August 23: “Policy Over Politics,” with keynote speaker Kyle Wingfield, is a Foundation Leadership Breakfast on Thursday, August 23, at the 1818 Club in Duluth. Welcome by Georgia State Rep. Brett Harrell, a longtime friend of the Foundation and Gwinnett County resident. 8 a.m. (Registration, networking 7:30 a.m.) $20. Register here.
September 7: Early Bird registration is open now for the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum! This daylong event on Friday, September 7, at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel will include sessions on health care reform, education innovation, pension reform and more. Register at the $75 Early Bird rate until August 12; see the agenda here to view our exciting lineup of participants! View last year’s program here.
Quotes of note
“While well-meaning, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has spawned a cottage industry where disabled Americans, aided by unscrupulous attorneys, file multiple numbers of lawsuits against business owners who are more inclined to settle than engage in litigation they can ill-afford.” – Arnold Ahlert
“Republicans and President Trump are talking about tax reform 2.0. Unfortunately, it’s futile without first having a real conversation about controlling spending.” – Veronique de Rugy
Energy and environment
Reality check: Half the power-generating capacity added in the nation last year was solar and wind, writes Nolan Hertel in The Augusta Chronicle, but “it simply isn’t realistic to believe that solar and wind power can replace the need for fossil fuels and nuclear power.” Despite government mandates and tax breaks, solar and wind combined supply just 8 percent of the nation’s electricity; meanwhile, coal, natural gas and nuclear power account for more than 80 percent of the nation’s electricity-generating capacity.
Quality air: The federal Environmental Protection Agency has released its annual air quality report. “Our Nation’s Air: Status and Trends Through 2017” documents the considerable improvements in air quality across America over more than 45 years. Between 1970 and 2017, the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 73 percent, even as the U.S. economy grew more than three times.
Got gas? Thanks to shale gas, daily U.S. production of natural gas averaged 71.1 billion cubic feet (Bcf/d) in 2017, putting it at No.1 in the world with a 20 percent share of global production, according to the 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. That was a 1 percent increase over 2016. For perspective, production for the entire Middle East was 63.8 Bcf/d while Russia, in second place among countries, surged 8.2 percent to 61.5 Bcf/d, still well behind the United States. Source: Mansfield Energy
Criminal justice reform
Getting out, staying out: Prison recidivism rate has dropped by nearly a quarter, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Of prison inmates released in 2005, 48 percent were back in prison within three years. Of those released in 2012, 37 percent were back in prison within three years. Recidivism dropped 35 percent in Georgia from 2007 to 2016. Adam Gelb of Pew declared this “strong evidence” that evidence-based policies and programs are working to cut crime and incarceration.
Students first: GeorgiaCAN has launched a multi-week ad campaign to reinforce putting the interests of children before bureaucracy. The campaign, united under the hashtag #GeorgiaKidsFirst, will include television, radio and digital ads. Find out more at GeorgiaKidsFirst.org.
Effects of pre-k: Researchers are not impressed with the long-term effects of Tennessee’s pre-k program. A five-year, $6 million (ongoing) study – only the second randomized study after a Head Start Impact study – found that at the end of the pre‐k year, program participants showed better outcomes than “comparable nonparticipants,” but by third grade they scored lower than peers in the study in reading, science and math. Researchers noted, “State-funded pre-k is a popular idea, but for the sake of the children and the promise of pre-k, credible evidence that a rather typical state program is not accomplishing its goals should provoke some reassessment.” Read more here.
First-mile, last-mile: Valley Metro transit in Phoenix, Ariz., is paying up to $200,000 for a partnership with Waymo to test using self-driving cars to deliver people to bus stops and light-rail stations. Transit officials say the project is worth the money because it will help show the impact of autonomous vehicles on public transportation. Source: Phoenix News-Times
Meanwhile in Georgia: A Gwinnett County referendum in March will let voters decide on joining MARTA after commissioners approved a contract with the transit agency. A one-cent sales tax would be imposed until at least 2057 to fund the service, envisioned to include heavy rail from the Doraville MARTA station to at least Jimmy Carter Boulevard and possibly Gwinnett Place Mall. Source: Gwinnett Daily Post
Express lanes: WSB Radio held an information session with transportation leaders this week about the metro area express toll lanes. With the Northwest Corridor reversible Express Toll Lanes (I-75/575) expected to be operational by Labor Day, the learning curve is steep. Listen to the program podcast here; read the highlights here.
Taxes and spending
Your cut of the tax cut: The federal tax cut legislation passed last year is expected to add 215,000 full-time jobs in 2018, with 6,626 of those jobs in Georgia, according to the Tax Foundation. The average income tax cut ranges from about 9 percent in Karen Handel’s Sixth Congressional district to nearly 16 percent in Sanford Bishop’s congressional district, according to the Heritage Foundation.
Up, up and away: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan would increase government health care spending by a whopping $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to the Mercatus Center. Sanders’ plan builds on Medicare, the insurance program for seniors. All U.S. residents would be covered with no copays and deductibles for medical services and the insurance industry relegated to a minor role. Source: News reports
Bad actors: A new federal report finds some hospice providers are bilking Medicare and neglecting patients. It calls for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to increase its level of scrutiny. In 2016, Medicare paid hospice providers $16.7 billion, up from $9.2 billion a decade earlier. Unlike many other health care providers that are paid per service, hospices are paid per patient, per day. Source: NPR
This month in the archives: In August 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “What You Can’t Find On Amazon Or Google.” It noted, “Even though there is still some very basic information that average citizens can’t access, it’s exciting to think about our opportunities. Look what the Internet has done for buying airline tickets, books, software and automobiles. Making the same information on cost and quality available to millions of Georgians could have a tremendous impact on how government operates.”
Social media: Visit the Georgia Legislative Policy Forum page on Facebook to see the photos from the 2017 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum. The Foundation’s Facebook page has earned 3,359 “likes;” our Twitter account has 1,860 followers! Join them!
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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Thank you for the great work that the Public Policy Foundation is doing across our state setting a wonderful example. I first ran for the Senate in 1994, and the Foundation was that resource I called upon to be a great help to me as we were articulating positions and formulating public policy initiatives. We appreciate very much your leadership and all that you stand for.