Friday Facts: February 17, 2023

It’s Friday!

Some bad ideas just won’t go away. MARTA released details last fall on a plan to extend its streetcar 2.5 miles to Atlanta’s Beltline. Previously, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation wrote in favor of MARTA’s decision to switch to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for the Campbellton Corridor, but unfortunately the streetcar seems to be a higher priority. The mayor’s office reaffirmed its support even as some MARTA officials voiced skepticism about further straining the agency’s budget on such a troubled project.

The first line of the Atlanta Streetcar system was implemented in 2015 and has been a terribly inefficient public transit program since its implementation.

The numbers speak for themselves:

– The cost of the first 2.7 miles exceeded estimates at $99 million, or $36.7 million a mile, in 2015. In 2023, estimated costs ballooned to between $88 million to $107.5 million a mile for the proposed expansion with total project costs ranging from $176 million to $230 million.

– Even when it was free, ridership was significantly below capacity, and now that the line costs $1 per passenger, ridership has sunk to an average of 400 riders a day in 2022.

– The system has an average traveling speed of 5 mph. Considering the average human walking speed is 2.5 to 4 mph, it’s not unfair to say Atlanta’s streetcars are one of the slowest forms of public transportation available.

Read why the Atlanta streetcar is an expensive project that few use.

Friday’s Freshest

Arbitrary government regulations increase the cost of housing

As rising housing costs continue to confound developers and buyers, it remains important for citizens to understand the makeup of those costs – especially if those costs seem arbitrary or unnecessarily burdensome.

📺 WATCH: Impact fees and the cost of a house

Time to reform Certificate of Need laws

Last week, a Senate committee heard the year’s first bill to reform Certificate of Need, a system that empowers bureaucrats and incumbent providers to approve — or block — new healthcare facilities. Proponents again cited the need for more competition to lower costs, increase quality and allow communities to determine their healthcare needs. Opponents, as usual, claimed facilities will close and people will lose access to care if, like every other modern American industry, hospitals are allowed to face even a little competition.

Government-funded broadband makes matters worse, experts warn

Government has the ability to provide high-speed Internet to areas in need. However, experts say just because it can doesn’t mean that it should, considering circumstances the media and the government often do not publicize. For instance, analysts say bureaucrats at the local, state and federal levels have spent — and mismanaged — more taxpayer money than was necessary.

Georgia legislators want state to trim cosmetologists’ licensing requirements

Legislation has been introduced to lessen the regulatory requirements for niche beauty services, including blow dry styling, eyebrow threading and makeup artistry.

Kemp’s Georgia Pathways will soon be launched

This new option should mean better access to care and fewer financial risks for taxpayers than Medicaid expansion.

At the Capitol

Here is your recap of the sixth week of the 2023 legislative session in Georgia.

  • Legislative activity has continued to gain momentum as lawmakers hit the halfway point in the 40-day session on Thursday.
  • The Senate voted to place a monument of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a native of Pin Point, Georgia, at the Capitol.
  • Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, introduced Senate Bill 157 to clarify the standards for licensure eligibility for a person with a criminal record. Specifically, it removes vague “moral turpitude” licensing criteria, while allowing licensure denial only if there is a direct relationship between a criminal record and the licensed occupation. A number of Southern states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, have enacted similar legislation to allow ex-offenders to receive an occupational license.
  • House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, would amend telemedicine laws to include eye examinations. This measure cleared the House Public Health Committee.
  • The Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee began debate on sports betting in Georgia this week. Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, would allow sports betting both online and in person at kiosks that could be located inside a range of businesses, including sports venues. This bill would also legalize horse racing.
  • House Bill 32, sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, would require that high school football championship games have instant replay for review of calls. This bill was discussed in a House Education Subcommittee this week. The Georgia High School Association says it has already voted to implement instant replay and is in the process of working out details. It was noted in the discussion that Alabama already has instant replay for high school football.
  • Gas-powered leaf blowers would be protected against local ordinances under a new Senate bill. Senate Bill 145, known as the LEAF Act, is sponsored by Sen. Shawn Still, R-Norcross.
  • Legislation that would bar the use of TikTok on government-owned devices has advanced in the Senate. Senate Bill 93 was introduced by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas.


Georgia sets international trade record for second straight year

The state of Georgia posted a second-straight record year for international trade in 2022, including a new high for exports to other countries. Total trade last year topped $196 billion, an increase of 18% compared to 2021, and the bulk of that was via imports. But Georgia products sold overseas totaled $47 billion, an 11% increase from 2021.

Georgia tax collections continue to increase

Georgia’s taxman continues to report increasing collections. The state’s net tax collections for January were shy of $3 billion, an increase of 1.1% or $32.9 million from January 2022. Year-to-date, Georgia’s net tax collections surpassed $18.8 billion, an increase of 5.6% or roughly $1 billion.

Government accountability

Georgia cities rank fourth for most fines and fees collected

Georgia cities collected the fourth most fines and fees of any state, according to a new analysis. The Reason Foundation found that Peach State cities took in more than $376.6 million in fines and fees in 2020. The amount equals $35.16 per resident; the national average was $27 per resident.

Yet another state announces major occupational licensing reform

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu launched a bold occupational licensing reform recently by promising to sign legislation that broadly recognizes occupational licenses issued by other states. Additionally, Sununu called for the outright elimination of 34 licenses currently issued by various boards, as well as the elimination of 14 state regulatory boards.


Georgia senator introduces bill to repeal state’s certificate of need law

A Georgia state senator has introduced legislation to repeal Georgia’s certificate of need law. State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, introduced Senate Bill 162. It would repeal the CON requirement for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services.

South Carolina inches closer to eliminating state’s certificate of need program

The South Carolina Senate gave the thumbs up to legislation that would repeal the state’s certificate of need regulations for most healthcare facilities. The proposed legislation would repeal the CON requirement for most South Carolina healthcare facilities.


Homebuilder sentiment jumps in February by biggest amount in a decade

Confidence among builders in the U.S. housing market increased more than expected in February as a recent decline in mortgage rates helps to stoke buyer demand. The National Index rose 7 points to 42, the highest reading since September and the largest one-month gain since June 2013.

Decatur makes zoning changes for residential development

The Decatur City Commission approved zoning changes that will free up single-family properties for denser residential development. Decatur’s new statutes will allow duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes to be built on parcels currently designated only for standalone homes.

Quotes of the Week

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” – George Washington

“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it so.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan

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