Friday Facts: December 18, 2020

It’s Friday! 

Quotes of Note

“The Founders believed, and the Conservative agrees, in the dignity of the individual; that we, as human beings, have a right to live, live freely, and pursue that which motivates us not because man or some government says so, but because these are God-given natural rights.” – Mark R. Levin

“It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.” – Charles A. Beard

“How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.” – Benjamin Franklin


Education

Choice: Over the past half century, private school enrollment has declined, especially among middle-income families, according to a new report in the journal Education Next. In 1968, about 12% of middle-income children and 18% of high-income children attended private schools. By 2013, it was just 7% of middle-income children. Scholarships cover opportunity for many lower-income children; family income covers the wealthier. It’s past time to facilitate options for middle-income families.

Accountability: The Cleveland, Ohio, school district’s online classes this fall are missing more than 8,000 students a day, more than doubling the absenteeism rate from 9% last year to 19% today. Few have moved to charter or parochial schools, and advocates can’t find many of them. “They [aren’t] coming if they don’t want to,” one student said. Source: The74.com

Consequences: In Georgia, a K-12 student is considered truant after more than five unexcused absences from school without a valid written excuse. ”Data indicate that missing more than five days of school each year, regardless of the cause, begins to impact student academic performance and starts shaping attitudes about school,” according to the Georgia Department of Education. Finding truancy rates is not easy, however.

By the numbers: Enrollment in Georgia public schools was 1,769,621 in October 2019, the first count of the 2019-2020 school year. By March 2020, the next reported count taken just before COVID-19 shuttered schools, enrollment was at 1,760,739. In October 2020, the first count of the 2020-2021 school year, public school enrollment had dropped to 1,729,966.


Economy

Best in show: Georgia’s 0.6% decrease in personal income in the third quarter was the best showing in the nation, according to federal data released Thursday. All 50 states plus the District of Columbia posted decreases as their economies began recovering from the pandemic-induced recession, and  Georgia was the only state with a decline of less than 1%. Second-best was California, at minus-1.6%; worst was West Virginia at minus-29.9%. Neighboring states ranged from minus-4.8% (Florida) to minus-16.5% (Alabama). The national average was minus-10%. Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Conflicting rules: The National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), which represents the nation’s small businesses, announced it has joined a lawsuit accusing the state of California of overreach with COVID-19 emergency regulations. The state bars exposed employees from the workplace for 14 days, even if they test negative for COVID-19. The suit maintains the state neglected required public notice or hearings and that it is  in conflict with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say “quarantine can end after Day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring,”

Downward spiral: Even before the pandemic, the federal government was on an unsustainable fiscal path caused by an imbalance in revenue and spending, the Government Accountability Office reports. Debt held by the public is now projected to reach the highest point in U.S. history – 107% of GDP – in 2023. The GAO warns: “Policymakers will have tough decisions to make to get the federal government on a sustainable fiscal path. These decisions may include cutting program spending, increasing revenue, or a combination of both.”

Tax and Spend Tuesday: Read about scammers trying to steal e-filers’ tax refunds, how companies and their employees moving into Georgia could bring unwelcome policies from their home state, and the proposals to tax employees for working from home in this week’s Tax and Spend Tuesday post.

What’s in your stocking? Read Kyle Wingfield’s latest column,  “A Big Dose of Optimism for Christmas.”


Energy and environment

Carbon shift: Just one week after Georgia marked the arrival of the first shipment of  fuel for the nation’s newest nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, the celebration of a carbon-free expansion was offset by reports that China plans to expand its coal power by 10% by 2025. Source: News reports

Hurry up and wash: The Department of Energy issued final rules, effective January 15, 2021, that establishes a new class of short-cycle clothes washers and clothes dryers offering more efficient 30- and 45-minute cycle times, “introducing additional consumer choice.” Also effective January 15, DOE clarifies the definition of “showerhead,” enabling each showerhead included in a product with multiple showerheads to separately meet the federal 2.5 gallons per minute standard. DOE explains this “provides more consistent regulatory treatment for these products than a definition that considers all of the showerheads together.”


Healthcare

Sunsets: Praising the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ plan to put expiration dates on thousands of regulations, James Broughel of Mercatus Center writes, “Like children pretending to do their homework, regulators often go through the motions of a review without accomplishing much of substance. That’s because no one is seriously looking over their shoulder. With a sunset trigger, the reviewing agency must take the process seriously or it loses its beloved regulation.” Source: The Hill Broughel was the luncheon keynote speaker at the 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, where he talked about regulatory reform.

Medical Monday: In this week’s Checking Up On Health, learn about COVID-19’s cost to education, congressional negotiations to halt surprise medical bills, the beginning of COVID-19 vaccinations, and the toll of avoided health appointments.

COVID-19 status update: As of Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports cases are just shy of a half-million – at 494,173 – with 9,358 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here.


Elections

Audits: Amid ongoing accusations of election improprieties, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced two audits: one in Cobb County after an allegation of improper absentee ballot signature checks in the June primary election, and a randomized statewide review of absentee ballots from the general election.

Runoffs: Advanced in-person voting began December 14 for the January 5 runoff elections. It ends December 31. Georgians can check their voter registration and absentee ballot status on the Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” and request an absentee ballot for the runoffs here.


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In December 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Reform Lacking in Feds’ Medicaid Vision,” It noted, “More than half of the ‘gains’ in coverage under the new health care law will be achieved by expanding access to Medicaid. The new law adds 18 million more people to the Medicaid rolls, without addressing any of the long-term structural challenges.”


Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, New Year, New Initiative: Policy, Transparency and News,” by Benita M. Dodd.


Have a great weekend and a Blessed Christmas!

Kyle Wingfield and your Georgia Public Policy Foundation Team

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