Jun 11 2011

Here’s One Government Program Republicans Don’t Want to Privatize

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Ed. Note: Story updated below…

And so should you...

In fact, they want to “de-privatize” it.

Betsy and In Session reported yesterday on the one thing that was probably as sure to happen as the sun rising in the east, setting in the west, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s love of Consort Hair Spray for Men. Planned Parenthood of Davidson Co. is going to lose its funding for Family Planning services from the state and Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis may not be far behind.

What’s weird to me is the way this has all gone down. While Ron Ramsey finally blows some some up Bill Haslam’s way, there’s a vaguely worded letter from the head of the Metro Davidson Health Department to Susan Cooper, the Commissioner of the State Department of Health.

We will accept the full amount of funding for family planning services budgeted for Davidson County in FY12.

This acceptance is based on our understanding that the increased funding is not linked to a specific number of additional clients, as per your letter of June 3rd. It was our understanding earlier that the funding was tied to a specific caseload, and the proposed additional funding would represent only partial funding for the required caseload. As you know, we do not have local tax dollars available to expand this program. This combination of factors precluded us from accepting the full amount of funding available to Davidson County as it was offered in previous years.

We are confident that over time we can serve nearly the same number of clients that are currently served, and we will do what we can to ensure that these important services are not lost or adversely affected in Davidson County by this realignment.

Rachel at Women’s Health News already covered this but basically what the state and the Metro/Davidson Health Department have agreed to here is that the local Health Dept. will get all the Family Planning money from the state with no expectations that they’ll actually be able to help as many people as are currently served by the public/private partnership in Davidson Co.

Government efficiency at its finest.

So now that the people of Nashville know fewer women will be receiving family planning services, it might be good to know just how this happened.

The organizational structure of Nashville/Metro is comprised of several classes of groups that fall under the executive branch. Among them is the Health Department which has a six member board that meets on the 1st Thursday of the month. You can search their minutes, but I’ll go ahead and tell you minutes from the June 2 meeting aren’t there.

This probably couldn’t have happened without their consent. All six members are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council. Once they get placed, they have the power to name an executive, which they last did in April of 2007. This means the executive answers to the board, who answers to the Mayor and the Metro Council.

I find it hard to believe that a whole bunch of somebodies in that chain didn’t know this was coming. Further, the announcement just a week after their last meeting leads me to believe it was discussed, and just got “lost” which is code for buried in the ongoing Nashville campaign coverage.

Honestly, had Lt. Gov. Ron “Consort” Ramsey not crowed about it, it might have slipped by.

So what does this mean now? Well first, it means there’s a public record somewhere that can be looked into. It also means that the Mayor and the Metro Council can raise hell, if they want to. I’m sure a couple hundred angry women at a campaign event might light some fires under some asses.

This was meant to be lost. In fact, when boards meet on Thursday night, it means they want most of their business to bet lost over the weekend, because just about everyone checks out of news on Fridays.

So now there are a bunch of questions:

1. Is this binding? It’s possible it isn’t. I say this with the caveat that someone more familiar with Nashville Metro process may have better insight on this.

According to this editorial in yesterday’s Commercial Appeal, Davidson and Shelby Co. had until yesterday to respond to a request that they take over Family Planning funds, which explains the letter from Metro Davidson.

So sure there’s a letter, and some public announcements, but the state budget clearly allows contracting with Planned Parenthood. Some well place political pressure could reverse this decision. It will be interesting to see which Metro Council members get involved in this, as well as how advocates choose to proceed.

Further, the Metro Council would likely have to approve the grant. In looking at their June 7th resolution list there is a resolution approving the acceptance of $202,200 from the state for

“…public health activities to enhance the health and well-being of women, infants, and families by improving community resources and planning public health services.”

In order for this to be binding, it appears it will have to go through the Metro Council budget resolution process. I feel rather confident there will be some Council members with some questions.

2. What about Shelby Co.? That’s a really good question. Co-Governor Ron also said that Shelby was on its way to do the same thing.

Update: I missed this report from the Memphis Flyer indicating that Shelby County Health Dept. Admin Yvonne Madlock is resisting pressure from the state.

The only thing I know for sure is that Shelby Co. Health Dept. Administrator Yvonne Madlock has said they can’t do it now, and there would be a 6-12 month gap in services if they took it over. That said, Shelby Co. government is way less transparent than Nashville. Who knows what might have happened here that won’t be known for some time, though I doubt that Madlock would do something like this without being “made to”.

Our County Mayor is a Republican. There is a 7-6 split in our County Commission. And there’s a chance that at least one Democrat would vote to defund Planned Parenthood under the right circumstances. If the County Commission gets involved, all bets are off.

3. What can I do? For God’s sake raise hell! Come to the Justice for All Rally on Sunday. Write your Legislators and Commissioners. Get involved in the process.

We keep losing on this stuff because we think the Feds will protect us from local shenanigans. We keep losing on this stuff because we’re still living in this fairy tale world where Democrats in Nashville can keep it off the table. That ain’t the world we live in anymore folks and I would argue, we haven’t lived in that world for a very long time.

These folks that want to defund Planned Parenthood are engaged and involved. They are so far up the asses of their elected officials that they know what they had for lunch. If we don’t match that energy and advocacy we will continue to lose on this stuff.

They’ve got a majority in the Legislature and the Executive branch. The only way to beat this back is to get rid of legislators that vote against our interests, and not just in Shelby and Davidson counties, statewide. If we give up on the other 93 counties, we’ve given up on the whole damn state.

There are some real questions to be answered about where this change in funding lies in Nashville. Hopefully, someone can answer them. In the mean time, folks who value the mission and services of Planned Parenthood need to stand up, get pissed, and fight the real fight. Many already are, but we need an army. Until that army gets activated we’re going to keep losing ground on this stuff, ground that’s a lot harder to get back, no matter who’s in charge.