By Benita M. Dodd
For the fifth year in a row, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute will bring game-changing, market-oriented, limited-government reforms ideas to the state at the Georgia Legislative Policy Forum in Atlanta on September 19.
The daylong Forum, which had an attendance in 2013 of about 250 Georgians – legislators, legislative staff, grassroots activists, policy-makers and interested citizens – has been described as “the opening act of the General Assembly.”
For the past four years, the theme was, “Wisdom, Justice and Innovation,” a step beyond the state motto of, “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.” This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of a global milestone of our modern era – the Fall of the Berlin Wall – the theme for the Forum’s state and national experts is “Tearing Down Walls.”
The Forum will feature a special segment to commemorate the anniversary, with a Georgian whose grandfather led the Berlin Airlift, a Georgian whose father was an East German guard who escaped over the Wall, and a Georgian who reunited the world leaders behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall – in Atlanta.
As in past years, the Forum’s sessions focus on critical issues that make and keep Georgia competitive, in the national arena and against neighboring states. While it’s difficult to follow the growth of an idea after a state-focused education research organization like the Georgia Public Policy Foundation plants the seed, the Foundation believes – as Harry Truman is credited with saying – “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.“
Five years ago, Georgia legislators learned at the Forum about innovative ideas in criminal justice reform and digital learning. Today, Georgia is “smart on crime.” Through bipartisan reform led by our nonpartisan think tank, the state is a leader in criminal justice reform. Crime is down. The inmate population has flatlined. And the state is on schedule to save more than $300 million.
Just this year, Georgia was named one of the top eight states in the nation in digital learning, with three virtual schools and more than 300 classes available to students across the state, from modern languages to AP courses.
This year, three separate sessions focus on “Tearing Down Walls:” to education, tax and health care reform. Highlights:
Tearing Down Walls to Education Reform: Education innovators Clint Bolick of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, Sajan George of Matchbook Learning and Gerard Robinson, who was the top education official in both Florida and Virginia, will discuss student-focused options including funding that follows the student, personalized learning and expanding school choice options for Georgia students.
Tearing Down Walls to Tax Reform: Economist Liz Malm of the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation (famous for its annual Tax Freedom Day report); former North Carolina Sen. Thom Goolsby, who was a leader in the movement to slash that state’s income taxes, and Georgia Public Policy Foundation President Kelly McCutchen will discuss proposals to reduce and eventually eliminate personal income taxes in Georgia.
Tearing Down Walls to Health Care Reform: What if you could get your family’s primary health care covered for $1,440 a year? Panelist Dr. Josh Umbehr will explain how he can offer direct primary care – “concierge care for the little guy” – for as little as $50 a month, providing almost unlimited access to primary care. Jimmy Childre, CEO of a rural hospital in Sandersville, Ga., loses money on nearly 90 percent of his patients; he shares his ideas on thoughtful alternatives to Medicaid expansion in Georgia that can solve Georgia’s rural hospital crisis and give patients better access to care.
The day’s keynote speakers are radio host Herman Cain, grassroots leader, successful businessman and former presidential candidate, and the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick, a co-founder of the Institute for Justice whose favorite line is, “I get paid to sue government bureaucrats!”
“Every year, the Forum is a unique opportunity to bring innovative ideas directly to Georgia leaders,” said Foundation President Kelly McCutchen.
“It allows some of the nation’s best and brightest policy experts to provide an honest, fruitful and firsthand exchange of ideas that turn into policy action in Georgia.
“And best of all, we don’t care who gets the credit when our great ideas are implemented!”
Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)