Friday Facts: March 12, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, has championed education options since its beginning. In 2012, Georgia legislators approved the State Charter Schools Commission. View the Foundation’s 2012 video about public charter schools here.

Quotes of Note

“The coronavirus lockdowns constitute the most extensive attacks on individual freedom in the West since World War II. Yet not a single government has published a cost-benefit analysis to justify lockdown policies – something policymakers are often required to do while making far less consequential decisions.” – Philippe Lemoine

“Every family should have the right to spend their money, after tax, as they wish, and not as the government dictates. Let us extend choice, extend the will to choose and the chance to choose.” – Margaret Thatcher

Education

Fall back: Superintendents in seven metro Atlanta school districts declared this week that students would continue to have a virtual learning option next school year. Public school system leaders of Atlanta and Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties participated in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution online forum.

Enrollment: Public school districts are required to report their enrollment numbers this month to the Georgie Department of Education; their fiscal year 2022 budgets are based on the numbers. Fulton County reported enrollment down 3.8% – its largest drop on record – according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Back to school: A new report commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and five other nonprofits analyzed the conclusions of more than 130 studies of whether schools can be reopened safely. It found the public benefits of school closures “questionable.” Source: Axios

Deprivation: Continuing to isolate healthy young people “is misguided and deprives them of the childhood play and in-person social interaction that are critical to their growth and development,” FEE’s Kerry McDonald writes in “Social Isolation Is Damaging an Entire Generation of Kids.” She cites an article by FEE’s Jon Miltimore providing data on the low risks of COVID-19 to children, adding, “The health risks to children of the virus may be small, but the risks to children’s mental and emotional health from forced separation from peers is not.”

Energy and environment

Nuclear disaster: Ten years ago this week, on March 11, 2011, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan. The strongest on record for that nation, it left more than 18,000 people dead or missing. A 45-foot tsunami overwhelmed the 30-foot sea wall officials believed would protect the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, resulting in the worst nuclear disaster since the Soviet Chernobyl accident in 1986. In its wake, U.S. officials reviewed infrastructure and safety protocols for nuclear plants, which generate 20% of the nation’s electricity carbon-free, while other countries, among them Japan and Germany, opted to phase out nuclear plants. Source: News reports

Taxes and spending

Now they tell us: Despite the pandemic, total state tax revenues across the nation were roughly flat in 2020 from the year before, declining just 0.4% overall, according to the State and Local Finance Initiative at the Urban Institute. Georgia saw a 2.9% surplus. On Thursday, President Biden signed the new federal aid package, totaling $1.9 trillion, which critics pointed out will target just 9% of aid at the pandemic. 

Hands tied: The $1.9-trillion federal aid package signed Thursday by President Biden includes a provision that prohibits states from using funds to cut taxes. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, the states and localities are not allowed to use their $350 billion windfall “to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue” that results “from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces any tax (by providing for a reduction in a rate, a rebate, a deduction, a credit, or otherwise) or delays the imposition of any tax or tax increase.”

Legislature

Crossover Day: Monday was 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.

Among legislation to pass on Crossover Day:

  • The Senate’s comprehensive voting reform bill, which would restrict no-excuse absentee voting. The legislation is likely to end up in conference committee to resolve differences between Senate and House bills.
  • Georgia is on track to become the first state in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest law.  The House unanimously passed legislation after the issue gained attention in the wake of the 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick.
  • Legislation to prohibit healthcare facilities from banning visitation by family members passed the House Monday and awaits Senate action.
  • The House passed legislation that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in Georgia from 16 to 17.

Healthcare

Georgia COVID-19 update: The Georgia Department of Public Health reported the number of cases since the pandemic began totaled 832,480 as of Thursday afternoon. Deaths were at 15,784. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here. Gov. Brian Kemp announced Georgians age 55 and older will be eligible to receive vaccines beginning March 15. Find out who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia here.

Checking Up On Health: In this week’s Checking Up On Health, read about pandemic parties, COVID dating statuses and more.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In March one year ago, the Foundation published “Coronavirus: Self-isolation, Community Unity.” It noted, “With classes, conferences, sporting events, conventions and even the state Legislature called off indefinitely, the hope is that the infection will cycle itself out of communities with minimal harm. Until that happens, Georgians will need to stock up on supplies, common sense and patience to get ready for a heap of ‘getting along,’ at home and in the community.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “COVID-19: What a Difference a Year Made,” by Chris Denson.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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