August 27: “Election Integrity: Facts, Fraud and Fiction” is the Foundation’s August noon Policy Briefing Luncheon at the Georgian Club. The speaker is Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. $35. Register here.
September 26: “The Student-Loan Debt Dilemma” is a Higher Ed Happy Hour discussion on student loans and debt at No Mas! Cantina in Atlanta, with keynote speaker Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. $10. Register here.
November 15: The agenda is live and Early Bird registration is open now for the 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, which takes place Friday, November 15, at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly. The theme is “Wisdom, Justice, Mobility,” a play on Georgia’s motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.” $75 through September 20. Click here to register.
Quotes of note
“Avoid occasions of expense … and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” – George Washington
“This year, the deficit will end up being the fourth highest in U.S. history. It’s gigantic, and it will hit a little over $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year. It’s also larger than previously projected. And it’s growing fast, at a time when the United States is not in a recession – unlike the economies that delivered the three previous highest deficits. These are all facts that should help members of Congress and the administration recognize that it’s probably time to reduce spending. But they fail to make that realization.” – Veronique de Rugy
“In a legal system based on the presumption of innocence, when did it become a prosecutor’s job to ‘exonerate’ someone after failing to conclude they committed a crime?” – Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal
Health and wellbeing
Opioids: The 2017 rate of opioid prescriptions in Georgia was the lowest since at least 2006, according to The Athens Banner-Herald, citing data released by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The death rate from opioid overdoses has been climbing since 1999, with Georgia recording 1,014 deaths in 2017, up from about 400 a decade earlier. Even so, the 9.7 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 Georgians remains well below the 2017 U.S. average of 14.6.
Fat chances: Both genetic predisposition and an “obesogenic” environment have contributed to rising body mass indices (BMI) in recent decades, according to a large new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Global obesity rates have nearly tripled since the 1970s. The study found genetic variants explain 2-5% of BMI increases, and that factors such as dietary changes and increased sedentary lifestyles are also likely contributors to increased BMIs. Source: GenomeWeb.com
New schools: A Sandy Springs city school district would be financially feasible, according to a study authored by Kelly McCutchen and Dr. Christine Ries (both Foundation senior fellows). City taxes would generate sufficient funding for the 11 public schools within city limits currently operated by Fulton County. Projected revenues would be approximately $163.3 million and operating expenses would be $65.2 million, according to the study. Ries authored a similar study for Dunwoody in 2013.
Housing: U.S. home sales tumbled 1.7% in June, with rising prices and a scarce supply locking out many Americans from ownership, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales declined 2.2% over the past 12 months, despite the robust job market and falling mortgage rates. Home prices have been climbing faster than incomes for the past seven years. Source: WSB Radio
Scooter-booting: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order Thursday, halting the issue of permits for more e-scooters until the City Council acts on a ban August 5. She plans legislation to “address the long-term impacts … and the compounded strain placed on the City’s public safety officials and first responders.” The mayor noted two riders have died and the city has impounded more than 3,000 e-scooters. Almost 12,000 dockless devices – bicycles and e-scooters – are permitted.
Ride-share: The use of ride-sharing more than doubled across the country between 2017 and 2018, to a total of 84 million trips. Almost half of the increase in rides is attributed to e-scooter usage – “shared micromobility” – with more than 85,000 scooters now available for rent in more than 100 cities. Source: Schoolbus Fleet
Streetcar ridership: Since MARTA took over the 2.7-mile Streetcar System from the city of Atlanta, ridership has plunged. From July 2017 through June 2018, the city reported 387,978 Streetcar riders; from July 2018 through May 2019, MARTA reported 189,571 riders. Barring a surge of 198,407 riders during June, FY 2019 ridership – and revenue – will fall dismally short of 2018. Ridership has been far less than the projected 2,600 daily riders since the Streetcar opened in 2014, but the transit authority and the city continue with plans to expand the route. Watch WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher interview Benita Dodd on July 22 about the Streetcar ridership.
Energy and environment
Renewable growth: Renewables supplied about 17% of the nation’s electricity generation in 2018 and could account for 20% by 2020, Forbes reports, citing Energy Information Administration data. Coal use is expected to decline by 14% in 2019, compared to 2018 levels, and another 4% in 2020. Renewables’ growth is most likely subsidy-driven: The federal Production Tax Credit for wind is phasing down and the federal Investment Tax Credit for new solar projects begins declining next year.
Price war: Full regional conflict in the Persian Gulf could “momentarily” send crude oil prices beyond $100 per barrel, predicts Ken Medlock of Rice University’s Center for Energy Studies. That will affect liquefied natural gas prices, too: “Whatever the spike you get in oil, you will likely get twice the spike in spot LNG,” said David Hewitt of Macquarie Capital. Source: Bloomberg
Taxes and Spending
Holiday from sales-tax holidays: Georgia is not among the 16 states with sales-tax holidays this year. Georgia’s last back-to-school sales tax holiday was in 2016. That’s not a bad thing. As the Tax Foundation notes, “the evidence (including a 2017 study by Federal Reserve researchers) shows that they simply shift the timing of purchases.” A 2011 Georgia State University study found the tax holiday reduced state revenues by 8-10.6% of “otherwise expected monthly sales tax revenues.”
Arrested development: The grants committee of the Cobb County Development Authority approved a grant of $75,000 this week “to help fund WellStar Kennestone Hospital’s new $126 million emergency department currently under construction,” The Marietta Daily Journal reports. OpenTheBooks.com reports WellStar Health System, one of the nation’s top 82 nonprofit systems, had 2016 revenue of more than $1.1 billion and assets of more than $2.7 billion.
Foundation in the media: WSB-TV News interviewed Benita Dodd on Atlanta Streetcar ridership.
This month in the archives: In July 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Charity Clinic Model Should Be Part of Health Reform.” It noted, “Volunteering at a local clinic is a wonderful way for citizens to enhance their communities.”
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “From an Unlikely Source, Market-based Transit Policies,” by Jared Cooper.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has hit another homerun with its Guide to the Issues. This is must reading for anyone interested in public policy in Georgia, and it is an outstanding road map for conservative, common sense solutions to our challengers of today and tomorrow.