2021 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, Rx for What Ails the State

By Keara Vickers

The past year has been a public policy whirlwind, with COVID-19 affecting where we work and how our children get an education, a winter deep freeze in the Deep South, and an intensified renewed focus on where our taxes get spent … and why.

For more than a decade, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Georgia Legislative Policy Forum has sought to tackle the most pressing issues of the day in the state. This year is no different. On November 12, the Foundation will gather some of the brightest public policy minds for an in-person event in Atlanta. It’s a new, hybrid world, however. So this year’s Forum includes a FREE online session alongside our traditional in-person event.

The free Zoom session on November 9, moderated by Chris Denson, Georgia Policy director of policy and research, is “Neighbor’s Envy, Owners Pride: Tax Reforms that Surge Ahead of Surrounding States.” 

Georgia remains highly economically competitive in many ways, yet risks falling behind our neighbors when it comes to taxation. Tennessee and Florida are zero-income-tax states, and North Carolina has been lowering its tax rates. The session explores how Georgia can keep its tax burden low and improve the structure of its tax code to keep up with the competition – and beat it.

The panelists include Georgia’s House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Rep. Shaw Blackmon; Georgia Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Chuck Hufstetler; Beacon Hill Institute Director of Research William Burke; and Tax Foundation Senior Fellow Katherine Loughead.

Following on the heels of the Zoom session is the in-person event on November 12 at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly: a fascinating morning of discussion, followed by a luncheon keynote featuring one of Georgia’s pre-eminent academics.

First, after more than a year of education uncertainty, we’re taking a look at Georgia’s potential for education reform in “Open for Change: K-12 Opportunities Across Georgia.” In the wake of COVID-19, families are desperate for a consistent approach to education, one in which students’ needs come first. In 2020, as the state reeled from the pandemic, public charter schools saw enrollment climb even as it declined in traditional public schools. Still, too many students struggled and are still struggling.

President and CEO Kyle Wingfield will moderate this panel examining what Georgia can do to help those left behind.  Wingfield will facilitate discussion with the Georgia House Education Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, Rep. Todd Jones, and Georgia House Education Committee member Rep. Mesha Mainor. From Pennsylvania, Marc LeBlond of the Commonwealth Foundation will join us to explain why his state just expanded one of its educational choice programs.

The education panel is unlikely to tackle Georgia students’ longed-for snow days, but the next panel discussion will: What would happen if Georgia was hit by a winter storm the likes of the massive storm that crippled Texas in February 2021?

The Texas storm left more than 700 dead and millions struggling for days without power in bitterly cold weather. Foundation Vice President Benita Dodd moderates “Could the Lights Go Out in Georgia? Lessons from Texas’ Winter Energy Catastrophe.”

University of Georgia Associate Professor Dr. David Gattie, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Fitz Johnson and Jason Isaac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation will explore what steps Georgia can take – and have taken – to protect Georgians from an energy catastrophe of that magnitude.

After a fascinating morning, Dr. Charles Bullock of the University of Georgia delivers the luncheon keynote address: “Georgia Policy Past and Future.” Bullock is the icing on the cake of a year celebrating the Foundation’s 30th anniversary. The Richard B. Russell Chair in Political Science, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, and University Professor of Public and International Affairs at UGA, Bullock will review the past three decades of Georgia policy – and Georgia Policy, the Foundation – and look ahead to what election and demographic changes could mean for Georgia going forward.

Tickets for the 2021 Legislative Policy Forum are limited and selling fast! Don’t forget that the November 9 Zoom session is FREE with your ticket purchase. Go here to reserve your seat.