June 13-15: Join FEEcon, the Foundation for Economic Education’s third annual conference at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta. Talks, practical skill-building and networking with movers and shakers from across the globe. Registration and information: feecon.org/.
Mark your calendar! The 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum takes place Friday, November 15, at the Renaissance Waverly Atlanta. Details to follow; click here to view video coverage of previous events.
Quotes of note
“In times like these, it’s helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.” – Paul Harvey
“Offering a person a future is a lot better than offering him a PB&J sandwich.” – Georgia Works
“The move away from an emphasis on genuine academic achievement and meritocratic promotion has done a disservice to the least well-off while offering more opportunities for the rich and connected to buy the trappings of success for their offspring. – John V.C. Nye, “Make School Hard Again”
Waiver study: With Georgia pursuing federal healthcare waivers to expand access and care for Georgians, the Foundation released a study this week on potential waivers for the state under the Affordable Care Act. “Healthcare Innovations in Georgia: Two Recommendations,” by Anderson Economic Group (AEG) and Wilson Partners, illustrates how a 1332 waiver could lower the cost of healthcare, empower more Georgians to purchase private insurance, restore the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and ultimately blaze a trail for other states to follow.
Energy and environment
Up, up and away: Residential energy consumption for February was 8% higher than the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest report. Natural gas accounted for 39% of residential sector total energy consumption, petroleum accounted for 5%, and renewable energy accounted for 3%. According to Weather.com, much of the nation experienced a colder-than-usual February.
Hurricane season: Improved technology is operational at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Weather Service as the 2019 hurricane season begins on June 1. Three new next-generation satellites and an upgraded NWS weather forecast model will aid NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, which anticipates a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season: nine to 15 named storms, with four to eight of them becoming hurricanes. Source: NOAA.gov
Party pooper: Party City is closing 45 of its 870 stores this year, citing a global helium shortage. It’s about more than balloons, however: Helium is essential in semiconductor manufacturing, scientific research and medical tools like MRIs, and is listed as one of the 35 minerals critical to U.S. national security and the economy. Just three factories produce 75% of the global supply: one in Qatar, one in Wyoming and the government-run U.S. Federal Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas. A blockade of Qatari shipments, the looming shutdown of the National Helium Reserve and U.S. pipeline problems have all hurt supply and, consequently, prices. Source: Miami Herald
Tolled you: In an opinion piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Russell McMurry of the Georgia Department of Transportation highlights the toll lanes’ success: “In just eight months of operation, more than 4.2 million trips were registered in the [Northwest Corridor] Express Lanes, with speeds 30 percent faster than the general-purpose lanes. The [general-purpose] lanes, open to all vehicles without a toll, have seen up to a 20 mph speed increase compared to speeds before the opening of the express lanes. As a result, rush hour in the corridor has been reduced significantly. Not only do users of express lanes see a time savings, drivers in the general-purpose lanes realize reduced congestion as well.” Read the Foundation’s recent commentary here.
Transit: MARTA is prioritizing its schedule for Atlanta’s transit project list, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, and the agency is taking into account funding opportunities. The list includes a Streetcar route extension, 29 miles of light rail, 13 miles of bus rapid transit lines, three arterial rapid transit routes, the renovation of existing rail stations and other improvements. Randal O’Toole writes in Newgeography.com, “Transit ridership is plummeting almost everywhere, yet officials in many cities are still devising hugely expensive plans for transit projects.”
Coming to a halt: Red-light cameras are on their way out as acknowledgment grows that they are more a cash cow for local governments than a public-safety solution. Ten states have banned them outright and Texas is about to do so, writes Bob Barr in Townhall.com. “The episode presents a rare but welcome example, that if citizens exert continued legal and political pressure on governments against an inherently unfair and defective program, they can prevail,” Barr notes.
Input welcomed: The Georgians First Commission, formed by Gov. Brian Kemp to examine ways to improve Georgia’s small-business climate, has established a website and is inviting public input. Find out more at georgiansfirst.georgia.gov.
Greener pastures: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 agricultural census, released last month, shows the number of farms and ranches dropped 3.2% over 2012. Agricultural acreage dropped 1.6% while the average size of remaining farms grew 1.6%. In Georgia, the five-year census shows, commodity sales went from $9.2 billion in 2012 to $9.5 billion in 2017. It will take a while for Georgia farmers to recover from 2018 – the devastation of Hurricane Michael – and that is likely to show in the 2022 census.
YouTube: Did you miss the Policy Briefing Luncheon with David French of National Review Institute? View his speech here on the Foundation’s YouTube channel, along with other events.
This month in the archives: In May 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “For Water Conservation, Pricing Trumps Prohibition.” It noted, “A conservation mindset isn’t fostered, achieved or maintained by prohibiting water use on certain days. In fact, just the opposite could occur. Certainly, Georgia’s public water systems will see some reduction in water use. But when Georgians are told they may water just three days a week, many will feel an obligation to water – and over-water – on ‘their’ days.” Fortunately, pricing has since become the mechanism of choice.
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Federalism Provides Unique Opportunity to Put Georgians First,” by Benita M. Dodd.
Have a weekend.
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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