U.S. Senate

Privatizing Government Services in the Era of ALEC and the Great Recession – Section II, ALEC

note:  this is the third in a series of articles published by the University of Toledo Law Review written by Ellen Dannin

PRIVATIZING GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN THE ERA OF ALEC AND THE GREAT RECESSION

II.   THE AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC)

The American Legislative Exchange Council was, until recently, a little-known but very powerful and influential organization.  ALEC’s most important role is drafting model legislation. 20   According to ALEC, it “has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation.” 21   More than 200 of ALEC’s model bills were enacted in 2009. 22   Until April 17, 2012, ALEC’s model legislation was developed and promoted by nine national task forces.  On that date, ALEC announced that it was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections task force in order to focus on economic issues.23   The remaining task forces are Civil Justice; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development; Communications and Technology; Education; Energy, Environment and Agriculture; Health and Human Services; International Relations; and Tax and Fiscal Policy. 24

According to ALEC, its task forces “also commission research, publish issue papers, convene More →

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans’ e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files.

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week. More →

Postal Service Set to Default on Billions in Health Fund Payments

The Postal Service, faced with continuing financial losses because of a drop in mail volume, expects to default for the first time on its annual payment for future retiree health benefits.

The $5.5 billion payment, which was deferred from the 2011 fiscal year, is due Aug. 1. The Postal Service is also scheduled to make a $5.6 billion payment for 2012 in September. A spokesman for the agency said that barring intervention from Congress, it would default on both payments.

“We are simply not capable of making either of these payments to the U.S. Treasury, in part or in full, while continuing to meet our other legal obligations, including our obligation to provide universal service to the American people,” said the spokesman, Dave Partenheimer.

Missing the health care payment will not cause immediate disaster, nor will it affect current retiree benefits. The Postal Service will still be able to pay its employees and buy fuel for its trucks to deliver mail on time, postal officials said.

To read more about this latest problem to beset the USPS and the reasons for it, please click here

DISCLOSE Act dies again

On a strictly partisan 53-45 vote, it fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would force unions, nonprofits and corporate interest groups that spend $10,000 or more during an election cycle to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more. Whitehouse’s version no longer required sponsors of electioneering ads to have a disclaimer at the end and pushed the effective date to 2013.

“When somebody is spending the kind of money that is being spent, a single donor making, for instance, a $4 million anonymous contribution, they’re not doing that out of the goodness of their heart,” Whitehouse said on the floor.

To read comments from the likes of John McCain as to why he now opposes campaign finance reform, please click here