Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

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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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. …

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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.) …

Lawmakers Aim to Restrict Use of Lowest-Price Contracts

Source: Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, July 10, 2017
 
A contractors group has welcomed a bipartisan House bill placed in the hopper last month aimed at curbing agency use of lowest price technically acceptable contracts.  The Promoting Value Based Procurement Act (H.R. 3019), introduced by Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Don Beyer, D-Va., would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require civilian agencies to align themselves with the Defense Department and stiffen their rationales for resorting to lowest price technically acceptable contracts, which have grown in use in recent years but are controversial. …

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The Challenge of Applying the LPTA Process to the Procurement of Complex Services

Source: TASC, Inc., 2012

From the press release:
Increased reliance by government customers on the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy poses unnecessary risks such as budget overruns, delivery delays and, in the worst cases, mission failure. According to a new report by TASC, Inc., the LPTA process can be appropriate for commoditized services with clearly defined requirements, but not for complex services that support sophisticated, high-risk missions. In cases where the government does elect to use the LPTA process, it should rigorously define and evaluate technical acceptability and past performance to avoid compromising the performance of the program or system and, ultimately, the success of the mission….

…The TASC report makes the case that using the LPTA approach in the acquisition of complex mission services can compromise mission success and increase total program costs over time when factoring in rework and related costs. To achieve the best value, TASC recommends that solicitations for complex services adopt a classic best-value, cost-technical tradeoff approach that considers innovation, scheduling rigor and program cost containment. When the government does use the LPTA process, technical and past performance requirements should be defined precisely. In addition, applying detailed technical criteria using scenario-based evaluations, high standards of past performance and price-realism analyses are essential to mitigate the risk of unsuccessful performance on a given contract solicited on an LPTA basis. The TASC report offers examples of solicitations that utilize these recommendations….

Sandoval vetoes proposed ban on private prisons

Source: Yvonne Gonzalez, Las Vegas Sun, June 14, 2017
 
A proposed ban on private prisons in Nevada will not move forward after Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto.   Assembly Bill 303 is among more than two dozen measures to be vetoed.  Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, sponsored the proposed private prison ban, and worked with stakeholders to amend the measure to allow agencies until 2022 to make the transition. …

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North Las Vegas lawmaker wants ban on for-profit prisons
Source: Ben Botkin, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 22, 2017

No for-profit prison operators run Nevada corrections facilities, and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno wants to keep it that way. The retired North Las Vegas city correctional officer is a primary sponsor of Assembly Bill 303, which would ban local jails and state prisons from contracting with private companies for core services. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee heard the bill on Monday, without taking action…. Kevin Ranft, a lobbyist with AFSME, [sic] the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called the bill “long overdue,” noting that Nevada has tried for-profit prisons before and they’ve failed…

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. …

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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. …

Lawmakers Take Up Bill to Outsource CPS to Non-profits
Source: RGV Proud, April 4, 2017
 
Lawmakers took up a bill Monday that would pass a large part of the state’s responsibility to watch over Texas’ most vulnerable population over to non-profit organizations.  House Bill 6 looks to privatize much of the state’s embattled Child Protective Services to implement what’s known as “community-based care.”  Authored by State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the latest version of HB 6 went before the House Committee on Health Services Monday morning. … The bill would essentially outsource the responsibilities of CPS caseworkers to social workers at non-profit organizations across the state. … No action was taken after public testimony Monday, HB 6 was left pending in the House Committee on Health Services.

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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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Privatize Metro? Wiedefeld’s Outsourcing Plan Provokes Union Wrath And May Not Save Money
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, May 1, 2017
 
In his long-term financial proposal to get Metro back on track and back on budget released April 19, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld included a few vague sentences that could open the door to a partial privatization of the system.  The sentences, while far from a proposal for a large-scale privatization, have raised alarm among members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents 9,200 frontline employees. “They’re attacking us anyway they can,” Union president Jackie Jeter said to reporters, just moments after the transit workers turned their backs on WMATA’s leaders and staged a walkout during a board meeting last week. …

Transit Union Turns Back on Metro Leadership, Stages Walkout Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, April 27, 2017

Dozens of members of the D.C. region’s largest transit union turned their backs on Metro’s leaders during a tense board meeting on Thursday, then raised their fists to the air and marched out of WMATA headquarters in downtown Washington, defiantly chanting “We move this city.”  The labor action was to protest Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld’s new proposals to reduce costs at the nation’s second-busiest mass transit system, and the union’s president took the unusual step of divulging confidential details of ongoing contract negotiations. …

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A unanimous House votes for oversight bill vetoed last year

Source: Mark Pazniokas, CT Mirror, May 17, 2017
 
Connecticut’s legislators acted Wednesday for the second time in two years to require independent oversight of the millions of dollars in grants, loans, tax credits and other economic incentives extended to business, often a political flashpoint as states compete to attract and keep jobs.  With support ranging from organized labor to a conservative think tank, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to approve and send to the Senate an updated version of a measure Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed last year as “unnecessary and unwarranted.” … Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, the co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said the bill requires the legislature’s Auditors of Public Accounts to examine the Department of Economic and Community Development’s entire portfolio of aid programs and report to the legislature. Their findings will be the subject of a public hearing every year. … The legislation addresses policy and political concerns of legislators. Questions over economic aid, especially when some of the recipients made headlines by subsequently laying off employees, had posed a political liability for some and, perhaps, an opportunity for others. …

Prevailing wage foes prepare new petition drive

Source: Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News, May 15, 2017
 
A pro-business group pushing to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law has drafted new petition language and is seeking advance approval from the state to begin collecting signatures.  The Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to consider the form of a petition submitted Protecting Michigan Taxpayers that would lift a 1965 law that generally requires contractors to pay their workers union-rate wages and benefits on state-financed or state-sponsored projects. … The committee raised more than $1.7 million for a similar effort two years ago but failed to advance its initiated legislation after paid circulators gathered an estimated 161,781 invalid signatures, including many duplicates.  Republican state legislative leaders want to repeal the prevailing wage law, which they argue inflates the cost of taxpayer-funded construction projects. But GOP Gov. Rick Snyder has threatened to veto any legislation that reaches his desk, suggesting it could hurt his efforts to build interest in skilled trades careers. …

New opposition to P3s may put Texas in a traffic jam

Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, May 15, 2017 (Subscription Required)
 
Once a champion of public-private partnerships, Texas has turned against the most common form – tolled highways – amid increasingly organized resistance. With the defeat of House Bill 2861 on May 5, Texas lawmakers slammed the door on 18 major toll projects valued in the billions of dollars. The bill was designed to speed funding for redevelopment of major thoroughfares in the state’s largest metro areas by tapping private investment. Proponents promised to deliver projects in a decade rather than decades.  Conservative politicians in the early 2000s led by former Gov. Rick Perry promoted toll roads as a palatable alternative to raising fuel taxes for funding new highways and lanes and as a way to accelerate the state’s economy. …

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Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
Source: Mark Niquette, Bloomberg, May 9, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion. The defeat leaves the second most-populous U.S. state unable to tap into the partnerships to finance the infrastructure improvements, even as Trump is proposing to expand their use. …

… The bill’s failure underscores the difficulty Trump faces in his bid to use private investment to reach $1 trillion in funding to rebuild roads, bridges, airports, veterans’ hospitals and other facilities. While P3 deals take different forms, they generally involve private investors accepting risk and responsibility for design, construction and operation of a project in return for a revenue stream made up of tolls, user fees or regular tax outlays known as “availability payments.” … Texas previously had broad authority for such partnerships, and some state entities can still use them for such work as building dormitories at universities. But in 2007, the state Legislature voted to restrict P3’s use for transportation-related projects and require that each new proposal for one be authorized. …

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. …

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Health chief Nick Lyon: I was responsible for budget language to shift mental health funding
Source: Jay Greene, Crain’s Detroit Business, October 27, 2016

Embattled Director Nick Lyon of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services faced behavioral health leaders Tuesday and acknowledged he was the one who made the decision to insert controversial language that would have privatized mental health funding into Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2017 proposed budget earlier this year. The budget language, known as Section 298, called for the privatization of the $2.4 billion public mental health system under the management of managed care organizations that would contract with the state, ignited a firestorm of opposition among mental health officials, advocates, providers and families of the affected 300,000 patients and clients. While replaced this summer with more inclusive wording that requires the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a report with recommendations to the state Legislature in January on how to improve integration between the parallel physical and behavioral health systems, the Section 298 process created a rift and air of distrust and uncertainty between mental health officials and state government. …

Lessenberry: Privatizing Michigan health care
Source: Jack Lessenberry, Windsor Star, September 27, 2016

This is a story that hasn’t gotten major attention, but which is deeply worrying those who work with the mentally and developmentally disabled in Michigan: They fear the Snyder Administration wants to partly or totally privatize mental health services in the state. … The governor has long been a fan of privatizing services, and their fears mushroomed after an early draft of the governor’s fiscal 2017 budget called for privatizing the $2.4 billion public mental health system. That hasn’t happened yet. But the state does seem to be moving in that direction. Last month, a number of mental health advocates walked out of a meeting with state officials on how to coordinate mental health service services and payments. They had worked hard this spring to come up with a set of core values they believe need to be part of any new state proposal. … Hoyle said he wanted the state Department of Health and Human Services to commit in writing to support the core values they had agreed on in April, after a series of meetings between the advocates with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. Though Calley is commonly regarded as being more conservative than Gov. Rick Snyder, he has an autistic daughter, and his participation was generally praised. However, Calley doesn’t control the legislature. The prison food scandal was bad enough. But far worse are the scandals at the now-privatized Detroit Medical Center, where the Detroit News reported last month that medical instruments are frequently filthy, and that doctors have attempted to operate with tubes clogged with old blood and bone fragments. … Additionally, he said, costs and recovery periods are much harder to quantify than, say, the average recovery time for a broken arm. “The conflict over whether to spend more dollars for a higher quality of life for the individual or provide less care for higher profits will always be present,” he said. Wayne County’s Watkins, who has a long background in government and politics as well as health care, doesn’t see privatization as necessarily an evil. “Much of the current community health system is private non-profit.” The danger, he said, lies in the threat “of a wholesale transfer of taxpayer dollars for mental health services to the private, profit making insurance companies.” …

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