Occupational Licensing Reduces Consumer Benefits from Online Platforms
“The share of U.S. workers required to hold an occupational license has exploded from around 5% in 1950 to 25% in 2020,” writes Reason Foundation’s Vittorio Nastasi. Occupational licensing has a documented history of limiting competition and stifling innovation while making certain classes of professionals into protected classes. Nastasi reviews recent literature pointing to yet another negative impact of occupational licensing: making it harder to use the online platforms that rate home improvement contractors. Using data from the popular home improvement site Angi’s HomeAdvisor, a Harvard researcher estimated that a recent New Jersey pool contractor licensing law resulted in customers becoming 16% less likely to find at least one qualified contractor on the site, with an overall negative impact of licensing as high as 25%. As Nastasi notes, licensing, in this case, squanders some of the benefits buyers and sellers can enjoy from online platforms.
ESG Investing Violates Fiduciary Duty in Public Pension Plans
Investing based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards is a hot topic. Reason Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Hiller argues that ESG investing must be subject to clear fiduciary standards for public pension funds, so they first ensure secure retirement benefits for their members and limit costs to taxpayers. Hiller points out the important differences between individual investors, who are free to pursue any investment strategies—such as boycotts of companies and industries for ESG or activist reasons— they want and pension systems, whose advisors have a fiduciary duty to pursue the best strategies to maximize returns. When public pension fund managers make decisions based on ESG or any other political motivations, they violate that fiduciary duty, Hiller writes.
NEWS & NOTES
West Virginia University Seeks Potential Energy P3: Inframation News revealed that West Virginia University released a request for proposals (RFP) for financial advisors to assist in developing a public-private partnership (P3) for the school’s utility systems, including energy and chilled water facilities. According to the RFP’s language, the school “envisions some form of public/private partnership, whether in the form of a concession agreement, design-build-finance-operate-maintain agreement, or some other transactional structure.”
Hawaii Rejects P3 for Aloha Stadium: After three years of planning and millions spent on the project, Hawaii Gov. David Ige revealed he would reject using a public-private partnership to redevelop Aloha Stadium near Honolulu. Instead, a state agency (The University of Hawaii has been mentioned, though a final decision is still pending) will pursue the project itself with $350 million set aside by the state legislature earlier this year, according to the Ige administration and the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.
Mississippi City Begins Outsourced Public Works: This month, the city of Petal, Mississippi, began a contract with Alabama-based ClearWater Solutions to take over most of the duties of the town’s public works division. Aside from solid waste management, which WastePro handles for the city in a separate contract, the ClearWater contract will cover all other division functions, including water and sewer operations, as well as road and fleet maintenance. Town aldermen voted to enter into the contract in August, citing difficulties in hiring and keeping employees, performance and compliance issues, as well as rising costs of pensions and health insurance.
Towamencin Faces Vote That May Make Sewer Sale Illegal: In November, residents in Towamencin Township, Pennsylvania, will vote on a referendum that could potentially void a pending sale of the city’s sewer system to NextEra Energy for $115 million. Supporters of the referendum hope that by creating a home rule charter, the sale of the sewer system could be canceled, but admit the strategy “hasn’t been tested yet.” In May, town supervisors approved the deal, which still awaits an approval decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Economic Study Shows Benefits of Police Work Outsourcing: A report by the Montreal Economic Institute showed how large American cities can save taxpayers money by delegating non-critical police functions to private employees. By outsourcing a combination of administrative work and traffic enforcement, the study found that Los Angeles, Miami, and Milwaukee could annually save anywhere from $31 million, Milwaukee’s low estimate, to over $350 million, Los Angeles’ high estimate. The authors also cite the advantages of competitive bidding to ensure those functions are handled by the most capable and accountable actors.
Texas City Releases RFP for Publicly-Owned Waterfront Parcel: The city of Beaumont, Texas, released a request for proposals to seek a purchaser and developer for 555 Main Street, a 2.7-acre downtown lot that sits on the Neches River waterfront. The city is providing $25 million for the project and also cleaned up a rail yard site to facilitate the purchase. Attracting economic development is a primary concern the city says. Beaumont’s population doubled from 1940–1960 but has mostly remained stagnant for the past 60 years.
U.S. Air Force Releases Microreactor RFP: The United States Air Force released an RFP for a pilot program dedicated to creating a nuclear microreactor at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The Air Force hopes to develop microreactors for its more remote installations, citing their adaptability to changing conditions and ability to operate independently from the power grid. The microreactor resulting from the project will be privately owned and operated.
“Our (Public Employees Retirement System), we pay 17.4 percent on that, which kind of hurts us,” Ducker said in a previous story. “And we’ve noticed over the last year or so that we’re losing people that are going into construction and other jobs that are just able to pay more…So the privatization could be a good thing for some of the employees because they would get a pay increase. It’s tough when you’re paying folks $15 and $16 an hour, and other municipalities and private entities are paying $19 to $22 an hour.”
—Petal Mayor Tony Ducker on the decision to outsource the city’s public works division
“(T)he reality of policing in the United States is that we have asked police to take on more and more responsibilities that are increasingly far removed from critical policing tasks.”
—From “Enhancing Public Safety While Saving Public Dollars with Auxiliary Private Security Agents” by the Montreal Economic Institute
“I am concerned that we spent three years and $25 million to get to this point, and we were all ready to go. And here we are two months before the end of their term, they’re saying that they somehow have a miraculously better idea to hasten this project?”
–Hawaii State Sen. Glenn Wakai on the decision not to pursue a P3 for the redevelopment of Aloha Stadium
“The release of the RFP for the Eielson AFB micro-reactor is a critical next step in furthering the development and deployment of reliable and clean energy technology at Department of the Air Force installations. This program is extremely important to mission assurance and sustainment in the face of climate change and continued national defense threats, and demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring our installations have a safe, reliable supply of energy, no matter their location.”
– Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure Nancy Balkus on a pilot program to develop a nuclear microreactor at Eielson Air Force Base