Friday Facts: March 05, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane: As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, this article from 1992 is a reminder that many of the issues that concerned Georgians 30 years ago continue to be worrisome today – among them, taxes, education options and politics vs. good policy. It’s no wonder that, nearly 30 years later, these issues remain on the Foundation’s front burner.

Quotes of Note

“As I’ve said throughout my tenure as governor and secretary of state I think it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat and we should have secure, accessible, fair elections in Georgia.” – Brian Kemp, Governor of Georgia

Is there more ‘oomph’ from severe weather events now than in the past? Generally, no. The historical evidence shows 1) there are no more severe events than there were 50 years ago or 100 years ago (the period for which we have reliable data) and 2) the percentage of people in the world who die from extreme weather events, such as monsoons, forest fires, high temperatures, frigid winters, hurricanes, and tornadoes, has been consistently falling for at least a century and is lower today than any time in human history.” – Stephen Moore

Legislature

Crossover Day: Monday is Day 28 of the Georgia legislative session. Known as Crossover Day, it’s the deadline for a bill to pass at least one chamber to be considered before the session ends.

Elections: The Georgia Senate is considering a 66-page elections omnibus bill that passed the House Monday by a 97-72 vote. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barry Fleming, is chairman of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity. He said the measure “is designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our voters into our election system” while Democrats said it would unfairly affect and disenfranchise minority voters. A Senate bill, meanwhile, would restrict no-excuse absentee voting and the ability of the Secretary of State to enter into election-related consent agreements without legislative approval. Source: News reports

Education: The Senate is considering legislation to prohibit education agency restrictions on learning pods, a popular innovation during the pandemic that involves voluntary micro-learning groups. Foundation President Kyle Wingfield testified before the Senate Youth and Education Committee on the learning pod model. The Senate approved bills to expand special-needs scholarships and revise charter school funding.

Access to the ailing: The House Human Relations and Aging Committee approved legislation that would require healthcare facilities to allow family visitation during a public health emergency and allow family to place electronic monitoring in rooms of long-term care residents.

Economy

Opportunity knocks: The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reports that 40% of small-business owners had job openings they could not fill in February, up 7 points from January, with 33% having openings for skilled workers (up 5 points) and 16% with openings for unskilled labor (up 4 points). Overall, 56% reported hiring or trying to hire in February, up 5 points from January. Source: Wall Street Journal

Incentivizing unemployment? The pandemic continues to disrupt the labor market, notes NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. Not only must some people stay home as caregivers or to protect their health, but “Improved unemployment insurance benefits may also make some workers reluctant to take a new job. In over 30 states, cumulative financial assistance payments available exceed a $15/hour (before taxes) job.”

Treading water or rescued? In this week’s “Tax and Spend Tuesday” post, read about the federal bill that would send less money to Georgia than to California and New York; Georgia’s tax cut and tax hike proposals; and whether you’ll owe the IRS more because of the pandemic.

Chip crisis: A major pandemic-related semiconductor shortage is hurting businesses from automakers to video game manufacturers, CNET.com reports, and it is likely to last through the end of the year. Automakers unable to get the electrical components they need are cutting production on vehicles. There are shortages in chips for video game consoles, and people have been camping out during the pandemic to buy Nvidia’s graphics processors. Even Qualcomm, the world’s biggest mobile chipmaker, is unable to get enough processors to meet the demands of its handset customers.

Education

The case for choice I: Writing in his weekly column about the criticism directed at education scholarship accounts (ESAs), Kyle Wingfield asks, “Isn’t it odd how that successful response never comes up in the ESA debate? We only hear about the original mistake.” Read more here.

The case for choice II: Baltimore mother of three Tiffany France works three jobs. She thought her oldest son was doing well in school because, even though he failed most of his classes, he was being promoted. “I’m just assuming that if you are passing, that you have the proper things to go to the next grade and the right grades, you have the right credits,” said France. At the school, the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts, France’s 17-year-old son, who passed three classes in four years, ranks near the top half of his class with a 0.13 grade point average. Source: KUTV.com

Energy and environment

Rising cost of hot air:  The world’s governments need a 600% increase in the cost of emitting carbon dioxide to keep global warming at bay, according to energy consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. To stop global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels, carbon prices must surge to $160 per ton of CO2 by 2030, up from a global average of $22 at the end of last year, it said in a report released Thursday. Source: Bloomberg.com

Healthcare

Georgia COVID-19 update: The Georgia Department of Public Health reported the number of cases since the pandemic began totaled 824,804 as of Thursday afternoon. Deaths were at 15,462. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here. Find out who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia here.

Medicaid costs: Medicaid spending and enrollment increased in 2020 and is projected to soar in 2021 even as federal law prevents states from disenrolling ineligible individuals during the COVID-19 crisis, according to Health Care News. Improper payments to state programs for enrollees whose eligibility was not verified consumed more than 21% of the total federal match in the year ending September 30, 2020. The estimated loss rose from $57.31 billion in fiscal year 2019 to $86.49 billion in FY 2020; data collection efforts were suspended between March and August 2020. Source: Heartland Institute

Checking Up On Health: In this week’s post, read about the Biden administration’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s Medicaid waiver, which was approved in October 2020 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and about the federal offers of more money to incentivize Medicaid expansion in states that have declined to do so.

Media

Foundation in the media: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an op-ed by Kyle Wingfield in support of education options. Capitol Beat News quoted Kyle in an article about Georgia’s treatment in the congressional COVID-19 package.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In March 20 years ago, the Foundation published “New Water Proposals Not Supported by Adequate Science.” It noted, “EPA’s water science is questionable when you consider that estimates of water quality are typically made according to ‘best professional judgment,’ defined as using the best available information – watershed maps and little or no actual monitoring.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Adding up the Benefits of Education Options,” by Ben Scafidi.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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