Friday Facts: April 5, 2024

This truly seemed like one of those legislative sessions when everything was aligned for meaningful property tax reform. 

An election year.

Actual, honest-to-goodness constituents contacted their legislators – not just the special interests that patrol the Gold Dome – seeking relief from soaring property value assessments. 

And while the House and Senate may not have been in lockstep on their approach to solving the problem, both chambers were publicly committed to providing a solution, and hope remained that an agreement could be reached before adjournment. 

Entering the final week of the session, property tax reform still remained on the agenda. Meanwhile, other tax cuts such as lowering the personal income and corporate tax rates had already been sent to the Governor’s desk. 

In this week’s commentary, the Foundation’s Chris Denson looks at what transpired for property tax reform this year and what that means for the future. We hope you will check that out. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:

  • PSC rules in favor of railroad in eminent domain battle
  • Plant Vogtle Unit 4 reactor reaches 100% power
  • More than 1 in 4 kids are chronically absent from school, report shows
  • Wagering on March Madness likely to break record amid sports betting wave, just not (legally) in Georgia

Have a great weekend,

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest

Georgia landowner’s eminent domain case could force judges to resolve long-lingering questions

Sparta residents Blaine and Diane Smith don’t want a Georgia railroad company to construct a 4.5-mile-long rail spur across the property that he and his extended family have owned for more than a century. After a hearing late last year, the Georgia Public Service Commission issued their ruling this week. The result: The Sandersville Railroad Company may construct the rail spur by means of eminent domain. A train will haul as much as 500,000 tons of granite from the nearby Hanson Quarry across Smith’s land.

One legislative term under new leadership is now complete

The General Assembly’s only shot clock is the 40-day limit on its legislative sessions. Most of its other rules are meant to slow down the lawmaking process. As someone who doesn’t want lawmakers to make laws only for the sake of lawmaking, that’s a good thing. But this past Thursday night, on the last day of the session, lawmakers took their lack of haste to a new level.

Georgia students now have a Promise

At long last, Georgia’s students have a Promise. As with many past votes on school-choice measures, the legislation received the bare minimum 91 votes needed to advance from the House. But that narrowest of margins belies the strong public support for such programs that shows up in almost every opinion poll, transcending all the usual demographic, partisan and geographic lines.

The Georgia model for putting workers’ rights ahead of union demands

A new Georgia law will require companies that receive taxpayer incentives to hold secret ballot elections for union representation, a move that is countering much of what the Biden administration and the National Labor Relations Board are doing. 

The Latest


Local officials gearing up for start of production at Hyundai

Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America’s agreement states production is anticipated to begin October 1. With roughly six months to go until opening day, local officials have a short amount of time to get their ducks in a row before Hyundai comes online. Workforce and transportation are top of mind for some area officials while conversations regarding expanding access to the electrical vehicle certificate at Savannah Technical College have begun.  

Plant Vogtle Unit 4 reactor reaches 100% power

The nuclear expansion at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle has reached another milestone as it nears completion after years of cost overruns and scheduling delays. Unit 4, the second of two new reactors being built at the plant south of Augusta, achieved 100% power on Monday night, the Atlanta-based utility announced this week.

Solar panel manufacturer announces new plant in Cartersville

A South Korean company has started production of solar panels at its newest Georgia plant. The company, Qcells, announced its Cartersville plant is up and running.The Cartersville plant will add 16,000 panels per day, with the company planning to eventually employ 4,000 Georgians.

UPS to become the primary air cargo provider for the United States Postal Service

Atlanta-based UPS will become the primary air cargo provider for the United States Postal Service. The shipping company said that it had received an air cargo contract from the U.S. Postal Service that significantly expands an existing partnership between the two. UPS will move the majority of air cargo in the U.S. for the postal service following a transition period, according to UPS.


Georgia lawmakers approve more funding for charter schools

Georgia lawmakers have approved a measure to increase funding for public charter school principals and superintendents. House Bill 1122 allocates roughly $6 million to fund a superintendent for each state charter school with at least 1,000 students, as well as new principals based on school size. 

Gwinnett County Schools launch AI policy lab

Gwinnett County Public Schools and EdSAFE AI Alliance have teamed up to help educators use artificial intelligence safely and ethically, GCPS officials announced. The two organizations are establishing a new AI Policy Lab, which will be part of a nationwide network of similar policy initiatives designed to promote the responsible development and use of AI.

More than 1 in 4 kids are chronically absent from school, report shows

Since COVID-19 shuttered American schools, chronic absenteeism has skyrocketed, with the number of students missing more than 10% of school days climbing from 15 to 26% since 2019, according to new data. While the cause of this increase is easily pinned on COVID-era online schooling, the solution to the problem has confounded school leaders.

Berry College President announces plans to retire in 2025

Steve Briggs, President of Berry College, has announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2024-2025 academic year. Briggs, Berry’s eighth president, has served since 2006. Briggs describes his work as “embracing the enterprising spirit of Martha Berry and demonstrating the continuing relevance of an education of the head, heart, and hands.” 

Government accountability

Energy tax subsidies could top $1.8 trillion

Biden administration estimates show that the US government could spend more than $1.8 trillion over 10 years on energy tax subsidies, if they are made permanent. These costs could increase even further as new regulations, such as the recently finalized tailpipe emissions rule and proposed power plant rule, force greater adoption of tax credit‐​eligible technologies.

Canton mom investigated for letting 7-year-old get a cookie from the store

Beth Widner is a mother of four who lives in Canton. One day, after swim practice at their local YMCA, which was about two blocks from their house, their 7-year-old, Jackson, lagged behind while the rest of his siblings walked home, and stopped by the grocery for a free cookie. A store employee thought it was so unusual to see an unaccompanied 7-year-old that they called 911. This would lead to two investigations by Child Protective Services.


Feds send MARTA $750,000 grant for southwest Atlanta corridor

The feds are sending $750,000 to MARTA to study the potential for transit-oriented development around the Campbellton Community Investment Corridor. MARTA completed a transit-oriented development master plan for the six-mile bus rapid transit corridor in 2023. Officials said the Federal Transit Administration grant will support developing a plan to implement the recommendations and identify possible public and private funding sources.

GDOT partners with Norfolk Southern to improve freight rail in Henry County

The Georgia Department of Transportation announced they’ll be partnering with Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern Corporation to pay for freight rail improvements in Henry County. According to GDOT, Norfolk Southern received an $8.4 million grant for their McDonough passing track improvement project.


Wagering on March Madness likely to break record amid sports betting wave, just not in Georgia

As we approach the Final Four, sports betting during this year’s March Madness will likely break records as more states legalize wagers. Adults will legally bet some $2.72 billion on the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments, analysts predicted before the tournament. But legalized betting won’t be coming to Georgia as lawmakers failed to come to an agreement during the recently concluded session. 

City of Atlanta looking to enhance the iconic Jackson Street Bridge

The iconic Jackson Street Bridge is one of the most popular photo spots in all of Atlanta. With the background of the downtown skyline, both tourists and locals flock to the bridge to be photographed. Add the golden hour to the mix and it makes for the perfect tableaux. However, snapping a shot is not always easy. 

Americans are draining their retirement accounts, racking up debt due to high inflation

Chronic inflation hinders millions of Americans’ ability to prepare for their financial future, according to a new study. Findings from the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America show that U.S. households are draining their retirement savings, taking on debt and reducing the amount that they are setting aside for the future to maintain their present-day finances.

Quotes of the Week

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” – Daniel Kahneman, 1934-2024

“Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” – David Foster Wallace

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo

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