Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Florida Gov. Scott Signs Voucher & College Aid Bills

Source: Gary Fineout, Associated Press, March 11, 2018

Florida will create the nation’s first ever private school voucher program for bullied students under a sweeping education bill signed into law Sunday by Gov. Rick Scott. … Florida already spends nearly $1 billion a year on several private school voucher programs including one directed at low-income families. The bill signed by Scott will allow students who are victims of bullying and other types of violence to move to a different public school or receive a private school voucher under the $41 million a year Hope Scholarship program. The vouchers will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting this fall. … Democratic legislators sharply criticized the legislation (HB 7055) as it moved through the process and the bill barely edged out of the Florida Senate as four Republicans voted ‘no.’ They said instead of setting up another private school voucher program that the state should do more to deal with bullies in schools. …

Privatization talks continue for Osawatomie State Hospital

Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, March 7, 2018
The word “privatization” was the elephant in the room during Thursday’s Osawatomie State Hospital (OSH) town hall meeting at Memorial Hall. Residents met with representatives from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, Secretary Tim Keck of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and area legislators hoping to learn more about what a transition from a state-operated facility to a privately-operated facility would entail. And it wasn’t just residents who had questions. Rep. Jene Vickrey questioned Keck a few times, clarifying some of his concerns about the request for proposal (RFP) for privatization as well as his displeasure that KDADS is drafting a bill, regarding the RFP, to be introduced this late into the legislative session. …


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. …

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. …

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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. …

Liberal group’s challenge to JobsOhio rejected by Ohio Supreme Court
Source: Jackie Borchardt, Northeast Ohio Media Group, June 10, 2014

Ohio’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a challenge from a progressive group and two Democrats challenging the constitutionality of JobsOhio, the state’s private, nonprofit economic development agency. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that, state Sen. Michael Skindell of Lakewood and former state Rep. Dennis Murray do not have standing — the legal right to pursue its claim in court — to bring an action against the legislation that created JobsOhio. The court also held that the plaintiffs lack a personal stake in the outcome of the case.

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Boulton unveils his labor agenda

Source: Ed Tibbetts, The Courier, February 22, 2018
Iowa would reverse the year-old limits on collective bargaining rights for public employees, start a new family and medical leave plan for workers around the state and raise the minimum wage under an agenda Democratic candidate for governor Nate Boulton unveiled this week. Boulton, a state senator from Des Moines, is one of seven candidates for the party’s nomination for governor. And his plan is an attempt to lay out a vision for Iowa. … In releasing the plan, Boulton’s campaign said he would seek to implement it in his first legislative session if elected. The agenda essentially packages a number of proposals he and other Democrats have introduced in the Republican-controlled Legislature that have gone nowhere. The proposals include reversing the move to put the state’s Medicaid program under the management of private insurance companies and closing the state-run mental health institutions. …


Gov. Reynolds supports bill that cuts reporting requirements on state’s privatized Medicaid program
Source: Paul Brennan, Little Village Magazine, February 12, 2018
During her regular weekly press conference on Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is committed to transparency, but also came out in favor of cutting the amount of publicly reported information about how well the state’s controversial privatized Medicaid management program is performing.  The proposal to cut the amount information published about Medicaid comes one month after a report from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), the agency responsible for overseeing Medicaid, showed that privatizing the management of the program that provides health coverage for approximately 600,000 Iowans has produced only a fraction of the savings that were promised when privatization began. …

Senate Democrats call on federal officials for Medicaid look over
Source: Michael Ramm, The Gazette, February 1, 2018
As Iowa enters its second year of privatized Medicaid managed care, every Iowa Senate Democrat, plus one independent, has called on the federal government to step in, saying the state is “approaching a crisis.”  Senate legislators sent a letter last week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urging its officials to do a field visit to the state “so that you can learn firsthand about the problems that providers and Medicaid beneficiaries continue to experience,” the letter states.  “Hospitals, nursing homes and other Iowa health care providers — especially in Iowa’s small towns and rural areas — are telling us it’s not working,” the Jan. 24 letter states. “They are strapped with delayed or reduced payments, red tape and bureaucratic nightmares that are putting them in financial jeopardy.” …

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Kansas Senate bills expand reach of lobbyist registration, oppose private management of state prisons

Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, February 20, 2018
Motivation for sweeping change in lobbying registration centered on behind-the-scenes activity to influence the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback when considering a controversial 20-year, $360 million contract with CoreCivic to build and maintain a new state prison in Lansing.  Opponents of the lease-to-own pact, approved in January, said they were concerned about being blindsided by CoreCivic’s strategy to privatize the state’s prison system.  Meanwhile, the Senate advanced to final action Senate Bill 328, which would block privatization by the executive branch of security operations and personnel management at state correctional facilities. The Kansas Department of Corrections would still be able to contract for food, medical and other support services.  Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said the bill declared the corrections system wouldn’t be open to privatization without approval of the Legislature. …


Editorial: Bill against privatized prisons right move
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal, February 11, 2018
A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by majority and minority leaders of the Kansas Senate would limit privatization at state prisons and maintain the role the Kansas Department of Corrections fulfills regarding day-to-day operations of those facilities.  The legislation was authored after a 20-year, $362 million lease-to-own contract for a new state prison in Lansing was approved by the State Finance Council.  CoreCivic, which is based in Tennessee, was contracted to build the new prison. However, under measures outlined in the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, CoreCivic would not be granted authority to oversee personnel operations at Kansas adult and juvenile facilities. …

Kansas Senate GOP, Democrats embrace bill limiting privatization at state prisons
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, February 7, 2018
A rare exhibition of Senate bipartisanship Wednesday led to a committee’s prompt approval of a bill to prohibit outsourcing of personnel management operations at state prison facilities.  Motivation for the change reflected apprehension about approval of a $362 million contract with CoreCivic, a Tennessee company that builds and operates private prisons, to construct and maintain for 20 years a new Lansing Correctional Facility.  Under the contract, the Kansas Department of Corrections would retain supervision of corrections officers, wardens and other personnel. … Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the union supported the Senate bill because it would clearly prohibit outsourcing or privatization of management operations at state corrections facilities.  He said KOSE had many officers, counselors, maintenance specialists and administrative assistants who “do a fine job of making the state prison facilities run in a professional manner under trying circumstances working long hours for little pay.” …

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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. …

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Do School Vouchers Work? Milwaukee’s Experiment Suggests an Answer

Source: Tawnell D. Hobbs, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2018
Almost three decades ago, Milwaukee started offering the nation’s first-ever school vouchers. Starting small, the program allowed poor children to use taxpayer money to attend private schools. Today, about a quarter of Milwaukee children educated with public funds take advantage, making the program a testing ground for a big experiment in education.  Did students in the program get a better education? That depends on how participating schools handled a critical issue: how many voucher students to let in.  A Wall Street Journal analysis of the data suggests vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. …


A new study suggests that school vouchers could actually hurt organized religion
Source: Matthew Rosza, Salon, February 15, 2017

Although school vouchers may be a boondoggle to churches, a new study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that “they offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 80 percent of private school students in the 2011/2012 school year attended a religiously-affiliated school, with Catholicism being the most common religious affiliation. The authors studied 71 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee from 1999 to 2013. … Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether one believes that religious institutions should focus on religion or on making money by supplanting public schools. … “Our numbers suggest that, within our sample alone, the Milwaukee voucher program has led over time to a decline in non-educational church revenue of $60 million. These large effects are driven by the large size of the voucher program itself,” the authors wrote. …

More Graduates, Less Criminals? The Economic Impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
Source: Will Flanders and Corey A. DeAngelis, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform Working Paper, February 3, 2017

Although an abundance of research indicates that private schooling can benefit individual children through higher test scores, the effects on society are less clear. We monetize and forecast the social impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) in the United States. We use existing literature on the impacts of the MPCP on criminal activity and graduation rates. Between 2016 and 2035, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate additional economic benefits of $473 million associated with higher graduation rates, and $26 million associated with fewer felonies and misdemeanors, relative to their traditional public school peers.

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A New Betsy DeVos Proposal Would Make It Much Tougher For Students To Get Loan Forgiveness

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, January 3, 2018
The Education Department is planning to suggest new rules that would make it far more difficult for borrowers to obtain student loan forgiveness after being defrauded by their colleges, according to drafts circulated by the department and obtained by BuzzFeed News.  The department’s plan would require individual students to prove that their college intentionally deceived them — something that sparked alarm among student advocates, who argue it would push loan forgiveness out of reach for the vast majority of borrowers.  The proposal is part of the early stages of an effort by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rewrite the government’s standards for loan forgiveness, called the “borrower defense” regulations. The proposed new rules would eventually erase regulations put in place by the Obama administration. …


Higher Education Act Proposal Primes Fight Over Future of Colleges
Source: Douglas Belkin and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2017

The sprawling, 542-page revamp of the Higher Education Act released Friday by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, kicks off what is likely to be a rocky and drawn-out legislative process aimed at reshaping college education. The bill, previewed earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal, would update the Higher Education Act of 1965 by overhauling student-loan programs, mandating more transparency on graduates’ earnings and jettisoning much of the existing regulatory framework on for-profit colleges. The bill, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, must still work its way through the House, while an initial Senate version isn’t expected until 2018. Early reactions from colleges and student advocates—all with powerful lobbyists in Washington—suggest actually turning the wish list into law would be a steep uphill battle. …

House GOP to Propose Sweeping Changes to Higher Education
Source: Douglas Belkin, Josh Mitchell, and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2017

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend.  The most dramatic and far-reaching element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student loan program. It would put caps on borrowing and eliminate some loan forgiveness programs.  The ambitious package—a summary of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—would be the biggest overhaul of education policy in decades. The rising expense of higher education is deeply troubling to many Americans and many increasingly question its value. Despite a steady rise in the share of high-school graduates heading to college, a skills gap has left more than 6 million jobs unfilled, a significant drag on the economy. …

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Metro gets serious about outsourcing Silver Line service

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, January 9, 2018
A proposal to outsource operations of the Silver Line took a significant step Monday, when Metro officials issued a formal “request for information” from potential contractors who might be interested in the job. …. Metro’s opportunities for privatization are limited, because of its existing union contracts. But the agency is allowed to seek help from outside contractors when considering how to manage operations on new segments of the system. Officials have already met with potential contractors to outsource bus operations and maintenance at the newly-constructed Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va…..


D.C. May Seek To End Private Contracts For Public Transit
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, November 30, 2017

A coalition of organized labor and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop the District from contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly.  “We are concerned about privatization of good public-sector jobs,” said Barbara Kraft of the Washington Interfaith Network, which is teaming with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and individual bus and streetcar operators to lobby the D.C. Council to bring all District transit operations in-house. …

Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized
Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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Atlantic City Water Services to Remain in Public Hands

Source: Jocelyn Alcox, AFSCME Now, January 9, 2018
Members of AFSCME New Jersey worked hard to make sure Atlantic City’s water system remains in public hands. Just before the Christmas holiday, the state announced that it will not lease or sell the city’s water system to a private company. This followed more than a year of concern from residents and activists about the fate of the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), and is due in large part to the hard work and dedication of AFSCME members in and around Atlantic City. “We immediately knew we had to do something,” said April Gould, president of Local 3408. “Atlantic City is already struggling and outsourcing the water would have been disastrous.  AFSCME members have always been on the front lines of community issues and this time was no different. This is the community that we live in and that we work in, you can’t just leave those problems up to somebody else and hope they work out.” …


State says it won’t sell or lease Atlantic City MUA to private company
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, December 20, 2017
Following more than a year of concern from city residents and local activists about the fate of the city Municipal Utilities Authority, the state announced it will not lease or sell the water system to a private company. … The state has previously urged the city to dissolve the MUA, but the city either pulled or voted down measures to do so before the state took over in November 2016. For months after, more than 100 people from civic associations, the local chapter of the NAACP, Food and Water Watch and a group called “AC Citizens Against the State Takeover” knocked on doors and collected signatures to protect the water system from being sold. …

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. …

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