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Out of Control Policy Blog Archives: 5.5.13–5.11.13

Louisiana Republicans Introduce Bills to Replicate Massachusetts's Pro-Union, Anti-Privatization “Pacheco Law”

My latest column offers a critique of two bills introduced in the Louisiana legislature that are modeled after the Massachusetts "Pacheco Law," which is widely regarded as the most onerous and stringent anti-privatization law in the country. Here's a brief excerpt:

Two proposed bills introduced in the Louisiana legislature—and passed by a House committee earlier this week—raise serious barriers to fiscal responsibility, as the bills would effectively shut down the ability of the current and future governors to use the proven tool of competitive contracting to lower the costs of state government.

House Bill 240 (sponsored by Rep. Kenny Havard) and House Bill 519 (sponsored by Rep. Cameron Henry) are two alternative versions of a “Privatization Review Act” designed to place significant hurdles in front of routine, sensible privatization efforts used by governors of all political stripes across the country. Given the similarity to a 1993 law enacted in Massachusetts at the behest of government employee unions—and which has stymied privatization efforts in that state for two decades since—a more appropriate title for the proposed Louisiana bills would be the "Louisiana Government Employee Protection Act."

Specifically, HB 240 and HB 519 would prohibit agencies from entering into privatization contracts without prior legislative review and approval, and they would subject routine contracting decisions to onerous pre-procurement and contract review processes clearly designed to protect state employee jobs and elevate the interests of government employee unions over those of taxpayers at large.

The proposed bills are modeled nearly word-for-word after Massachusetts’ “Pacheco Law” (named for its legislative sponsor) that “has basically shut down all privatization efforts in state government,” according to an April 2013 Boston Globe editorial, which also noted that, “the purpose of state government isn’t to be a jobs program, particularly one that turns a blind eye to opportunities for savings.”

[...]

In January 2011, the Globe's editorial board wrote that the anti-privatization Pacheco Law “doesn’t just keep government agencies from saving money by hiring outside contractors to perform certain services. It also sends a broad message: In Massachusetts, the demands of special-interest groups — in this case, public-employee unions — can outweigh the obligation to run government efficiently."

Louisiana taxpayers would be right to question why some of their own state legislators are trying to replicate the law that has been so counterproductive in the Bay State for decades. Does Louisiana really want to become a profligate, big-spending state like Massachusetts and remove proven cost-cutting tools from the toolbox?

Read the full article here.

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40th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws: Time to Re-think Sentencing Policy

40 years ago today, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller enacted the toughest drug laws in the nation. Known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws, this legislation served as a milestone in America’s war on drugs and helped paved the way for the enactment of similar legislation that became the norm in sentencing policy across the nation, even to this day.

After President Nixon declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one” in 1971, Rockefeller, like many politicians across the U.S., pushed for “tough on crime” policies that demanded harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, even low-level drug dealers and addicts. When passed, the Rockefeller Drug Laws forced New York judges to sentence those convicted of possessing small amounts of certain drugs, even marijuana, to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison, similar to sentences handed out for second-degree murder convictions.

The harsh Rockefeller Drug laws became the model for other states seeking similar “tough on crime” policies, and many adopted New York’s approach to sentencing. This forceful reaction to the nation’s perceived drug problem led to a dramatic increase in the number of prisoners serving sentences for drug offenses, and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars over time.

According to NPR:

Due in part to Rockefeller-style laws, the nation's prison population exploded from 330,000 in 1973 to a peak of 2.3 million. That meant building hundreds of new state and federal prisons. By 2010, more than 490,000 people were working as prison guards.

It’s clear, however, that public opinion has shifted since the Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted 40 years ago. Indeed, even Joseph Persico, the aide who helped push through Rockefeller's drug laws, has said, “I concluded very early that this was a failure. It's filling up the prisons, first-time offenders. This was obviously unjust — and not just unjust, it was unwise; it was ineffective."

As the negative effects of these laws have become more apparent, a number of states have reduced or completely eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses in an attempt to reduce their swollen prison populations and corrections expenditures, New York being one of them. In 2009, New York partially reformed Rockefeller Drug Laws by restoring judicial discretion in most drug cases, expanding drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration, and providing retroactive sentencing relief for people serving prison time for low-level drug offenses.

Despite the changes made in some states, many other states still sentence nonviolent drug offenders as they did forty years ago. As a result, more than 330,000 Americans are serving long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses in prisons that are becoming increasingly overcrowded. Inmates serving sentences for drug offenses make up 47.3 percent of the current inmate population in federal prisons.

It’s time to come to terms with the fact that this Rockefeller Drug Law-era of sentencing has failed. In his 2009 State of the State address, New York Governor David Patterson told his audience: "I can't think of a criminal justice strategy that has been more unsuccessful than the Rockefeller Drug Laws." One hopes that on the 40th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, lawmakers across the country are having similar revelations about their own failed sentencing policies.

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Latest Articles on Reason Foundation

Innovators in Action: Jacksonville, FL Commissioner of Public-Private Partnerships Renée Finley on Building the City's PPP Program to Drive Efficiency, Quality of Life

Soon after taking office in July 2011, Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown established the city’s first Office of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a means to leverage greater returns from public resources by cultivating new funding sources for city initiatives, forging new partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors, and optimizing the use of public assets and city-owned real estate.

Consistent with the office’s mission, Mayor Brown looked to the private sector for leadership of the new PPP office, ultimately appointing Renée Finley—an executive-on-loan from Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida)—in November 2011 to build the new office and set a course for PPPs in Jacksonville. In less than two years, the PPP office has already generated some significant results, including tapping approximately $7 million in direct private sector donations and grants, and approximately $2 million in identified cost savings opportunities through efficiency and competition initiatives.

In our latest interview in the Innovators in Action 2013 series, I interview Finley on the origins and accomplishments to date of Jacksonville’s PPP program, lessons learned along the way, and more. Here's a brief excerpt of the interview:

Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation: What drove Mayor Brown's decision to launch the Office of PPPs so early in his administration?

Renée Finley, Commissioner of Public-Private Partnerships, City of Jacksonville, Florida: The concept started with the mayor and his vision to reform government. Coming into office, he was faced with a $53 million budget deficit, so he articulated a number of reform goals, one of which was to position the city government for the new economic reality that we were facing. And he had a second goal of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of government. Mayor Brown believes that we can attain more efficiency in the delivery of public services and achieve better results by leveraging the strengths of both the private and nonprofit sectors.

Gilroy: What goals did the mayor have in setting up the Office of PPPs? What were the areas of focus?

Finley: There were really four key areas of focus. The first was around optimizing assets and services, and the thought was, “how do we leverage the strengths and resources of the private and nonprofit sectors in the delivery of public services and public works?” And furthermore, he wanted to explore opportunities to leverage city assets—in particular, real estate assets—by getting them in the hands of the private sector so they can drive additional private investment for further economic development for the city.

The second area of focus was around the facilitation of private interest in economic and urban development. The third area of focus was to facilitate private support and nonprofit involvement in education and workforce development initiatives. And, the fourth area focuses on delivering partnerships that improve the quality of life for Jacksonville citizens.

Check out the full interview here for details on the results of Jacksonville's PPP initiatives thus far, which will hopefully inspire other cities to pursue similar endeavors.

Other articles featured in the Innovators in Action 2013 series are available here.

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New at Reason: Looking Back at the Last Year in Local Government Privatization

The rollout of Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2013 continues today with the release of the Local Government Privatization section—authored by Reason's Harris Kenny, Adam Summers and Steven Titch—which provides an overview of the latest on privatization and public-private partnerships in local government. Articles include:

  • Mayor Emanuel Establishes Chicago Infrastructure Trust
  • Public-Private Partnerships for Parking Assets
  • Yonkers, New York Pursuing Innovative School Partnership Approach
  • City of Austin Releases Surprising Outsourcing Study
  • Georgia Contract Cities Continue to Evolve
  • Finding New Ways to Provide Parks and Recreation Amenities
  • Water and Wastewater Privatization Update
  • Solid Waste Collection Update
  • Non-Profit Partnerships for Animal Shelters Grow
  • ANALYSIS: Is Managed Competition Dead in San Diego?
  • ANALYSIS: San Diego, San Jose Lead the Way in Local Pension Reform
  • ANALYSIS: Despite Glossy Reports, Muni Broadband is Still a Net Money Loser
  • Local Government Privatization News and Notes

» Annual Privatization Report 2013: Local Government Privatization
» Complete Annual Privatization Report 2013

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New at Reason: Privatization Developments in Criminal Justice and Corrections

The rollout of Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2013 continues today with the release of the Criminal Justice and Corrections section—authored by Leonard Gilroy, Harris Kenny, Alexander Volokh and Andrew Livingston—which provides an overview of the latest on privatization and public-private partnerships in criminal justice and corrections. Topics include:

  • 2012 Corrections Privatization Overview
  • State and International Corrections Privatization Update
  • State and Local Correctional Healthcare Privatization Update
  • ANALYSIS: Recent Developments in the Federal Civil-Rights Liability of Federal Private Prisons
  • FOCUS: The Emergence of Social Impact Bonds: Paying for Success in Social Service Innovation
  • FOCUS: Colorado, Washington State Vote to Tax and Regulate Recreational Marijuana for Adults

» Annual Privatization Report 2013: Criminal Justice and Corrections
» Complete Annual Privatization Report 2013

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