1) National: Let’s hear it for citizen activist Edith Everett, now 94 years old. “What motivated you to become involved in political messaging?” Moment magazine asked her. “‘This goes back to George W. Bush when he was trying to privatize social security,” Everett replies. “I thought to myself, ‘Are we going to sit back and let that happen?’ I didn’t have any experience at all, but I felt the need to do something. So I wrote a script and bought radio time. The truth is I don’t know how I did it. What did I know about radio? When I went to pay the actress, she insisted that she not be paid. She said she was just so glad someone was trying to stop this. I was very touched by that. This encouraged me to do more. (…) I later heard that an article in the LA Times credited this ad with helping win the ballot and stop privatization.”
2) National: Three environmental protection groups are urging the EPA to shield the public from the release of lead from cables left behind by telecom companies. “In a letter Monday to the EPA, the groups asked the federal agency to ensure the ‘immediate removal’ of all abandoned aerial lead-covered cables hung up on poles and lead infrastructure accessible to children from the ground. The groups also asked the EPA to assess the risks of underwater cables, giving priority to those in areas the regulator designates as important to protect drinking water supply.” [Sun required]
3) National: Research works, spurring the Feds into action on the private sector’s role in hospice care. “This year has also seen a spate of further reporting, commentary and research on the profit motive in hospice, including a detailed report on private equity’s role in hospice care from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Eileen Appelbaum, the center’s co-director and one of the co-authors of the report, ‘Preying on the Dying,’ said that she has long been concerned about how investors can harm vulnerable patients and families. ‘Problems of asymmetric information—most patients and their caregivers have no prior experience with hospice care—further increase the difficulty of overseeing private hospice agencies,’ the report notes.”
4) Florida: A federal judge has finally ordered Florida to stop placing children with complex medical conditions in nursing homes. “U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice, ruled that Florida has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the rights of children ‘who rely upon the provision of vital Medicaid services and are trying, in vain, to avoid growing up in nursing homes.’ ‘Unjustified institutionalization of individuals with disabilities is unacceptable, especially given the advances in technology and in the provision of home-based care,’ Middlebrooks wrote in a 79-page decision. ‘Any family who wants to care for their child at home should be able to do so.’” The Miami Herald reports that “In his searing 79-page order, Middlebrooks recounted the harrowing experiences of several families that testified during the trial, which ran from May 8 through May 19, including the testimony of a 19-year-old woman who spent four years at Kidz Korner, the pediatric wing of a Plantation nursing home.”
5) Illinois: The Illinois Supreme Court has cleared the way for the state to become the first in the nation to eliminate cash bail for criminal defendants awaiting trial. “The court’s long-awaited ruling represents a victory for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who faced fierce criticism over the policy from Republicans during his reelection campaign last year, including a barrage of sometimes misleading claims in TV ads and political mailers. Pritzker made eliminating cash bail a priority during his first term and backed the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in pushing its sweeping criminal justice overhaul in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
6) New York/National: The U.S. attorney in Manhattan says he will move to get a judge to approve a federal takeover of the brutal Rikers Island jail. The New York Times provides context. The federal monitor has said that the Adams administration is thumbing its nose at a Rikers oversight team about jail deaths and violence. “When reviewing videos of incidents, the monitoring team frequently observes an apathetic approach to basic security practices or a failure to intervene that is all too common in systems where staff feel they are inadequately prepared for and supported while on the job, feel unsafe, and lack the skills and confidence to maintain the necessary order without causing an event to escalate,” the monitor, Steve Martin, wrote.
7) National/Think Tanks: The Network for Public Education has issued a terrific and very timely new report on the shortcoming of a report produced by the pro-charter CREDO organization. “For years, CREDO, which is located in the pro-school choice Hoover Institution, has had access to comprehensive taxpayer-funded datasets unavailable to researchers beyond their organization. While obscuring its relationship to Hoover, CREDO continues to produce reports that overstate practically insignificant and tiny differences that favor the charter sector, ones previously referred to as ‘meaningless’ and ‘small’ by CREDO itself. Their third national study, which does not address the methodical flaws previously exposed by researchers, compounds error with lower comparative student match rates and a charter management organization study that is so fraught with mistakes that its analysis is meaningless. Whose interests does CREDO really represent? The public or its funders? Or the interests of the right-wing Hoover Institution?”
8) National: School districts are experimenting with AI-enabled robots, Megan Tagami reports in the Wall Street Journal. “Other districts are considering robots in a security role. Robert Stokes, co-owner and president of Stokes Robotics, said his company is working with multiple districts across the country. In most cases, schools will use robots in the classroom to teach students about coding, Stokes said. But in the face of an armed intruder, the robot could take more aggressive action, pointing a laser beam at a suspect’s chest or using flashing lights to try to induce them to drop their weapons.” [Sub required]. Tagami was interviewed for the WSJ’s Tech News Briefing [Audio, about five minutes.]
9) Iowa: Writing in The Gazette, Bruce Lear compares the “school choice” buzzword to dodgy timeshare practices. “Choice sounds great. But should public tax dollars be used for private schools when most rural parents have no choice within driving distance, there’s no fiscal accountability, and no one knows what it will really cost? We want school boards representing the community. But do we want school board meetings, instead of discussing real issues, devolving into partisan wars over books and how to treat vulnerable LQBTQ kids? Reynolds and her minions have become carnival barkers for culture wars instead of real problem solvers. Like in the Timeshare Zone, they can’t tell the truth because the truth will cause Iowans to flee captivity.”
10) North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has vetoed another charter school oversight bill. The bill would have eased enrollment growth caps and allowed county commissioners to give them property tax proceeds for capital projects. “Diverting local resources to build charter schools without clear authority on who owns them risks financial loss to county taxpayers who have no recourse,” Cooper wrote.
11) Ohio: Those tax dollars are rolling in—to charter schools. The Wall Street Journal reports that “charters will get a roughly 12% increase in state funding, plus $1,000 per student in facilities funding—twice as much as before. Charter schools that are considered high-performing according to state criteria—roughly a third of the state’s charters—receive supplemental funding per student and now will see increases in those amounts. Overall, high-performing charters should see a roughly 40% boost in funding, according to the Fordham Institute, putting them at about 90% of what district schools receive. The average brick-and-mortar Ohio charter school will receive roughly 85% of district-school funding, up from 70% currently.” [Sub required]
12) Ohio: David C. DeWitt of the Ohio Capital Journal reports on “the wild desperation of the lobbyists and politicians attacking voters and the Ohio Constitution.” DeWitt says, “certain special interest lobbyists largely run the Ohio Statehouse, funding Republican candidates and issuing coveted endorsements for lawmakers in districts where gerrymandering makes it so that only the primaries matter. In return, the Republican politicians carve out sweetheart legislation on everything under the sun: utilities, fossil fuels, the privatization of education, the gutting of government services to finance bigger and bigger tax handouts for the wealthy and well-connected, attacks on women’s access to health care, attacks on LGBTQ+ access to health care, opening up our gun laws in every way conceivable despite continuously rising gun deaths.”
13) Pennsylvania: Dark money groups are pressuring political leaders to support publicly funded private school vouchers. “Commonwealth Action is relatively new. It filed articles of incorporation with Pennsylvania’s Department of State in mid-April. Its IRS form 990, which federal law requires the group to file and which would show how much money the group has on hand, is not yet available. The only public detail on the group’s finances that Spotlight PA could locate comes from Google’s political advertising tracker, which shows that Commonwealth Action began funding online ads on July 6, several days after lawmakers dispersed from the Capitol without finalizing a spending plan.”
Arthur Steinberg, president of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, says “that the Commonwealth Foundation and its ultra-wealthy benefactors care at all about low-income and minority students is laughable. Comparing the protection of accountable, traditional public schools to an infamous racist like George Wallace is both false and deplorable.” The Commonwealth Foundation has been at it a long time. In a 1995 paper, Diane Stone reported that “the Commonwealth Foundation established the Pennsylvania Privatization Council as a clearing-house of expertise on the subject.” [Diane Stone, “Think Tanks and the Privatisation Band-Wagon,” Manchester Metropolitan University, 1995. See also here]
14) Tennessee: Tennessee Chalkbeat reports that the Memphis-Shelby County School Board has approved two charter school applications and denied seven. “Nine charter applicants this year included four new schools, plus five schools in the Achievement School District. The MSCS school board approved two of them, despite the district’s recommendations. (…) Another web of decisions will determine what happens next. Without approval to operate under the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, the fate of the schools is left to MSCS. If the district doesn’t decide to make them traditional schools, the four charter schools will close when their charters expire after the 2023-24 school year.”
15) Texas: The Texas AFT unpacks the legislature on school privatization. “Even though our members’ advocacy stopped the Legislature from passing vouchers in the regular session, their shadow has not yet been lifted. This week, we unpack why our legislators have prioritized diverting funds to private institutions instead of fully funding our public schools. We also look to the future as we prepare for the next chapter of this assault on public education.”
16) New Report: The Congressional Research Service has released a 3-page briefing paper on Race Discrimination at School: Title VI and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
17) National/International: In the Public Interest is running a guest column on the privatization crisis at Thames Waterfrom New Economy Brief. “Who gets a say in the industry’s future is also a vital question. For example newly renationalized water companies could be structured so that consumers, workers, and other stakeholders are represented on the board as with the newly remunicipalised Eau de Paris in France (where bills fell by 8%). This would end the domination of shareholder interests, which has arguably led to the current mess in the industry.”
Prem Sikka takes the bull by the horns in Jacobin, in The Privatization of Water Is a Scam, emphasizing the role of regulatory capture. “The toxic influence of shareholders and the dash for maximum returns needs to be checked by public ownership and customer empowerment. Water company shares would be practically worthless if environmental and customer protection standards were to be rigorously enforced. In the event of default, secured creditors are unlikely to get much, and the government can buy the assets cheaply. The cost can be funded by issuing public bonds to local people with the inducement that in addition to interest payments, bondholders will get discounts on their water bills. In addition, customers should be empowered to vote on executive pay. That will ensure that executives face public scrutiny and will not be rewarded for abusive practices.” Sikka is an emeritus professor of accounting at the University of Essex and the University of Sheffield, a Labour member of the House of Lords, and a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward.
18) National/International: An excerpt from an exchange between the Financial Times’ Topher Forhecz and Gill Plimmer on the privatization crisis in Britain:
“Topher Forhecz: Macquarie is now the largest infrastructure asset manager in the world and its strategy is so popular it’s actually known as the Macquarie model. Gill says investors just love infrastructure. But . . .
Gill Plimmer: The word investment isn’t quite the word. I mean you put your money in and get returns, but it’s not quite so clear that consumers (chuckle) get the returns that they want. And ultimately it’s backed by government. If Thames Water fails, the water will keep coming out of our taps, the government will move in and all those investors that have made off with a lot of money will be absolutely fine. That’s the thing. It’ll be taxpayers that are on the hook for the bill.” [Sub required; listen to the whole podcast episode, Macquarie’s Grip on Global Infrastructure. (About 20 minutes).]
19) National/International: Should public workers’ pension funds be invested in assets that hollow out public assets, fleece customers, hike rates to fatten the compensation of directors and managers, and spew millions of gallons of raw sewage into public waterways? The Globe & Mail calls the collapsing privatized water sector in Britain a “cautionary tale” for pension funds. But can pension funds really run with the hares and hunt with the hounds at the same time?
“There has been an unfolding management and financial crisis at giant British water and sewage utility Thames Water. Its owners now face a Hobson’s choice of pouring in billions of fresh capital to shore up the utility, or walking away to leave the British government picking up the pieces. The utility’s owners are mainly pension funds, including two from Canada. The Thames Water debacle raises questions of the suitability of this kind of private-market investment for pension funds. In principle, as an asset securing future pension payment obligations, infrastructure should make for an ideal pension fund investment. But the case of Thames Water shows that is not always the case in practice.”
20) National: As temperatures soar and people desperately search out and use public pools, CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn asks why America has stopped building them. “Public pools have played a critical role in American culture over the past century. But as climate change and extreme heat worsen, they are taking on an urgent public health role. Heat kills more Americans than any other weather-related disaster, according to data tracked by the National Weather Service. Yet just as public pools become more important than ever, they’re disappearing from sight. Pools have become harder to find for Americans who lack a pool in their backyard, can’t afford a country club, or don’t have a local YMCA. A legacy of segregation, the privatization of pools, and starved public recreation budgets have led to the decline of public places to swim in many cities.”
21) National/New Jersey/New York: New Jersey is suing the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration over New York City’s proposed congestion pricing plan. Bloomberg reports that “commuters and politicians in New Jersey, as well as drivers who enter Manhattan from the outer boroughs including Brooklyn and Queens, have long opposed the idea. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says New Jersey commuters will be unfairly burdened. He has criticized the environmental review process, saying it failed to recognize the potential increases in traffic and pollution to neighborhoods in the Garden State. Murphy has said he is open to the idea of congestion pricing but that the goal of the current project is simply to raise revenue for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its $51.5 billion multi-year capital plan, which will extend the Second Avenue subway to Harlem, modernize signals and finance electric buses.” [Sub required]
The Wall Street Journal reports that “In addition to raising funds, leaders of the MTA estimated that the new tolls would reduce traffic by up to 20%, thereby improving air quality and reducing trip times. Similar systems are in place in London, Stockholm and Singapore. Advocates for congestion pricing said any exemptions would raise the base toll rates for other drivers. Lisa Daglian, who heads an advisory committee that advocates for MTA riders, said most New Jersey residents who commute to Manhattan come on trains or in buses and many of them then ride the subway. ‘We strongly condemn this lawsuit for its attempt to halt progress on improving transit, reducing congestion and pollution, and creating a healthier and more sustainable region,’ she said.”
22) California: “LA Metro’s decades-long plan to extend the C Line (formerly the Green Line) to Torrance could be derailed by lack of support in the town,” the Daily Breeze reports, “with two city officials and some residents recently expressing concerns about public safety along the route.” Kevin DeGood, the Director of Infrastructure Policy at the Center for American Progress, has thoroughly panned the proposed extension. Check out his thread.
23) Connecticut: Did someone say privatization spurs efficiency through competition? Stamford is thinking about constructing a new school bus depot to avoid paying massive fees to First Student, the privatized school bus company. “‘The numbers that are being discussed will stop your heart when you hear them,’ said Richard Freedman, chairman of the Board of Finance. But officials have little leverage in the process because there is no city land to store school buses. First Student owns a bus depot on Selleck Street and also owns a large fleet of buses. That makes it virtually impossible for any competing company to come into the city, which means First Student faces no competition. First Student did not respond to an immediate request for comment.”
24) Florida: The Sunshine State is looking to pave its roads with toxic waste, The New Republic reports. “‘Can we help our economy and our environment at the same time?’ a press release from the Phosphate Innovation Initiative recently asked. ‘Yes! Florida lawmakers recently proved it by joining noted scientists in supporting [phosphogypsum] reuse, an important step toward creating a more circular and sustainable economy, where byproducts are recycled to create new products.’ Incredibly, the cheery, eco-friendly language of this press release is talking not about a benign industry by-product but a radioactive waste material that’s been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in construction. Now Florida lawmakers want to try out using it to make roads—despite a recent accident that released toxic liquid into waterways. At the end of June, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law House Bill 1191, approving a study from the Florida Department of Transportation on the use of waste from phosphate-based fertilizer production for road construction. The agency has until April to complete the study. As the bill notes, the final decision on road use of the waste lies with the U.S. EPA.”
25) Maryland: The new governor, Wes Moore (D) is setting up a Water Task Force to decide on a course of action for Baltimore, which recently went through a bitter initiative battle over privatization. But advocates and public interest groups are wary of where it is headed. “The Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force, will recommend a new governance model for the city-owned water and wastewater assets by January 30, 2024. The intention is to guide state legislation that could enact a change as early as next year.” But “local organizations reiterated their demands that the task force should conduct racial and economic equity assessments, preserve local ratepayer and labor protections, hold public hearings and a robust comment period, and exclude privatization options that would undermine local control.”
26) Ohio/National: State officials have announced there is $18 million in federal funding on the way to support the development of 27 new electric vehicle fast charging stations. “Funding for the effort comes from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, or NEVI, Program. In sum, Ohio will receive $140 million in NEVI funds over the next five years. ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said that investment will help ease concerns like ‘range anxiety’ that might deter potential EV buyers. ‘A year from now when these new stations start operating throughout the state EV drivers can be confident that a charge will be available for them when needed,’ he said.”
27) Pennsylvania: Sen. John Kane (D-Chester, Delaware) has introduced SB 866 to repeal Act 12 of 2016, which “created a predatory pricing mechanism for water and sewer system privatizations. The legislation will help keep water and sewer services affordable.” Kofi Osei, resident of Towamencin Township and founder of Towamencin Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts, says “American Water charges triple the sewer rates of Towamencin without doing triple the amount of work. All of the systems purchased under this law have not been distressed and often have been purchased directly at odds with the will of ratepayers. It is clear that Act 12 does nothing more than enable corporate rent seeking off of the backs of hard working Pennsylvanians and needs to be repealed.”
28) Virginia: VDOT has announced that it and Transurban will partially open a 10-mile Fredericksburg extension of the 95 Express Lanes in August. Will this fuel inflation? In Transurban’s home country, Australia, “motorists and particularly transport companies have been up in arms at the surging cost of tolls. Not everyone is unhappy, though. Transurban, the company that owns the concessions on almost every toll road in the land, is making hay right now. Its concessions are inflation-linked with half its network directly linked to CPI and prices on a further 30 per cent rising by the greater of a fixed rate or CPI.”
29) International: How do so-called public-private partnerships do on inclusion and transparency? “Public-private partnerships have been an option for governments in Latin America to address the needs of citizens without putting public finances at risk. However, the bar is getting higher for this type of contract or concession, since the region requires the inclusion of vulnerable groups and minorities, as well as transparency in the process to avoid corruption or tax evasion. Specialists from the infrastructure sector, meeting this week in Panama, agree on this, within the framework of the PPP Americas 2023 event of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).”
30) International: The Vampire Kangaroo is now devouring Britain’s natural gas infrastructure. “National Grid has sold another major chunk of Britain’s gas infrastructure network to Macquarie. The agreement means a consortium run by the Australian infrastructure giant, once dubbed the ‘vampire kangaroo’, will own 80 per cent of National Gas, which looks after thousands of miles of pipes that supply homes. It follows a previous deal in which Macquarie and British Columbia Investment bought 60 per cent of the gas infrastructure business for £4.2billion, with an option to take more shares in the FTSE 100 energy group. National Grid will bank around £700million from the sale, which will go towards corporate purposes, including debt repayments. It told investors it has entered into a new agreement, which could result in a full takeover.” According to the Financial Times, “Macquarie is the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, with $590bn worth of assets globally, including a majority stake in Britain’s Southern Water.” [Sub required]
31) National: Ever wonder what goes on in the deep recesses of the “bureaucracy” that is often a piñata for anti-government critics? Well, here’s one example. The low profile FDA Office of Food Additive Safety’s staff have been laboring for years against fierce corporate lobbyist pressure to try and keep the worst ingredients out of our food or at least keep people from knowing which ones might be risky. But now “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [has] released a public inventory of certain food ingredients that the agency has determined to have unsafe uses in food because they are unapproved food additives and lists of select chemicals currently under the agency’s review. The FDA also released a Conversation with experts about the agency’s work to enhance the assessment of ingredients in foods on the market. These resources are intended to provide more insight on the FDA’s post-market assessments.” Check out this episode of Conversations with Experts on Food Topics featuring Kristi Muldoon-Jacobs, one of the unsung heroes trying to keep bad things out of our food.
While we’re on the subject, we might as well consider what happens when seemingly obscure government offices aren’t on the job, or are too short-staffed and underfunded to do their jobs. “No Testing, No Inspections: Contaminated Eyedrops Blinded and Killed Americans. How a drugstore staple, made in an Indian factory and tainted with an antibiotic-resistant superbug, slipped past the FDA.” [Sub required]. They’re on the job now.
32) National: A damning new investigation by journalists Maria Hinojosa and Zeba Warsi examines how immigration officials have failed to properly address complaints of sexual abuse from people held in private detention centers run for profit by billion dollar corporations like CoreCivic. “The Lumpkin County DA’s office in Georgia, which is supposed to decide whether to pursue charges, did not respond to our questions. ICE and CoreCivic, the private company that manages Stewart Detention Center, have denied our requests for an interview on this subject. ” It was featured on Democracy Now!
33) National/Colorado: Solitary confinement for profit? The Colorado Sun reports that three immigrant rights organizations have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security demanding an investigation into what they say is the increased and arbitrary use of solitary confinement at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, operated by the GEO Group. “The complaint states people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the overuse of solitary confinement at the facility. It alleges a pattern of placing people at risk of self-harm in isolation to inflict punishment and gain control rather than providing a safe environment and adequate medical and mental health care.”
34) National: Local leaders are calling for a national strategy to be developed on natural disaster costs. “Many of these local leaders and organizations—from chief resilience officers throughout South Florida and county supervisors in Milwaukee to chambers of commerce in Pennsylvania and organized labor representatives in Ohio—have experienced weather-related disasters firsthand and recognize the various tools that communities can use to mitigate the worst impacts. Examples range from changing where and how new infrastructure and developments are built to using nature-based solutions to limit the impact and costs of future disasters. These leaders also know that costly weather events, including flooding, drought, tornados, hail, and wildfires, aren’t isolated to the coasts: They can—and do—happen nationwide.”
35) National: The Department of Veterans Affairs’ work with outside vendors is drawing lawmaker scrutiny over conflicts of interest, says Government Executive. “The joint House Oversight and Investigations and Technology Modernization subcommittee hearing focused, in large part, on what lawmakers deemed to be ineffective governance of the billions of contracting dollars VA has spent in recent years, with the department’s perceived lack of rigorous vetting receiving particular attention from the chairs of both subcommittees.
Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Va.—the chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee—said VA ‘seems to have become complacent with its contractors’ potential conflicts of interests,’ particularly since the department “doled out over $38 billion to contractors” in 2021.”
36) National: Doubling down on senseless. Undeterred by the private sector’s multiple failures to make the airlines function properly and staff up adequately despite huge pandemic public subsidies (which they pocketed as staff numbers withered), at least one fringy private sector travel writer has a suggestion—privatize the FAA.
37) Georgia: Effingham County (outside Savannah) is moving toward a privatized probation system. The Board of Commissioners is expected to pass the measure tomorrow. “It’s been met with some backlash in the community, though. Some residents, like John Schwarzkopf, tell News 3 they still fear the independent firm will put money before the people and exploit the probationers, even with a judge’s oversite. “Essentially these companies are just as bad as the Title Loan and Payday loan companies, but with those, people have the choice not to use them,” says Schwarzkopf.” Guess who’s in the policy mix? The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Georgia, which is also multitasking by pushing for school vouchers in the state.
38) International/Think Tanks: Public sector pay increases in Britain are unlikely to contribute much to inflation. The Institute for Public Policy Research says the public sector needs a real pay rise. “Rising prices are undercutting household incomes and pay for the average public sector worker has been declining in real terms since August 2021. In this report, we argue that demands for higher pay settlements for public sector workers are justified. Even if the average public sector worker receives a 6 per cent pay rise, they will still be £1,400 worse off this year in real terms compared to before the pandemic. A stronger pay settlement would help to address four problems facing the public sector: declining living standards, a workforce crisis, the decreasing quality of services and the reality that pay for the UK’s public sector workers lags behind our international peers.” Read the full report.
39) International: Demonstrators have turned out to resist the privatization of Costa Rica’s health care system. “As a result of decades of austerity diktats from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, workers have been increasingly compelled to spend more for services in the growing private insurance services, clinics, pensions and schools. Over three-fourths of Costa Ricans now frequently use private health care services, given the long waiting times of months and even years for tests, medical evaluations, treatments and surgeries under the Caja. The vast majority of Costa Ricans, however, still rely on the more than 30 hospitals and 1,000 local clinics (EBAIS) under the Caja.”
40) National: Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is trying to set rules of the road for how the U.S. government uses artificial intelligence. “While not a headline name in the broader conversation about AI in Washington, Peters—who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security Governmental Affairs—pushed several AI bills through Congress in the years preceding this spring’s sudden hype cycle. He’s already sent two AI bills to the Senate floor this year. And last week Peters quietly introduced a third bill, the AI LEAD Act, which is scheduled for a markup on Wednesday. His bills focus exclusively on the federal government, setting rules for AI training, transparency and how agencies buy AI-driven systems. Though narrower than the plans of Schumer and others, they also face less friction and uncertainty—and may offer the simplest way for Congress to shape the emerging industry, particularly when it’s not clear what other leverage Washington has.”
41) Michigan: It’s been 10 years since the Detroit bankruptcy. Is it time for the state to loosen the emergency controls it exercises over the city and, potentially, other towns? Efforts are underway to repeal the current law, though it is unclear if they will succeed. ProPublica has an analysis of the issues. “Eric Scorsone, an associate professor and director of Michigan State University’s Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, is among those who see flaws in the way the state has handled emergency management. A specialist in local government public finance, he’s worked at state agencies in Michigan and Colorado and as an adviser in Flint and Detroit. Early on, Scorsone said, he didn’t like the expanded version of emergency management law but thought it might be necessary. ‘I’ve definitely changed my views,’ he said. In a March presentation to the Michigan Senate’s general government subcommittee, Scorsone outlined alternative ways for the state to approach struggling cities and schools—including reforms to keep them from struggling in the first place. There was, he said on one slide, ‘no need to remove local democracy.’ In a conversation with ProPublica, Scorsone described three critical lessons from Michigan’s experience with emergency management.”
42) International: Writing in The Economist, the Mathew Lawrence of the Common Wealth think tank, explains why privatization has been a costly failure in Britain. “The case for privatisation rested on two claims, reiterated by Michael Howard, writing recently for The Economist. First, the bracing force of competition would improve utility management and hence overall outcomes. Second, it would unlock access to private capital to fund much-needed investment that would otherwise be held back by short-termism and scarcity—supposedly endemic to public ownership. Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. Private management and weak regulation have delivered a crisis-ridden sector and chronic underinvestment. Water companies have made clear that investment will be funded mainly by increased bills, undermining the idea that private capital is essential for investment.” [Sub required]