Quotes of note
“Educate the children and it won’t be necessary to punish the men.” – Pythagoras
“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” – Thomas Sowell
“Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it. Ignorance may deride it. Malice may distort it. But there it is.” – Winston Churchill
On Our Desks
Sticker shock: In his weekly column, Kyle Wingfield asks “What makes Georgia homes so unaffordable?”
Full of Promise: Explore how Promise Scholarships would expand access to education opportunities.
On the rise: As housing prices continue to skyrocket, our latest study identifies the cost of regulatory compliance as a large factor. Read the press release.
We’re hiring! Are you a journalist with a love of investigation and the desire to use your skills to lead meaningful change? We’re hiring an investigative journalist to join the Foundation team. Learn more here.
At the Capitol
Budget update: The House Appropriations Committee approved an amended budget for the current fiscal year that would increase spending by $2.6 billion. A vote by the full Georgia House is expected today (Friday). Notable items in this budget include $2,000 bonus payments for full-time K-12 employees, a $5,000 raise for about 100,000 university and state employees, and close to $390 million to restore the K-12 spending cuts approved in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Fostering Success: The Senate unanimously passed the “Fostering Success Act” and it will now move to the House. This bill provides tax credits for donations to non-profit organizations that provide resources for individuals who age out of foster services but still require support services in order to finish their education and gain employment. The program would cap out at $20 million per calendar year and allow for contributions up to $2,500 from individuals.
Information diet: A bill that would allow fitness trainers and nutritionists to legally provide dietary advice advanced out of the House Regulated Industries subcommittee this week. Currently only licensed dieticians are allowed to provide this advice. This bill would increase the scope of practice as long as the individual does not market themselves as a dietician.
Energy and Environment
No new permits: Lawmakers are working to ban mining activity near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The bill would prohibit the state Environmental Protection Division from issuing new mining permits. This affects Alabama company Twin Pines, who applied for a permit to mine for heavy minerals in that area. Twin Pines’ application has drawn heavy opposition since 2019.
Battery power: Georgia Power is working with battery storage tech startup Form Energy to bring a potential 15MW/1,500MWh project to the utility company’s service area. Georgia Power wants to retire over 3,500MW of existing coal-fired generating units by 2028, and Form Energy claims that their technology provides long-duration energy storage at costs competitive with thermal power plants and cheaper than other batteries.
Taxes and Spending
Pay up: The state of Georgia has collected nearly $3 billion in taxes for each of the last three months. Total tax collections for January were $2.95 billion, Governor Brian Kemp announced, slightly lower than the $2.98 billion collected in December, but 16.7% higher than the tax collected in January 2021. As of the end of January, the state’s fiscal year 2022 total is $17.8 billion, a year-over-year increase of $2.70 billion. Source: The Center Square
Seriously, pay up. The individual income tax collections increased by almost $203 million, or 21 percent compared to last year when Income tax collections approached $1.44 billion. The Gross Sales and Use Tax collections for January totaled nearly $1.56 billion, for an increase of $207.2 million. Source: Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp
Property problems: Under Georgia law, property taxes are based on the value of the property as of January 1, but Newnan residents are being taxed for property damaged or destroyed by the March 2021 tornado as though the damage hadn’t occurred, reports the Newnan Times-Herald. One route to provide relief would be a state constitutional amendment. House Resolution 594 would allow voters to decide, if it passes the state House and Senate by a two-thirds majority.
DPC for you and me: In 2018, Florida changed its law to allow for direct primary care practices that allow for closer patient-provider relationships outside the traditional insurance model. Two years later, Florida opened its market further by allowing nurse practitioners to have their own practices, independent of a physician. In a new video from our sister think tank, the James Madison Institute, nurse Taylor Ann Drew explains how these changes have helped her care better for patients. Georgia law allows for direct primary care, but not for independent nurse practitioners; combining the two as Florida has could be a way to allow for better healthcare access in rural parts of our state.
Mental health: This session, Georgia lawmakers are focused on changes to the state’s mental health services network. The multipart legislative package purports to expand the number of mental health providers in the state, cover mental health services similarly to physical health services, and better train first responders to deal with mental health issues.
Licensing barriers: New mothers having trouble breastfeeding their infants have long turned to people in their communities for advice and help. But a 2016 Georgia law threatens to upend many of those arrangements by requiring a lengthy and expensive licensing process for lactation consultants: “the equivalent of two years of college courses, 300 to 1,000 hours of experience and an exam that costs about $700,” according to an attorney cited in a recent column by the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Nedra Rhone. The law is not being enforced while it is undergoing a court challenge. Read the Foundation’s overview of these kinds of occupational licenses here.
COVID-19: The Georgia Department of Public Health reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.
Learning loss: One of the first state-level studies of learning loss during the pandemic finds students in Wisconsin suffered “significant performance declines in math and English.” The study by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty notes that math performance was about 4.8% lower in districts that did not open for in-person instruction in fall 2020 compared to those that opened or offered hybrid learning. The decline in English/language arts was about 1.6%. The districts that remained closed were more likely to have high percentages of black students, and declines were greater among low-income students.
Some positive news: In the wake of the Omicron surge, Atlanta school districts are now reporting a steep drop in positivity rates. As of February 4, districts are now reporting a 47% drop in cases from the mid-January spike. During the week of Jan. 10, the districts recorded more than 8,600 cases. But last week, that number had decreased to approximately 4,600 cases.
Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “A Better Route to Give Parents Successful School Choice.”
Have a great weekend.
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