Friday Facts: October 29, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

Where are they now? The Georgia Public Policy Foundation modeled its annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on the policy briefings of our sister think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Through the years, countless elected officials, candidates, lobbyists, legislative staff, grassroots activists and other interested citizens have come to the sessions to listen and learn about Georgia-focused solutions. Pictured are a few attendees from the first event, held in 2010. Can you guess where they are now? This year, as the Foundation celebrates 30 years of “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives,” the sessions November 9 and November 12 will cover tax, energy and education reforms. Find out more here.

Quotes of note

“There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.” – Jane Austen

“Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.” – Elon Musk

“Liberty is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual liberty.” – Calvin Coolidge

Energy and environment

Scary heating bills: Heating fuels are heading into winter at their highest prices in years and could climb more if the weather is cold. But propane is expected to take the biggest bite out of household budgets, The Wall Street Journal reports. Propane is paid for on the spot and pricing is subject to the market. It is also delivered by truck, often across long distances. Domestic stockpiles are low because export prices remained attractive during the summer months.

Web-based monsters: Just in time for Halloween, tales of the Jorō spider – the latest invasive species spreading across Georgia – spun into state and national media. The brightly colored species grows up to 3 inches across and builds unpleasant, thick webs many feet in diameter. Believed to have hitched a ride in a container from Asia, Jorōs are thus far declared harmless, although their webs are reported to have entangled honey bees, hummingbirds and a few unsuspecting homeowners. Articles appeared in Georgia Magazine’s November edition and recently in The Wall Street Journal.

Oh, rats: Atlanta ranks 15th on Orkin’s 2021 list of Top 50 Rattiest Cities. The ranking of metro regions by the number of new rodent treatments performed in the year since September 15, 2020, includes both residential and commercial treatments. Chicago took the top spot for the seventh year in a row.

What’s wrong? North Atlantic right whales, already a critically endangered species, are at their lowest numbers in nearly 20 years, researchers say. In 2020 there were just 336 of the whales, which migrate south every winter to calve off the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Experts say humans are largely to blame: 86% of identified right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once. Source: CBS News

Education

Best in show: Georgia’s public charter high schools surpassed the state’s overall 2021 graduation rate, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education. The collective 2021 graduation rate for charter schools is 89.1%, more than 5 percentage points higher than the statewide rate of 83.7%. Brick-and-mortar (non-virtual) charter schools outperformed the state graduation rate by almost 9 percentage points: 92.5% compared to 83.7%. Source: Georgia Charter Schools Association

Little change: A total of 102 Georgia public school districts and 223 schools recorded 2021 high school graduation rates at or above 90%. Thirty-seven districts and 98 schools recorded rates at or above 95%. Despite the disruptions of the pandemic, the Georgia Department of Education reports the graduation rate “did not change significantly from 2020 to 2021.” The 2021 rate is 83.7%, compared to 83.8% in 2020 and a (pre-pandemic) rate of 82% in 2019.

Economy

Chains: The struggle to get goods produced and onto store shelves is expected to weigh down the economy through much of next year, the Independent Women’s Forum warns. In a Wall Street Journal survey of over 60 economists, 45% estimated it would take until the second half of 2022 for supply-chain hiccups to clear up. Read the Foundation’s recent commentary, “Supply Chain Snags and Silver Linings.”

Creeping upward: Sales of new U.S. single-family homes surged to a six-month high in September, but higher prices are making homeownership less affordable for some first-time buyers. New home sales jumped 14.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 800,000 units last month – the highest level since March – but the median new house price increased 18.7% in September to $408,800 from a year ago. Source: Reuters

Rainy day: Based on fiscal year-end figures, Georgia ranks 17th highest in the nation for how long its rainy day fund could run the government, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts. The state’s reserve fund, estimated at $2.7 billion in June, could cover 39.3 days of expenses. (Today, the rainy day fund has surged to $4.3 billion.) Source: TheCenterSquare.com

Frightened off? The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the working-age population employed or actively looking for a job. In the largest drop on record, that rate fell from 63.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 60.8% in the second quarter of 2020. By the second quarter of 2021, the rate recovered slightly, to 61.6%, but was still 1.6 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level, indicating that roughly 5.25 million people had left the labor force. Of those, slightly more than 3 million were “excess retirements due to COVID-19,” according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Taxes and spending

No treat: The Tax Foundation’s eighth annual International Tax Competitiveness Index compares developed countries on how well their tax systems promote sustainable economic growth and development. The United States, which ranked 31st of 37 countries in 2014, was 24th in 2017 (after federal tax reforms) and is 21st in the latest edition. Legislation from congressional Democrats would reverse many of the 2017 reforms and increase burdens on businesses and workers, the Tax Foundation warns.

Healthcare

Perseverance: Northside Hospital has won a three-year appeal to construct an outpatient surgical center in Braselton, the Gwinnett Daily Post reports. The decision by the Georgia Certificate of Need Appeal Panel will allow construction of a surgery center to serve about 3,400 patients each year across a 13-county region.

COVID count: About 50% of Georgians are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and another 44% remain unvaccinated. Georgia COVID-19 cases total just over 1.26 million, with about 24,500 deaths. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.

Legislature: The Legislature’s special session will convene November 3 to address redistricting. The schedule for the session and legislative committee hearings can be found online, along with video links. Visit legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In October 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “How to Improve Health and Lower Healthcare Costs in Georgia.” It noted, “Can consumerism work in healthcare? The answer is yes. If people have the right incentives and accurate, reliable information, then consumerism can work anywhere.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Pension Reform Commentary Pending,” by Len Gilroy et al.

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.

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