Restricting Privatization

Privatization During an Economic Downturn: Still Inefficient and Problematic

The lure is the supposed promise that privatization will deliver a short-term budget fix.  Yet many privatization efforts, as this Dispatch will highlight, have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and botched services for the public.  That privatization continues to move forward despite such a poor track record reflects pure ideology that the private market delivers the most efficient outcomes, even without demonstrable results.  Some states may also be making the more cynical decision to pursue immediate short-term infusions of capital at the expense of long-term financial cost in pursuit of short-term electoral gains.  In any case, privatization comes at the expense of long-term investments in the community, sustainable budget policy and public accountability.

Voting Machine Merger Threatens Integrity of Elections

Last month, leading voting machine manufacturer Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) purchased Premier Election Solutions from its parent company, Diebold Inc. ES&S currently controls 50% of the voting machine market in the US and the acquisition of Premier will add another 33%, giving the company control of over 80% of the market.  The sale was not announced prior to completion and has raised serious concerns among voting integrity advocates and lawmakers.

PSN's Legislative Leadership Retreat: Policy and Organizing for 2010

Last week in Detroit, state legislators and key organizational allies of Progressive States Network came together at our annual Legislative Leadership Retreat to plan our legislative work for 2010.  Recognizing both the challenges and opportunities facing progressives in the present economic and political environment, participants planned an ambitious policy and outreach strategy for the coming year.  Held in conjunction with the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN) annual conference of policy organizations, the event was a chance to discuss how progressive legislators could work more effectively with each other and with organizational allies.  The event was a chance to celebrate the achievements of Progressive States Network and its progressive legislators and organizational allies, while planning for an even more successful future for the Network.

Texas Session Roundup

The Texas legislature only meets once every two years, and this year there was enough drama, both real and fabricated, to last until they reconvene in 2011.  The biggest story by the end of the session was the minority parties ability to kill voter ID legislation in the House by "chubbing" or running out the clock by meticulously debating non-controversial legislation.  The need to prevent the disenfranchising ID bill has the unfortunate consequence of killing much good legislation.  And the primary reason there was good legislation to pass in the House was the big intrigue from the beginning of the session - the election of a compromise speaker with minority party support, replacing long-time speaker and conservative stalwart Tom Craddick.

Major Victory for Transparency in Elections

The District of Columbia has obtained an agreement from Sequoia Voting Systems to review a vast amount of information about one of their voting machines, which somehow recorded thousands of extra ballots during the September primaries. Investigators assembled by the council will have access to the source code and documents related to its creation, as well as blueprints for the machine hardware.  

Assuring Accountability and Equity in Recovery Spending

In this Dispatch, we emphasize that any stimulus spending has to be tied to increased accountability and transparency in spending decisions, especially by government contractors who often operate like a shadow government with little oversight.  One key reality is that those most in need often don't receive help from government spending without transparency and accountability measures built into the rules.  While the recent federal recovery plan made real strides in expanding such accountability, additional measures are still needed if the recovery plan is going to deliver real equity in our economic recovery.

Buy American and Fair Trade Policies to Spur National and Global Economic Recovery

As this Dispatch will outline, Buy American policies are a first step in promoting an alternative to the trade and deregulation policies that fueled the current economic crisis.  Ultimately, we need policies that strengthen local tools for economic growth at home, combined with fair trade policies to raise wage standards abroad as well.   Also, as corporate interests increasingly use trade agreements to restrict state authority to protect worker, consumer and environmental interests, states are increasingly reviewing those trade agreements in order to restore states' ability to effectively respond to economic crises and protect the long-term interests of working families.

Privatization Update: Schools, Prisons, Mental Health -- and What States are Doing to Hold Contractors Accountable

Given the central role of private contractors in delivering public services, this Dispatch continues our series of Privatization Updates (see November's edition). Today we focus on current privatization debates in the education, prison and mental health sectors -- and what states are doing to increase accountability for contractors.

Transparency and Economic Recovery: What States Are Required To Do and Why They Should Do It

The new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains significant funding for the states, but it also has tight new transparency rules requiring states to track how all federal funds are being spent and the number of jobs created.  These provisions aren't just ethically desirable, they are extremely practical fiscal measures for combating the recession and growing the economy.  Strict transparency can save states millions in unnecessary expenditures and increase the quality of work they receive from private contractors, while simultaneously ensuring that contractors create quality, decent-paying jobs to help turn the economy around.

The unfortunate reality is that most states are not collecting the necessary information to meet the standards required by the Recovery Act. This Dispatch is designed to summarize what states need to do.