‘Opportunity’ Rocks at 6th Annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum

By Benita M. Dodd



The lineup is complete for the Sixth Annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on Thursday, October 15, with a theme and speakers that live up to its description as “the opening shot” to the Georgia legislative session.

Hundreds of attendees, from interested citizens to legislators and their staff, attend the daylong forum each year. Why? Because organizers invite outstanding state and national experts to outline limited-government policy proposals that can be applied in Georgia.

This year, the goal is to advance opportunities in health care, education and work across the state. To that end, three sessions and two breakout sessions reflect the event theme, “Wisdom, Justice and Opportunity,” a take on the state motto of “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.”

Hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, the nonpartisan Forum at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly seeks to answer tough questions for Georgia policy-makers. Among them: 

  • How do you provide access to quality health care for the poor?
  • How do you reinforce the health care safety net without bankrupting government and taxpayers? 
  • How do you make work pay without killing job opportunity? 
  • How do you provide a safety net for the poor while reducing dependency and preserving dignity?
  • How do you reduce fraud in entitlement programs?
  • How do you tear down barriers to jobs for the poor?
  • What is “earned success”?
  • How do families stuck in poor neighborhoods get access to a quality education?
  • How do you encourage education innovation in public and private schools? 

Georgia Works

Executives of the Georgia Works program for homeless men proudly display their “wall of fame” of program graduates.

A session on health care will tackle the most polarizing issue in state politics today: Medicaid expansion and quality health care for the poor. The discussion by Dr. John Goodman, the “father of Health Savings Accounts,” and Dr. Ken Thorpe, a health care advisor in the Clinton White House, will focus on how Georgia can lead the nation by pursuing an alternative to Medicaid expansion. They will describe how to unite liberal goals with conservative principles and take advantage of technology to reduce cost, improve access and raise quality. 

Economic opportunity is at the forefront of a session examining the crucial role of work in advancing upward mobility and reducing government dependency while preserving people’s dignity. The session highlights Georgia’s ranking in welfare reform and the heartwarming story of a man, a vision and a successful program against long-term homelessness in downtown Atlanta. Hear from men who lived on the streets for years and are now productive citizens, graduates of Georgia Works, a program that focuses on the dignity of work and end to government dependency.  

Attendees will hear from Logan Pike, co-author of the Heartland Institute’s “2015 Welfare Reform Report Card,” why Georgia is one of seven states to receive an “F” in welfare reform (and how to improve). Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and former commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, the nation’s largest local social services agency, will share how Georgia can incorporate work-centered principles to reinvigorate the American Dream. 

Georgia wants every child to succeed, which is why each one deserves an excellent education. There is no excuse for continuing to fail children by neglecting opportunities that prepare them for a successful future and a better quality of life. Nobody knows this better than Scott Hammond, the Nevada senator and public school teacher who led his state to embrace one of the most sweeping education reforms in the nation: Education Savings Accounts. 

ESAs empower every child, regardless of ZIP code or wealth, to pursue a quality education. Additionally, they inspire education innovators and “teacherpreneurs” to develop new models of education such as “micro schools.” Hammond will be joined by Dr. Ben Scafidi, Georgia’s foremost expert on K-12 education funding. 

The luncheon keynote speaker is Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, “Washington’s hottest think tank,” and author of the bestselling book, “The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.” Brooks shared the stage recently with President Barrack Obama to discuss overcoming poverty. 

The event includes breakfast and lunch and is followed by a Bridges to Education Reception, where education keynote speakers, school representatives and teachers can continue the conversation and ask questions in a smaller, informal environment. 

If the pace of signups is any indication, a forum on these issues is long overdue. To find out more about the speakers and sessions or to reserve your seat, go to this link: https://www.georgiapolicy.org/?p=3264.

Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.