 last year, about $21,000 more than their previous three years’ average as they seek to take over the mental health dollars. … That ramp-up happened as lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration changed positions on the Medicaid issue — to the benefit of the physical health insurers. In February 2016, Snyder called for the private health management organizations who oversee physical health spending to also take over mental health money by Oct. 1, 2016. Lawmakers denied that proposal and instead asked the administration to study the issue and make recommendations by spring 2017. The administration did that last month, changing its position from 2016 and calling for the two funds to remain under separate management. Last week, however, lawmakers in the Senate advanced a budget proposal that would give the mental health money to HMOs by 2020. …

Continue reading

Atlantic City Votes To Protect Its Water From Chris Christie

Source: Daniel Cohen, Alternet, July 14, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the Atlantic City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure its residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  Why might New Jersey sell or lease Atlantic City’s water? Well, because Christie has been laying the groundwork for such a deal for years. In 2014, he passed a statewide law making it easier for struggling municipalities to sell off water infrastructure. Turns out, Atlantic City has been struggling—mainly due to a rash of casino closures, including Trump’s failed Taj Mahal. Last summer, after the state bailed the city out, Christie made it loud and clear there were strings attached: “I want [the loan] secured by every asset they have, so that if they don’t pay it, I get to take the assets, sell them and pay you [the taxpayer] back.” Late last year, he delivered on that promise and took control of the city’s assets and most of its decision-making power.

Related:

Atlantic City residents, activists file petitions for vote on sale of MUA
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, June 14, 2017

Residents and activists crowded City Hall’s lobby Wednesday afternoon to illustrate the support they’ve gathered against the state takeover. With signs such as “Water is a human right” and “Our water, our voice,” about 20 people walked into the city Clerk’s Office to deliver 2,400 signatures — 1,200 were required — on a petition aiming to force a vote on the sale of the Municipal Utilities Authority.

Standing Up for Atlantic City: “Water Rights Are Civil Rights”
Source: Food and Water Watch, April 21, 2017

NAACP president and CEO Cornell Brooks came to Atlantic City on April 20 for the public launch of a campaign to prevent the privatization of the city’s public water system.  Brooks spoke in support of the campaign to protect the civil rights of city residents as a result of last year’s takeover law, and tied it to his group’s advocacy for water justice in Flint, Michigan. “Water rights are civil rights, and civil rights are human rights,” he told the audience. … In addition to many Atlantic City community groups and neighborhood associations, the AC Citizens Against the State Takeover campaign has been endorsed by statewide organizations like the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and the New Jersey National Organization for Women, labor unions like AFSCME, AFL-CIO and the Communication Workers of America, as well as national groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and Color of Change. …

Continue reading

Authorization To Fix The Crumbling BQE Faster Stalls In Albany

Source: Emma Whitford, Gothamist, July 12, 2017
 
Legislation that the Department of Transportation predicted could shave years and millions of dollars off of critical Brooklyn Queens Expressway repairs floundered in Albany this session, to the frustration of local politicians, policy groups, labor unions, pro-business groups, and residents who live alongside the decaying BQE triple cantilever in Brooklyn Heights. … There is a basic resistance in Albany, and upstate generally, to what is considered privatization of the state contracting process,” she added. “The main opposition comes from public service unions that are concerned about their jobs somehow disappearing or being diminished.” (“We wanted to ensure that men and women in the state workforce, who are perfectly trained and qualified to do the work, didn’t lose their jobs because of design build outsourcing,” stated Emily Cote, director of communications for the Civil Service Employees Association.) …