Tag Archives: Montana

MT plans to take over developmentally disabled case management detailed

Source: Jonathan Ambarian, MTN News, January 17, 2018

Leaders with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services now believe they will be able to maintain targeted case management services for 3,600 Montanans with developmental disabilities. Four nonprofits – Helena Industries, AWARE, Opportunity Resources and the Central Montana Medical Center – currently receive contracts from the state to provide case management for these Montanans. However, DPHHS announced last month that, because of state budget cuts, it would end the contracts and take over the responsibility itself. … DPHHS leaders initially announced they would be able to keep providing case management for 2,700 people who receive care through comprehensive Medicaid waivers. But Matthews told reporters Tuesday they now believe they can also serve another 900 to 1,000 who are covered on a state plan or are on a waiting list for a Medicaid waiver. … Department leaders say taking over case management services themselves will save $2.5 million by June 2019. …

Peorians Deserve Their Water Back

Source: Jenya Polozova, Food & Water Watch, December 14, 2017

Illinois American Water is running a complicated show in the City of Peoria. They control the water system and they’re charging residents twice as much as what customers of neighboring public systems pay and the U.S. average. Water privatization in Peoria mirrors issues that towns all across the country run into when they sell a public resource to a privately owned corporation. Each time it means: losing transparency, accountability, management, and reliability. In sum, local residents have little say over the operations of the water system. … With the deadline of fall 2018 fast approaching, it’s finally time for Peorians to take their water back – but the water company is not going to go come to the negotiation table without a fight. …

… Years of propaganda and messaging campaigns create doubt that a City has the ability to provide services. But, when it comes to water systems, public provision is the American way.
… This trend to public ownership continues today. In June, Missoula, Montana, bought its water system from a provide company to provide long-term stability and better water resource management, as well as to make necessary improvements. The system was losing more than half of its water through leaks. The city plans $30 million in investments over the next 5 years — all without raising water rates. As the mayor said: “The city of Missoula is in this business for only one reason and that’s to serve customers. Water is it.” While it is understandable that the local union in Peoria fears that jobs may be jeopardized if the city takes over the water company, the City Council can and should include recognizing the local labor union and keeping the existing workforce as part of the municipalization effort. Not a single union worker should be dropped. Furthermore, cities that take back their water systems experience incredible economic benefits as a direct result. Take the city of Evansville, Indiana, where remunicipalization from IAW was expected to save the city $14 million over a short period of five years. Or even the city of Cave Creek, Arizona, where the city took back their water from American Water and saved an astonishing $1,335,017. …

Video: Deal of the Year 2017 – Small Issuer: City of Missoula, Mont.

Source: Bond Buyer, December 6, 2017

The city of Missoula, Montana waged a six-year legal battle to wrest control of its water system from a private company. The water system in the town of 70,000 was privately-owned by Mountain Water – a company that refused to make needed repairs to the system or sell it to the city. … Obtaining traditional financing with no disclosure from Mountain Water — and water assets nearly beyond repair — was unattainable given the risks. The city also had to provide payment before the court could rule it owned the water system. The solution: the direct sale to Barclays of nearly $140 million in A-rated bond anticipation notes. The financing plan uniquely provided the necessary mechanics to allow the city to purchase the water system. Prior to the acquisition, water bills were 17% higher than elsewhere in the state, but dropped to 49% below average after the deal.

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City Of Missoula Takes Ownership Of Mountain Water Company
Source: Beau Baker, MTPR, June 22, 2017

The city of Missoula has taken ownership of the water utility that serves its residents after a three-year court battle. The city bought Mountain Water Company for $84 million and paid another $6.8 million to developers who had a claim against the company. A separate bundle of transition costs, the bulk of which are attorneys’ fees, amounts to $7.5 million.
Mayor John Engen said city attorneys originally estimated the legal costs would be $400,000. Missoula won the right to buy the utility in an eminent domain case. It now joins all 128 cities and towns in Montana in controlling and owning its own water and distribution system. … Merriam says there are no immediate plans to change the rates. …

One for the history books: Missoula will buy its water system
Source: Sherry Devlin, Missoula Current, February 22, 2017

In an historic vote Monday night, the Missoula City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Mountain Water Co., forever ensuring the city’s “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” … Throughout the recent effort, and decades of unsuccessful attempts by previous mayors and councils, the goal has been to place Missoula’s drinking water system into public ownership. … That now could happen by the end of March. With Monday’s vote, the local water system will be free from an increasingly distant and disaffected roster of corporate owners, most recently The Carlyle Group, a global investment fund, and the Canadian utility Algonquin Liberty. … Missoula’s water has always been in private ownership; all other Montana cities own their water system. … In fact, Bender said, Mountain Water Co.’s purchase by an international hedge fund – The Carlyle Group – imperiled every future generation.
The city’s purchase of its drinking water system will benefit those future generations the most, Bender said. …

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MT special legislative session works late into night to finalize budget deal

Source: Mike Dennison, KRTV, November 16, 2017
 
Montana lawmakers worked into the early-morning hours Thursday to fashion a deal to fill the state’s $227 million budget hole, agreeing to a package of spending cuts, fund transfers and one, big charge on the state workers’ compensation fund.  The plan also includes at least $15 million from a fund controlled by the company that operates Montana’s only private prison – and that can be accessed only if Gov. Steve Bullock negotiates a new contract to extend the prison contract with CoreCivic. … The 600-bed private prison near Shelby is in Jones’ district, and CoreCivic’s contract expires in 2019.  The special session, called by Bullock to balance the state’s budget, started Tuesday and wrapped up after two long days of back-and-forth negotiating primarily between the Democratic governor and the Republican majority at the Legislature. …

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MT Republicans plan to expand special session agenda
Source: Mike Dennison, KXLH, November 8, 2017
 
Legislative Republicans plan to expand next week’s special session agenda, to include more options to fill Montana’s $227 million budget hole, MTN News has learned – including $32 million from an account controlled by the owner of the private prison in Shelby. … GOP leaders are drafting a proposed expansion with nine new items, including: Using $32 million from a fund set up to help the state buy the privately run prison at Shelby. The owner of the prison – CoreCivic – controls the money, but has offered to give it to the state — if the state agrees to extend the company’s contract, for another 10 years.  …

Corrections pledges to increase private prison oversight
Source: Associated Press, November 30, 2016

The Montana Department of Corrections has pledged to strengthen its oversight of a private prison in Shelby after auditors recently found weaknesses in the agency’s monitoring of guard staffing levels, health care services and food service. Department officials said checks have already been increased to ensure mandatory security staffing levels are being met, and they will build more comprehensive checks in the other areas. The Legislative Audit Division did not find any major violations at the Crossroads Correctional Center when auditors conducted surprise visits, analyzed prison data and spoke to former inmates. However, the auditors did report that the department’s on-site contractor assigned to monitor the prison’s health services does not verify that inmates receive timely access to medical care. The department also has not defined the level of review it expects from the contractor and conducts only limited reviews of health services data from the prison, the November report found. … But DOC director Mike Batista said in his written response that the department has already set up reviews of shift rosters, payroll logs, video reviews of staff and other checks as a result of past violations discovered in audits. Batista pledged to increase the review of shift rosters each month. The department also “will build a more comprehensive reporting and compliance check for medical access and timeliness requirements” for its health care monitoring contractor, Batista said. He added that the department’s dietician will review the prison’s menu annually. DOC spokeswoman Judy Beck said Wednesday she did not have further comment beyond Batista’s response to the audit.

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Towns sell their public water systems — and come to regret it

Source: Elizabeth Douglass, The Washington Post, July 8, 2017

Neglected water infrastructure is a national plague. By one estimate, U.S. water systems need to invest $1 trillion over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, federal funding for water infrastructure has fallen 74 percent in real terms since 1977, and low-interest government loans have not filled the gap. … The prospect of offloading these headaches to for-profit water companies — and fattening city budgets in the process — is enticing to elected officials who worry that rate hikes could cost them their jobs. Once a system has been sold, private operators, not public officials, take the blame for higher rates. But privatization will not magically relieve Americans of the financial burden of upgrading their water infrastructure. … One of the biggest inducements for water deals is the “fair market value” legislation that has been passed in six states — Indiana, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — and is being considered by others.  …

… Even as more cities consider selling their water infrastructure, others are trying to wrest control of their systems back from private operators, usually because of complaints about poor service or rate hikes. Since private owners are rarely willing to surrender these lucrative investments, cities usually end up pursuing eminent domain in court. That means proving that city ownership is in the public’s interest and then paying a price determined by the court. Those prices can be exorbitant. …

Lawmakers Table Privatization of $1.6 Billion Insurance Fund

Source: Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press, March 24, 2017

Montana lawmakers on Friday put off further discussion on dismantling and privatizing the state’s massive workers compensation system, saying the task was too daunting to take up in the waning days of the legislative session. Instead, the matter will be studied more thoroughly in the months after the Legislature adjourns. Getting rid of the $1.6 billion State Fund would be a major undertaking — not only in practical terms because of the thousands of businesses that would be affected but also politically. While Montana Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, have generally favored privatizing some aspects of big government, they appear split on what to do about the State Fund. …

Officials: Suspended Helena school bus driver acted on company’s direction

Source: Jesse Chaney, Independent Record, March 17, 2017

The Helena school bus driver who was temporarily suspended for leaving two young children at an unfamiliar school without an adult was directed to do so by the school district’s transportation company, officials said. “The driver acted on the direction of First Student,” Helena Public Schools Superintendent Jack Copps said Friday, adding that several school district officials listened to an audio recording that confirms the radio conversation between the bus driver and a dispatcher with the company. The school district has a contract with First Student to provide its transportation services. In a written complaint to Helena Public Schools, Layla Davies said her 6-year-old child and three of his siblings were on a bus that left from Central-Linc School Wednesday when he vomited on himself. The four students were supposed to transfer to another bus at Jefferson School, she wrote, but the driver would not let her 6-year-old and 8-year-old get on the second bus. Davies later found the two young students walking down Broadway Street, her complaint said. Both of them were scared and her youngest was covered in vomit, she wrote. …

Lawmaker breaks ranks with charter school bill

Source: Great Falls Tribune, February 18, 2017

Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder broke ranks with many of his fellow Democrats last week when he proposed establishing a statewide public charter school system through House Bill 376. He wants to start a seven-member charter school commission to oversee the new program. … Democrats are generally opposed to charter schools, and a policy adviser for Gov. Steve Bullock spoke against the proposal Wednesday during a hearing before the House Education Committee. The committee has not taken action on the bill yet. … Bullock said last week he has fundamental problems with charter schools, saying he was “skeptical about diverting public dollars to schools that have no accountability.” Windy Boy said in an email his bill does not divert public school funds to any religious or private schools. He said it’s a school within a school. The existing ANB (average number belonging) funding that funds students still exists and will be used to fund students in public charter schools. … The proposal could also face legal challenges. A legislative legal review raised concerns about whether the Legislature has the constitutional authority to establish a charter school commission.

Fix For VA Health Snarls Veterans And Doctors In New Bureaucracy

Source: Quil Lawrence, Eric Whitney, and Michael Tomsic, Kaiser Health News, May 16, 2016

Veterans are still waiting to see a doctor. Two years ago, vets were waiting a long time for care at Veterans Affairs clinics. At one facility in Phoenix, for example, veterans waited on average 115 days for an appointment. … Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program. Veterans received a card that was supposed to allow them to see a non-VA doctor if they were either more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or they were going to have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA provider to see them. The problem was, Congress gave them only 90 days to set up the system. Facing that deadline, the VA turned to two private companies to administer the program — helping veterans get an appointment with a doctor and then working with the VA to pay that doctor. … Wait times have gotten worse. Compared to this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen, according to the VA’s own audit. …

… This is playing out in a big way in Montana. That state has more veterans per capita than any state besides Alaska. … Hospitals, clinics and doctors across the country have complained about not getting paid, or only paid very slowly. Some have just stopped taking Veterans Choice patients altogether, and Montana’s largest health care network, Billings Clinic, doesn’t accept any VA Choice patients. … The delays have become a frustration within the VA, too. Tymalyn James is a nurse care manager at the VA clinic in Wilmington, North Carolina. She said Choice has made the original problem worse. When she and her colleagues are swamped and refer someone outside the VA, it’s supposed to help the veteran get care more quickly. But James said the opposite is happening. …

The For-Profit Probation Maze: A for-profit “offender-funded probation” payment system unfairly penalizes, and often traps, the poor

Source: J. Weston Phippen, National Journal, December 16, 2015

In the Mis­sis­sippi Delta town of Green­wood, a for-profit com­pany prom­ised city lead­ers it could take over its cash-strapped pro­ba­tion sys­tem without any ex­pense to tax­pay­ers. Not only that, but the com­pany said it could ac­tu­ally turn a profit for it­self, and the city, by col­lect­ing fines. Just eight months later, nearly 10 per­cent of the town’s 15,000 pop­u­la­tion was on pro­ba­tion for minor of­fenses like traffic vi­ol­a­tions and ow­ing fees to the com­pany. By the time city lead­ers real­ized the dam­age, the com­pany had en­titled it­self to profits of at least $48,000 a month, all paid for, as one county of­fi­cial said, “off the backs of the poor people.” …..

The For-Profit Probation Maze