Friday Facts: July 23, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

Sometimes, the wheels of change turn exceedingly slow. As early as 1992 (right) – one year after the Georgia Public Policy Foundation was founded – and as recently as last week, the Foundation has focused on reforming the restrictive certificate-of-need regulations in the state. The Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary with an event September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium, and our commitment to enhance healthcare competition and access for all Georgians continues.

Quotes of note

“Let’s hope the political class has learned some lessons from the last 18 months – namely, that Covid will always be with us, and that we have to live with it without shutting down the economy.” – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson


Events

September 16: Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist and author of “Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell,” is the keynote speaker at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium. Riley’s recent article in Reason magazine, adapted from his book, discusses Sowell’s conversion from Marxism. Find out how to attend or sponsor the Foundation event at www.georgiapolicy.org/dinner


Education

Inputs vs. outcomes: The two U.S. ranking indexes for charter schools focus on inputs – prescriptions for states to implement in statutes and regulations – but do not account for charter school performance or access. Ben Scafidi and Eric Wearne of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University (and Senior Fellows at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation) recently unveiled their beta version of a ranking index that focuses on access and effectiveness. Source: Education Freedom Institute


Criminal justice

Drunk on power? The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled 3-2 this week that gas stations have a legal obligation not to sell fuel to drivers they believe may be intoxicated. Dissenting Justice Barbara J. Vigil warned the precedent-setting ruling could put other types of businesses – from auto parts stores and tire shops to mechanics – on the hook for ensuring they don’t sell products to people who then drive drunk.


Pension reform

Better than most: The 79% funded ratio of Georgia’s public pension plans is 16th highest in the nation, according to a Tax Foundation analysis based on data for fiscal year 2019. It compared the market value of the pension fund’s assets to its accrued pension liabilities. At 99% funded, South Dakota is No. 1; New Jersey is last, at a 36% funded ratio. “As pandemic assistance funds cannot be used to cover floundering pension plans, states will need to make wise decisions to address funding issues,” the Tax Foundation noted.


Taxes and spending

No free lunch: Intuit announced it will leave the Free File Alliance in October after accusations it made it difficult to access a truly free version of TurboTax on the IRS Free File website, which has nine organizations from which filers can choose. H&R Block departed the Free File program last year. Source: Accounting Today

Child Tax Credit: The IRS and the Treasury have begun disbursing advance monthly payments of the expanded Child Tax Credit. About $15 billion is being directly deposited into the accounts of parents of nearly 60 million children, or mailed to them, under a provision of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. Households with up to $440,000 in joint income are eligible, meaning up to 90% of taxpayer parents qualify for at least a partial payment, according to Accounting Today.


Government

Travel delays: The passport application backlog has surged to 2.2 million as a security procedure’s “operational issues” add several weeks to wait times. When the government receives a passport application, the file enters a “lockbox” and is given a secure number, normally a 24-hour process. This is now delaying applications up to six weeks, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) reported in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Citibank, which is contracted by the government to run the procedure, blames COVID-19 and staff issues. Source: New York Post


Healthcare

COVID-19 update: The “Delta” variant of the COVID-19 virus, which was first identified in India, has caused a resurgence in U.S. cases, accounting for 83% of new cases, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.

Attention, Walmart patients: Walmart has filed paperwork to operate its healthcare business in 37 states, reportedly for telehealth services after it completes its acquisition of virtual care provider MeMD. In April and May, Walmart filed to conduct its healthcare business in 16 states. In June and July, the retail giant added another 17 states. Walmart, which already operates 20 medical clinics in Arkansas, Georgia and Illinois, is working to position itself as a one-stop shop for comprehensive medical care.

Attention, Kroger shoppers: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Kroger Health will partner to offer a Medicare Advantage plan in 2022 in four regions, including Atlanta. Source: HealthPayerIntelligence.com

Medical Monday: Just when you thought it was almost over, COVID-19 rears its ugly head again, writes Benita Dodd in this week’s “Checking Up On Health.”


Housing affordability

Short-term delay, long-term pay: The Atlanta City Council voted to delay until March 2022 the implementation of new regulations covering short-term rentals such as Airbnb, saying “more time is needed” to complete work on the ordinance. The regulations had been set to go into effect September 1 and would authorize homeowners in the city to rent out rooms or entire houses for 30 days at most, apply for a  $150 certificate to rent, limit rentals to two adults per bedroom, and be taxed at the same 8% rate as hotels. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Economy

Unlucky 13: Inflation hit a 13-year high in June as the Consumer Price Index showed a 0.9% increase over May and a 5.4% increase from June 2020 to June 2021, according to the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). This is the largest year-over-year increase since 2008. “The quantity of money [in the economy] has increased more than 32.9% since January 2020,” FEE’s economist Peter Jacobsen said in May. “That means that nearly one-quarter of the money in circulation has been created since then.”

Going to pot: About 70 companies are vying for the six licenses that will be awarded Saturday for production of medical marijuana. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law allowing its use for chronic, severe illness years ago, but the process to grow, distribute and sell the low-THC oil legally has lagged. Source: Fox5Atlanta.com


Legislature

Reapportionment: The schedule of the General Assembly’s reapportionment committee hearings can be found online here: www.legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In July 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “Presumptions on Water Quality Can Pollute Minds.” It noted, “Naturally, citizens come to believe and expect that urban development makes the water dirty. It doesn’t. Careless management pollutes water, but metro Atlanta’s management is mostly good.”


Around the State:

Practice makes perfect: When a massive fire destroyed a bridge in Atlanta on I-85 on March 30, 2017, gridlock resulted as traffic was detoured; transportation officials’ herculean efforts led to the segment rebuilt and reopened just six weeks later, on May 12. They took a different tack when, early Thursday last week (July 15), a dump trailer struck the SR-86 bridge across I-16 near Soperton, shifting the bridge six feet. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) was forced to shut down the crucial freight corridor between the Savannah Port and I-75 in both directions and detour traffic until it could demolish the bridge. I-16 was reopened less than 48 hours later. By Sunday, all that that remained were the support columns of the bridge, which carried just 300 cars daily. (Photo: Benita Dodd)


Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Kudzu, From ‘Miracle Vine’ to ‘Monster,’” by Harold Brown.


Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

 

FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our website at georgiapolicy.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *