By Benita M. Dodd
Since it began in 2010, the annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum has been an in-person event, drawing legislators, policymakers, businesspeople and interested citizens to a day of experts offering ideas on major issues expected to see action in the upcoming session.
Not this year. Like so many plans across the nation and around the world, COVID-19 disrupted the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s 2020 plans.
The 40-day legislative session began on cue January 13 but was interrupted by the pandemic before limping to a finish today (June 26). Companies closed, millions lost their jobs and legislators bickering over how to keep their promise of a tax cut to Georgia’s taxpayers turned to bickering over how to make up for a budget shortfall.
As companies, legislators and families struggled to stay in good health and in touch, many turned to the Internet to connect: Google Meet, Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, among others. Forced to telecommute and cancel the popular Leadership Breakfast and Policy Briefing Luncheon speaker events, Foundation staff chose Zoom as their medium.
After several successful Zoom events, the Foundation decided that, instead of surrendering to COVID-19, the 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum will adapt. It will be hosted on Zoom as a series of weekly webinars. (Registration is available here.)
The good news: In a climate where Georgians are concerned about both their finances and their health, the Foundation is able to offer the series at no charge and it will be live-streamed for all participants to view from the safety of home!
Another bonus is that nationally renowned speakers who may be reluctant to travel across the country to Atlanta often are amenable to participating from the comfort of their locales, and this is reflected in the caliber of the series’ speaker lineup.
For obvious reason, the theme this year is “Wisdom, Justice, Adaptation.” As for every Forum, the theme is a play on the state motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.”
The opening keynote, on July 15, is “An Education Conversation,” with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Few sectors have been through as much pandemic upheaval as K-12 education. The children are our future, as a famous song goes, and Georgia families deserve assurances that the education resources their children need will be available, and their choices supported.
Session 1, on July 21, works to explain to worried parents the various education options available as schools deal with the COVID-19 uncertainty. Panelists include a homeschooling parent, the head of Georgia’s largest online public charter school, and the founder of a microschool network.
Session 2, on July 28, will tackle the budget issues the state and its agencies face, and possible solutions. While the legislative session must end (June 26) with a balanced budget – a constitutional mandate – the pandemic and the potential for its return heighten the uncertainty for the state’s coffers.
Session 3, on August 4, focuses on land use and transportation, bringing a slate of national and state experts to present a vision of Georgia’s needs, based on technology and transformed expectations in a post-pandemic atmosphere. Among them is Joel Kotkin, “America’s uber-geographer.”
Session 4, on August 11, is an examination of the economy. This panel includes economist and former Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore and Andy Puzder, former CEO of Hardee’s and a one-time Cabinet nominee.
Session 5, on August 18, will focus on housing affordability. The panel includes experts from the Mercatus Center, the Manhattan Institute and the private sector.
Session 6, on August 25, tackles healthcare and features a pre-eminent panel of national health care policy analysts.
The closing keynote speaker is among a few speakers pending confirmation and will be announced soon. Visit the Foundation’s website event page here for more details and to register for the series or separately for each event. Each event will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 12:15 p.m., and registrants will have the opportunity to submit questions at each webinar.
As with every Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, the goal is to offer legislators policy solutions that promote limited government, personal responsibility, individual initiative and the economic opportunities that all Georgians deserve. Every year, the thoughtful proposals take root as policymakers take heed, and this year they are needed more than ever.
Benita M. Dodd is Vice President at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Established in 1991, the Foundation is a trusted, independent resource for voters and elected officials. The Foundation provides actionable solutions to real-life problems by bringing people together. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.
© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (June 26, 2020). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and her affiliations are cited.