Friday Facts: March 6, 2020

It’s Friday!

Quotes of Note

“It’s fashionable for Democrats – and, if polls are to be believed, many Republicans too – to believe that something must be done about the supposedly intolerable influence of money in American politics. Indeed, there is a lot of money in American politics, as the ongoing Democratic primary (and every election in recent memory) makes clear. But after Super Tuesday, it seems clear that candidates cannot buy their way into the White House.” – Eric Boehm

“There is no doubt that we are seeing significant impacts upon the energy economy throughout the world as a result of the coronavirus. … According to the International Energy Agency, year over year demand is expected to fall by 435,000 barrels per day during the first quarter of 2020 – the first quarterly contraction in over 10 years.” – Institute for Energy Research

“October: This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.” – Mark Twain

Events

March 18: Register by Monday, March 16 for “Brexit: The Good, the Bad and the Messy,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon focusing on the United Kingdom at the end of nearly a half-century of European Union membership. Join Andrew Staunton, British Consul-General in Atlanta, and Zilvinas Silenas, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and former President of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, for a discussion moderated by Kyle Wingfield. Wingfield was a Brussels-based correspondent for The Wall Street Journal before moving to Atlanta. Georgian Club. Registration and networking at 11:30; event begins at noon. $35. Information, registration here.

April 22: “Second Chance Month Celebration,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon with Tony Lowden, Executive Director of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry. Second Chance Month was launched in April 2017 by Prison Fellowship to celebrate brighter futures for those who have repaid their debt to society. Blue Room at the Georgia Freight Depot. Registration and networking at 11:30; event begins at noon. $35. Information, registration here.

April 30: Join the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and National Review Institute for “The Socialist Fantasy,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon with keynote speaker Ramesh Ponnuru, NRI Senior Fellow, on Thursday, April 30, at the Georgian Club. Registration and networking at 11:30; event begins at noon. $35. Information, registration here.

Transparency

Not-so-open records: The state Supreme Court has denied an appeal in a case challenging whether the Georgia Legislature should be exempt from the Georgia Open Records Act. The act subjects “every state office” to its requirements, but the appeals court ruled last year that “The General Assembly is not subject to a law unless named therein or the intent that it be included [is] clear and unmistakable.” The Institute for Justice had filed suit after state officials refused to turn over records related to the state’s music-therapy licensing law. Source: Institute for Justice

Taxes and spending

Wasting money: The federal government’s improper payments are increasing, according to the Government Accountability Office. In FY 2019, federal agencies reported about $175 billion in estimated improper payments, up from $151 billion in FY 2018. The majority of these improper payments – overpayments, underpayments or payments to ineligible recipients – were in Medicaid, Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The largest share of improper payments was in Medicaid: $57.4 billion.

Taxed out: One of the most shocking Census results projected for 2020 comes from California, Jonathan Williams writes in The Hill. Since statehood in 1850, California gained congressional seats after every decennial census due to population gains. Until 2010, when the cost of living, driven by sky-high taxes and onerous regulations, started to take a toll. “Based on the 2019 estimates it is likely that California will actually lose its first congressional seat since 1850 due to residents leaving the state,” Williams writes.

Healthcare

Coronavirus infects: The first two cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were reported in Georgia this week, a Fulton County man who had recently visited Italy, and his home-schooled son. Their symptoms were mild. The infectious disease outbreak began in Wuhan, China, late last year. Find out more here from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronavirus effects: Visits to U.S. stores fell for a fourth straight week, as confirmed cases of the coronavirus spread across the country. Foot traffic decreased 3.3% in the week through Feb. 28 after gains in January, according to location-data provider Prodco Analytics. Source: Quick Manufacturing News 

Georgia Legislature 

Thursday was Day 25 of the 40-day session. Follow online at www.legis.ga.gov.

Ride-share: The Senate voted 51-2 for House legislation that would add an “excise tax” of up to 50 cents on Uber, Lyft, taxi and limo rides to replace sales taxes that would have been collected beginning April 1. Ride-share companies have been disputing whether they owe the state any sales taxes; legislation passed this year designates the companies as sales tax collector.

Saving time: Legislators want to ask voters whether the state should continue switching between standard and daylight saving time. A nonbinding advisory referendum in the November 2020 election would ask whether the state should continue as before, or go year-round to standard time or daylight saving time. A House resolution would also ask the federal government to allow states to switch permanently to daylight saving time; congressional approval is not required to remain on standard time.

PBMs: The House passed three bills to increase regulations on pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), including one that would require PBMs to set prices within 10% of a nationally used average and to undergo financial audits by the state Department of Insurance. It would also require all rebates from drug makers to be distributed to patients, rather than allowing pharmacy benefits managers to keep a portion. Source: Marietta Daily Journal

Asset forfeiture: Civil asset forfeiture proceedings would be delayed until the conclusion of a criminal case under legislation approved by the House Judiciary Non-civil Committee. The Institute for Justice gives Georgia a “D-” grade for its forfeiture laws.

Media

Foundation in the media: For the second year in a row, Atlanta Magazine named Kyle Wingfield to its list of “Atlanta’s 500 Most Powerful Leaders in 2020.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Kyle in an article about the mayor’s plan for a $100 million bond for affordable housing initiatives. The Citizen published Benita Dodd’s commentary on the regional transportation plan.

Social media: The Foundation has 3,638 “likes” on Facebook, 1,983 Twitter followers and 943 Instagram followers. Join them!

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In March 25 years ago, the Foundation published, “Is Welfare Unfair?” It noted, “Good intentions are no longer sufficient; we must be honest in our assessments of what has been tried before, and base future efforts on the principle that individuals, not the government, hold the greatest promise for self-fulfillment.”

Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Innovation, Lessons Learned Guide Georgia’s Response to Coronavirus,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend! Remember to spring forward to Daylight Saving Time.

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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