September 7: The 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum is a daylong conference at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel on Friday, September 7, featuring an exciting lineup of experts on state-focused reforms in health care, education and pensions! Registration is open to the public and includes breakfast and lunch. $100. Register here. Find out more in today’s commentary or view the agenda here.
Quotes of note
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine (1777)
“Given the resistance that user-charge proposals frequently generate, whether reasonable or not, it is not surprising that politicians generally prefer to avoid imposing charges. And even if they do so, the user-charge system they end up putting in place is often so hobbled and complex … that it is never quite clear who is paying how much for what.” – Richard M. Bird and Enid Slack, “Who Should Pay for Infrastructure?”
“I continue to be amazed at how many Americans erroneously believe that (1) the federal government owns the interstates, and (2) that since they are ‘already paid for,’ using tolls for them would be ‘double taxation.’ Actually, the states own all the interstates and are fully responsible for maintaining, improving and replacing them as they wear out. And, since most are nearing the end of their 50-year design life, somebody is going to have to pay to rebuild them, and also to replace major bottleneck interchanges in urban areas and to add lanes where needed. There is no federal program in sight to come to the states’ rescue on this.” – Bob Poole
August 23: The deadline is Tuesday to register for “Policy Over Politics,” the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Leadership Breakfast on Thursday, August 23, at the 1818 Club in Duluth. The keynote speaker is Kyle Wingfield, the Foundation’s president. 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 21: Mark your calendar for a Policy Briefing Luncheon and Book Forum with Bob Poole, director of Transportation Policy at Reason Foundation. Details soon!
Criminal justice reform
Paying dividends: Governor Nathan Deal shared some of Georgia’s criminal justice reform successes with President Trump this month. For example, the recidivism rate among graduates of accountability courts is just 2 percent, and the rate has declined 24 percent among inmates who complete vocational training programs. Recidivism rates for those who earn a GED while incarcerated decreased 19 percent and total commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice are down 46 percent since 2014.
Rail off-track: The European Court of Auditors has found chronic cost overruns, delays and poor performance in Europe’s expanding set of high-speed rail lines. The study reviewed 10 completed or under-construction projects; of the six operating already, trains were running at speeds averaging only 45 percent of each line’s design capacity. Source: Reason Foundation
Work requirements: Many Arkansas Medicaid enrollees are not complying with the state’s Medicaid work requirements implemented in June and thousands risk losing coverage. In July, 12,722 people either failed to report their activities to the state or did not meet the state’s 80-hour-a-month work requirement. The vast majority did not log on to the state’s Medicaid website to report, according to The Hill. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the state should consider migrating to a mobile phone-based reporting system.
Overdose deaths: Drug overdose deaths surpassed 72,000 in 2017, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recorded a 6.6 percent increase over 2016 deaths, but noted the numbers are preliminary and probably an underestimate. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose sharply from 2016, while deaths from heroin, prescription opioid pills and methadone fell, the CDC said. Source: The Hill
Growing market: Electronics retailer Best Buy has entered the health care business, targeting technology for older Americans. Last year, Best Buy introduced Assured Living, a service that helps adult children remotely check in on their parents’ health and safety. This week, the company bought GreatCall Inc., the maker of senior-focused Jitterbug mobile phones, for $800 million. Source: Wall Street Journal
Energy and environment
Hazy science: The hazy, orange skies over North Georgia are the result of smoke from hundreds of wildfires drifting southward from Canada. More than 110 wildfires are burning in 10 Western states and more than 280 are in Canada. Source: Weather.com
Firm foundation: Georgia infrastructure is second best in the nation, ranking only behind Florida, according to an analysis by 24/7 Wall St. Despite the nation’s third-lowest state highway spending per driver ($254), Georgia has the fifth-lowest percentage of roads in poor condition (1.9 percent) and seventh-lowest share of deficient bridges (4.7 percent.) About 11 percent of the state’s dams are a high hazard risk, the 15th-lowest share in the country.
Movies I: Feature film and television productions in Georgia generated a total economic impact of $9.5 billion during FY 2018, according to Gov. Nathan Deal, with the 455 film and television productions shot in Georgia representing $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state. Georgia was the No. 2 place to shoot a movie last year, according to a new study based on the top 100 feature films at the domestic box office released in 2017. Georgia topped the list in 2016 but now Canada leads. Source: Film L.A. Inc.
Movies II: A new report by the John Locke Foundation suggests Georgia should revisit the multiplier assumption used to gauge the economic impact of the movie industry in Georgia. The multiplier has been in place since 1973 and does not take into account the opportunity cost of tax incentives, writes Jon Sanders, director of Regulatory Studies at John Locke.
This month in the archives: In August 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Less is More in Government.” It noted, “A fiscally responsible ‘pension buyout’ mechanism would motivate unhappy workers reluctant to leave because a large percentage of their compensation is contingent on spending years more on the job.”
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read our latest commentary, “2018 Forum Focuses on Georgia’s Imminent Challenges,” by Benita M. Dodd.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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I thank you for what you do. For 15 years you’ve been researching and writing on issues that matter. You take on tough questions, you apply innovative thinking, you push for action, and you do it all without regard to politics.