Friday Facts: February 9, 2024

Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia legislators are protecting workers’ right to privacy in union elections. What does that mean, and why is it important?

Imagine going into the voting booth each election cycle and not having any privacy when you cast your vote. Absurd, right? Not when it comes to workers deciding union representation at the workplace. Visualize having to choose whether or not you want union representation openly in front of all your friends and coworkers. The pressure and the implicit coercion are tactics deployed in an effort to compel employees to endorse a particular agenda.

For many employees, unions prefer to pursue workplace unionization efforts by collecting signatures in full view of coworkers or by repeated visits to employees’ homes – a process called “card-check.” But states can encourage employers to protect workers’ right to a private ballot in union elections.

Last year, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to prohibit granting taxpayer incentives to employers that fail to protect employees’ private ballot vote on union representation. Georgia is looking to do the same thing through Senate Bill 362, authored by Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick. This would not only protect a workers’ right to privacy by requiring a secret ballot election for union representation, it would also protect Georgia taxpayers from subsidizing companies that refuse to protect their employees from unnecessary and unjust forms of union intimidation in their workplaces.

Yesterday, Senate Bill 362 passed the Senate in a 31-23 vote. It now heads to the House. 

We hope you will check out this week’s commentary on the issue. I also wanted to share some exciting news and announcements from the Foundation: 

  • Tickets are now available for our Georgia Freedom Dinner on April 30, with special guest Kimberly Strassel of The Wall Street Journal. And if you purchase tickets before next Friday, we are offering a special early bird deal on tables of eight. Get your tickets now
  • On March 13, we will host Francisco Gonzalez, the Founder and CEO of Fearless Journeys, for a luncheon. You can purchase tickets here
  • The Foundation is seeking a marketing intern to work with our communications team this summer. This is a paid, mostly remote internship where you will gain real world experience. Get more details here

If you know anyone who is interested, please share our information. 

Have a great weekend,

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest

Cobb County transit plan has a lot to like but also potential problems

Rather than stage another MARTA referendum, be part of a regional transit plan, or introduce rail to the county, county leaders are trying a lower-cost approach. Commissioners recently approved a 30-year, $11 billion, bus-based plan that adds 108 miles of fixed-route service. What is in the plan and what unanswered questions remain?

Giving students options is already working in Georgia. But the need is greater.

You’ve heard the arguments against creating Promise Scholarships in Georgia. Three of the most stubborn are these: Only the “rich” will benefit; public schools will suffer; and rural students won’t have options. How do we know these claims aren’t true? We only need to look at Georgia’s popular tax-credit scholarship program. 

Prudent tax reforms are more than welcome

Like inflation generally, home prices grew less dramatically in 2023 than in other recent years – but they still grew. That will show up on your property tax bill later this year. Is there any relief in sight?

Georgia’s homeless problem prompts debate of intentions vs. results

Handing out taxpayer dollars in an attempt to combat homelessness is the easy part. Far more difficult is finding out what works and also how we should judge success. 

At the Capitol: Week of February 5

The legislative session paused on Monday as a memorial service was held for former Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who passed away last week. Still, lawmakers are nearing the halfway point of the legislative session with Days 15-18 scheduled this week. 

Here are some other updates from the past week:

– The House adopted a series of tax relief measures this week. House Bill 1015, authored by Rep. Lauren McDonald, R-Cumming, lowers the state income tax rate from 5.49% to 5.39% for 2024. House Bill 1019, sponsored by Rep. Matt Reeves, R-Duluth, doubles the state’s homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000. And House Bill 1021, sponsored by Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, increases the dependent exemption from $3,000 to $4,000. 

– Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, praised the tax cuts, saying “cutting taxes and returning more money to taxpayers continues to be a priority for the Georgia House of Representatives, and today’s passage of HB 1015, HB 1019, and HB 1021 will help return over a billion dollars to Georgia families, homeowners and taxpayers alike.”

– Legislation to provide an effective 3% annual cap on tax increases via assessed values cleared the Senate Finance Committee this morning. Senate Bill 349 is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. A recent op-ed from the Foundation looks at this proposal to cap property tax increases. 

– Also sponsored by Hufstetler is Senate Bill 163, which would allow breweries to sell directly to businesses under certain conditions. That bill was heard in the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee this week, but no action was taken. The Foundation has previously written how Georgia’s current regulations hurt breweries. 

– Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R–Dallas, introduced Senate Bill 420, which would prohibit “foreign adversaries” from acquiring agricultural land or other nonresidential land within 25 miles of a military installation. 

– Another bill from Anavitarte that would provide a sales tax exemption on firearms, ammunition, gun safes and related accessories for a five-day period in October passed the Senate.

– Reps. Carter Barrett, R-Cumming; Jordan Ridley, R-Woodstock; and Mitchell Horner, R-Ringgold, recently co-sponsored House Bill 1112, which would remove Georgia’s Secretary of State from the State Elections Board. 

– Legislation to change Georgia’s law on the sale and distribution of drugs like opioid antagonists, which can be lifesaving during an opioid overdose, passed this week. House Bill 1035 is authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta.

– Changes to the Special Needs Scholarship Program advanced in the House Education Committee. House Bill 579, authored by Rep. Carter Barrett, R-Cumming, clarifies that a student does not need to satisfy the prior year public school attendance requirement when he or she has previously qualified for a scholarship and that a student receiving the scholarship does not need to keep their IEP or Section 504 plan up to date after establishing eligibility.

– State Rep. Brad Thomas, R-Holly Springs, is a lead sponsor for two bills recently filed on artificial intelligence. House Bill 986, also known as the “AI Transparency and Protection Act” would create criminal felony offenses of election interference by use of deep fakes. House Bill 988 would require the Georgia Technology Authority to audit all artificial intelligence usage by state agencies. 

The Latest


Georgia House adopts midyear budget loaded with new spending

The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted a $37.5 billion 2024 midyear budget this week with a surplus-fueled $5 billion in new spending. Among the big-ticket spending items is $1.5 billion for transportation improvements, including $659 million for projects in the existing pipeline and $509 million for projects aimed at more efficient movement of freight.

New economic report shows World Heritage Designation, Okefenokee Experience would benefit region

The Okefenokee Swamp Park announced the release of a new economic impact study showing that the pending World Heritage Site designation in conjunction with the planned Okefenokee Experience would have significant economic impact on the region surrounding the swamp, resulting in an up to 100% increase in visitation and $60 million in additional annual economic output.

New report: ‘Costly’ ESG standards, climate policies will ultimately reduce food and energy supplies

A new report, published by the free market think tank Buckeye Institute, outlines how farmers will see their operational costs rise by an estimated 34% due to climate change policies and environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. For consumers, this means the grocery bill for an average American family of four will increase by roughly $1,300 per year.


College financial-aid applications fall 57%

Less than half the usual number of high-school students have applied for college financial aid so far this year, following a bumpy rollout of the government’s new form. Last year, the government revamped the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process to streamline applications and help more families qualify for federal Pell grants. But it has faced delays and technical glitches. 

Dartmouth College brings back standardized testing admissions requirement

Dartmouth College is reinstating its standardized testing requirement for undergraduate applicants, reversing a change made at the start of the pandemic nearly four years ago. Dartmouth is the first Ivy League school to announce it is moving away from “test-optional” admissions. The new policy will start with prospective students for the Class of 2029. 

Savannah-Chatham public schools to present revised strategic plan to board

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, like most organizations, has a forward-facing roadmap for success. In 2021, the district mapped its Way Forward Strategic Plan through 2026. How well the district has followed said plan over the past few years may be up for debate.

Government accountability

Coalition of states criticize Biden’s natural gas export freeze

A coalition of about two dozen state attorneys general, including Georgia’s Chris Carr, sent a letter to President Joe Biden blasting the president’s recent decision to freeze the approval of new export sites for liquefied natural gas. Biden announced the freeze last month, citing climate change concerns.

Georgia Supreme Court chief justice speaks on low wages, understaffing in legal system

Georgia has made strides toward creating a more just society, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs said in his State of the Judiciary address on Wednesday. But a wide range of emerging and ongoing problems, stemming from a lack of funding and the emergence of new threats to public safety, are bogging down the state’s judicial branch. 


State sues feds over rejection of ‘Georgia-centric’ Medicaid expansion

Georgia and the federal government remain at loggerheads over Gov. Brian Kemp’s limited expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. The state filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brunswick Friday seeking an extension of the five-year program being denied by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Dept. of Community Health abandons rule change that would reduce staffing requirements in memory care

The Department of Community Health (DCH) has decided not to change a rule reducing staffing requirements in memory care units. The DCH board had initially adopted the rule on November 9, 2023, which would have changed the current requirement of two direct-care workers in memory care units, as set by law, to allow for only one. The board was set to vote on final adoption at a meeting in early 2024.


Atlanta to host eight matches, including a semifinal, during World Cup 2026

FIFA unveiled the Match Schedule for the FIFA World Cup 2026 on Sunday afternoon, and Atlanta has been selected to host eight matches — including five group stage matches, a round of 32 match, a round of 16 match, and a semifinal match. All the matches will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. 

Why are pickup trucks ridiculously huge? Blame government.

Whenever a progressive blames capitalism or private companies for a “market failure”—i.e., the inefficient or seemingly inexplicable distribution of goods or services in the economy—it’s best to dig a little deeper. Almost always, some government regulation, tax, or law is largely to blame. One recent example involves the proliferation of mega-pickup trucks. 

ESPN, Fox and Warner team up to create sports streaming platform

ESPN, Fox Corp. and Warner Bros. Discovery are teaming up to create a supersize sports-streaming service that will offer content from all major leagues, a deal that will reshape the sports and media landscape. The as-yet-unnamed service will be offered directly to consumers, who would be able to stream all of these companies’ sports content.

Quotes of the Week

“Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Franklin P. Jones

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.” – C. S. Lewis

“As a leader you will receive a large amount of praise and criticism and you should not be unduly affected by either. – John Wooden

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