Gov. Brian Kemp gave his annual State of the State Address before the Georgia General Assembly on Thursday. His message was a positive one; he described Georgia as a growing and prosperous state with a fiscally conservative government.
The legislature on Friday will conclude the first week of this year’s legislative session, as it begins to tackle policy, budget and social issues facing the Peach State.
Kemp began his address by drawing a contrast between Georgia and the federal government, saying, “[Voters] will see what we’ve achieved together on the state level to make Georgia an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family, and they’ll see the hardships Washington, D.C., has brought into every home and placed on every kitchen table across our state.”
Speaking with a sense of urgency, Kemp referenced one of the most important and contentious pieces of legislation that was held over from last year’s session: a bill that would provide Promise Scholarship Accounts of $6,500 per school year to students in failing school districts. The Foundation praised Kemp for his support.
I hope you will check out this week’s commentary on Kemp’s State of the State address. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:
- Lawmakers gavel in for the first week of the 2024 legislative session
- State revenues are down in December
- Inflation climbs faster than expected
- Legislation to be filed to create City of Mulberry in Gwinnett County
Have a great weekend,
– Kyle Wingfield
The 2024 legislative session is upon us, squeezing itself between a special session for redistricting and the coming election season. But while every session of the General Assembly – like every election – is billed as consequential, this time the hype could be right. Emphasis on “could.”
2024 is an election year, and every state legislative seat will be on the ballot. Traditionally, this means a short session as legislators wish to adjourn early and begin raising money for their re-election campaigns. But, alas, the business of the state beckons. Starting with decisions on what the state should do with its historic revenues.
Twenty years after Pearl, Mississippi, spent $28 million on the construction of a minor league baseball field for the Braves’ Double-A affiliate, the organization announced it will be moving to Columbus, Georgia next year. The move came after Columbus agreed to spend up to $50 million in bonds to upgrade the nearly 100-year-old Golden Park.
The education establishment would rather work hard to ensure parents – and taxpayers, and voters – don’t know the extent of the learning loss from the pandemic, than do the work of remedying it.
To better understand the outcomes of these academies, the Foundation has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of these programs.
At The Capitol: Week of January 8
Lawmakers returned to Atlanta this week to kick off the 40-day session on Monday. Here is a recap of the first week of the 2024 session:
- Gov. Brian Kemp delivered the 2024 State of the State address on Thursday. You can watch the speech here.
- Earlier in the week at the Georgia Chamber’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast, Kemp outlined his priorities for this session. He also announced that a significant tort reform push will not be happening this year.
- Lt. Gov. Burt Jones talked about school choice, specifically mentioning SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, as well as red tape reform.
- Speaker Jon Burns mentioned the House is exploring a private option for Medicaid expansion, which could be paired with changes to the state’s Certificate of Need program. In December, the Foundation published a policy brief that analyzed claims made by supporters of this approach.
- A sports betting bill cleared the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee this week. Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, would allow Georgians to vote on sports betting.
- House Bill 880, sponsored by Rep. Bethany Ballard, R-Warner Robins, would allow military spouses to use an existing occupational license in good standing from another state to obtain employment in Georgia.
- One issue gaining traction with lawmakers is a measure to tackle “swatting” following a spate of incidents targeting Georgia lawmakers. “It’s a sad commentary on where we are that you’re willing to put law enforcement’s lives in danger, your political opponents’ lives in danger, their neighbors,” Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said.
Georgia tax collections declined by 5% last month, down $159.1 million from the $3.21 billion in taxes the state Department of Revenue brought in during December of 2022. Individual income tax receipts were down 3.6%, driven largely by a 114% increase in tax refunds issued to Georgia taxpayers.
Inflation rose more than expected in December thanks to a jump in energy and housing costs, underscoring the challenge of taming price pressures within the economy. The Labor Department said the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price of everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rent, rose 0.3% in December.
Columbus Council voted to OK a lease with Diamond Baseball Holdings to bring a Minor League team back to Golden Park, after about a 90-minute closed meeting. That means the city will spend up to $50 million in a bond issue to upgrade the 1920s ballpark to Minor League standards.
Growth in Rome and Floyd County is on an upswing, and expectations are that the trend will increase even more, spurred by the concentric circles of development radiating out of Bartow County. The most significant trend noted is an increase in housing development within Rome itself.
After a years-long trend of elite colleges dropping standardized test requirements from their applications, the tide seems to be turning for the SAT. Long derided as unfair or unnecessary, college entrance exams are gaining new defenders who point out that, contrary to common conception, standardized tests help—not hinder—talented yet disadvantaged students.
2023 was the year for school choice—from vouchers, to homeschooling, to pod schools with parents who use education savings accounts. The winners include charter schools, as union-run K-12 schools lost hundreds of thousands of students during COVID-19 who haven’t returned. Charter enrollment is up 9% since 2019, while the number of students in district schools is down 3.5%.
Georgia’s hospitality and tourism industry continues to expand. As the second-largest economic contributor to the Georgia economy after agriculture, hospitality and tourism workforce development is critical. The University of Georgia is addressing the need and preparing the workforce of the future through partnerships and experiential learning.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board unanimously voted to approve Phase 1 of the district’s extensive, final version of the Long-Range Facilities Plan Phase 1. The in-depth, 67-page plan, which was only made available ahead of Wednesday’s board meeting, provides a school-by-school breakdown of the facilities plan’s Phase 1 implications.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals pushed back on a Biden administration effort to tighten regulations on dishwashers and washing machines. In 2022, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office that led to the Department of Energy replacing a less strict Trump-era rule on those appliances with a more stringent rule for energy and water use.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced the appointment of John Fervier as Chair of the Georgia Elections Board. Fervier has worked for Waffle House Inc. for over 35 years and is currently the vice president of risk management and security. He has served on numerous boards, including Georgia Subsequent Injury Trust Fund, Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and Kid’s Chance of Georgia.
South Fulton Mayor Khalid Kamau apologized for comments about standing in solidarity with Palestine during a swearing-in ceremony for several city council members. The mayor says he did it as a compromise to avoid a censure vote from the city council.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a contract with a consultant to conduct a $287,000 education campaign on the county’s upcoming transit tax referendum. In the Nov. 5 referendum, Cobb voters will decide on a 30-year, 1% sales tax to fund public transit projects. If approved, Cobb’s sales tax would increase from 6% to 7%.
The state awarded more than $9 million Monday to support more than 400 housing units in four Georgia communities, the second round of grants through a program Gov. Brian Kemp created last year known as the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative.
The Holly Springs City Council is expected to vote later this month on a request to build a Habitat for Humanity townhome community. The applicant would like to build a 50-unit single family residential townhome community, a density of 7.9 units per acre, according to city documents. Amenities would include a walking trail and pickleball courts.
Legislation to create a new city in Gwinnett County has been released, and it includes a new name for the proposed municipality: Mulberry. Georgia House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration, R-Auburn, and State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, have released the proposed legislation as well as a study looking at the feasibility of what would be Gwinnett’s second-largest city if it is approved by legislators and voters.
A key measure of home-purchase applications surged at the start of the new year despite a slight uptick in mortgage rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s index of mortgage applications rose 9.9% for the week ended Jan. 5, compared with one week earlier, according to new data published this week.
Newsom vowed not to roll back his previous major spending commitments, including free kindergarten for all 4-year-olds and free health insurance for all low-income adults — even illegal immigrants.
Chick-fil-A wants to bring aboard an entertainment producer as it scales up its non-food offerings for customers. The company has a job listing for an entertainment producer role that will be tasked with “overseeing the day-to-day creative production of original scripted and unscripted shows produced by Chick-fil-A and its various production partners and content creators.”
A back-and-forth over which Sunday Augusta bars can be open for this year came to an anticlimactic end this week. Georgia law permits municipal governments to select just one Sunday each year when bars can legally serve alcohol. During its special called meeting, the Augusta Commission did not change its decision for Super Bowl Sunday to be the chosen Sunday for 2024.
Quotes of the Week
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Humility is a strange flower; it grows best in winter weather, and under storms of affliction.” – Samuel Rutherford
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale