“America’s Pastor,” the Rev. Billy Graham, passed away this week at age 99. Tributes have poured in. No greater tribute can be paid, in our opinion, than an article by Louisiana’s WAFB.com about his casket. It speaks to his humility: At his request, the casket was built in 2006 by inmates of Lousiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola. The “Alcatraz of the South” is home to Louisiana’s most notorious criminals, but is also home to a renowned prison ministry. “This was a great honor. Because this is a great man of God and he wants … an inmate to build his coffin and get the inmate preachers involved ,and it’s mind-boggling; it sends a great message,” said Burl Cain.
Second Chance Month in April, sponsored by Prison Fellowship, celebrates brighter futures for those who have repaid their debt to society. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation played a leading role in Georgia’s criminal justice reforms.
You are invited to attend the Foundation’s March 27 Leadership Breakfast, “Second Chances,” featuring three Georgia leaders who champion “second chances” for Georgians who have paid their debt to society. Learn about Georgia’s progress and approaches with Bill McGahan of Georgia Works, Jay Neal, Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Georgia, and Andrea Shelton of Heartbound Ministries $30. 8 a.m., Georgian Club. Registration information soon at georgiapolicy.org/events.
February 26: The Foundation co-sponsors Georgia Justice Day 2018 at the State Capitol, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., highlighting criminal justice reforms, juvenile justice reforms and removing barriers to re-entry. Find out more here.
March 27: Second Chances, a Foundation Leadership Breakfast. (See above.)
Quotes of note
“It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.” – John Adams
“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” – George Washington
“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” – Ronald Reagan
State of the highways: Georgia ranks 18th in the nation in Reason Foundation’s 23rd Annual Highway Report released this month, which ranks states’ highway performance and cost-effectiveness. Georgia’s best rankings are rural arterial pavement condition (seventh), deficient bridges (ninth) and maintenance disbursements per mile (15th). Its worst ranking was 47th for urbanized area congestion. North Dakota’s highways were No. 1.
Taxes and spending
Long overdue: Kudos to Georgia legislators for seizing the opportunity in federal tax reform to cut the 6 percent income tax rate for Georgians. Governor Nathan Deal estimates the cut will save taxpayers more than $5 billion over the next five years. Change has been a long time coming – since 1937, in fact. It’s a good start to getting Georgia competitive with neighboring states, but there’s room for improvement, according to the Tax Foundation. The push to add another transportation sales tax could also hinder a shift to a consumption-based tax system.
Top secret: Over the past 11 years, OpenTheBooks.com has published salaries and bonus information for nearly every federal government employee. This year, it found the government’s response included “massive and targeted deletions of salary data.” In FY2016, 3,416 salaries were redacted. This time, 254,839 salaries were removed from the Civil Service payroll. “Considering that there are 1.35 million people employed by executive agencies, about one out of every five salaries are now hidden from the public.” Source: Foxnews.com
Lip service: Turf wars, special interests and protectionism all are barricades to expanding affordable, quality health care options in Georgia. This week, a bill that would have allowed advanced nurses to practice independently and write prescriptions in rural areas was pared down considerably. After vehement opposition from the Medical Association of Georgia, according to Sen. Renee Unterman, a committee substitute allows a physician to supervise eight advanced practice RNs at one time (up from four.) Source: Georgia Health News
Digital Learning Day: Thursday was Digital Learning Day. Writing for ExcelinEd, Lowell Matthews notes that, according to Code.org, there are more than 500,000 open computing jobs in the country. These jobs are projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs. With more than 14,000 students, Georgia Cyber Academy, a statewide online charter school, is Georgia’s largest K12 public school.
Top charter school: The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) named DeKalb PATH Academy GCSA’s 2018 Charter School of the Year. The fifth- through eighth-grade school provides a “high-level, college-bound education and culture;” about 80 percent of the school’s students are children of immigrants from Latin America, primarily Mexico and Central America.
This month in the archives: In February 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Tax Amnesty: Hidden Costs Outweigh Benefits.” It noted, “Rather than rewarding a handful of tax delinquents, Georgia should sponsor more creative enforcement efforts, and should find other, less disruptive ways to solve the larger budget dilemma.”
Foundation in the news: The Waycross Journal Herald published Lee Brewer Jones’ article on college student fees.
Have a great weekend.
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When I served four terms in the state Senate, one of the few places where you could go to always and get concrete information about real solutions was the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. That hasn’t changed. [The Foundation] is really right up there at the top of the state think tanks, so you should be very proud of the work that they are doing!