Experienced guide: Since 1996, the nonpartisan Georgia Public Policy Foundation has published a legislative agenda – a guide to the state’s policy challenges, with solutions aimed at reducing the role of government. And, as this 1996 article reveals, there was bipartisan consideration of the ideas proposed in Agenda ’96. As the Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, Georgians continue to look to us to bring people together with fact-based policy ideas for the state’s challenges. As important, the Guide to the Issues lives on.
Quotes of note
Evictions: The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to keep the renter eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September 2020. The moratorium has been extended several times, most recently until July 31. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed with the lower court that the CDC had exceeded its statutory authority but said the July 31 deadline would allow for “additional and more orderly distribution” of congressionally appropriated aid.
By the numbers: Individual investors make up the majority of U.S. landlords, with 23 million units in 17 million properties. More than 6 million renter households are behind on their rent, while small landlords, citing bureaucracy, say they are struggling to access $34 billion in federal relief funds already distributed to the states. Source: CNBC.com
Relocating: Total relocations in a typical year far exceed evictions, even in the depths of the economic downturn at the end of the last decade, the Heritage Foundation reports. “Then, the number of evictions failed to top 1 million households annually – or fewer than 2.5 million individuals. In contrast, more than 30 million Americans moved from one location to another in 2019 in a healthy economy.”
Group discount: After a federal pricing transparency mandate took effect January 1, The Wall Street Journal examined thousands of prices at hundreds of hospitals. It found many hospitals charge top prices to uninsured patients, who must pay cash out of pocket, compared with hospital prices negotiated with insurance companies. “Hospitals collected 5% of the amount they billed uninsured patients before writing off bills after a year of seeking payment,” the article notes.
Who pays? Uncompensated care – bad debt and charity care – cost 5,141 hospitals $41.61 billion in 2019, according to the American Hospital Association. About 80% of providers’ uncompensated care costs are offset by government payments, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Deadly drugs: Georgia fentanyl deaths rose at alarming rates during the pandemic, more than doubling from 2019 to 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The synthetic opioid was involved in 803 deaths in 2020, compared to 392 in 2019. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, affluent, suburban areas around Atlanta are hotspots; people in these areas can more readily afford the drug. Georgia law prohibits prosecution of people who call seeking help in the event of an overdose.
Overdose deaths: According to preliminary data, more than 90,000 people died of opioid overdoses in the United States last year, up from roughly 70,000 in 2019, The Washington Post reports. “Isolation is needed to stop Covid, but it makes the opioid crisis worse,” said Gary Mendell, whose group works to reduce the stigma around seeking help.
COVID-19 update: The Georgia Department of Public Health reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here. The state reports about 905,000 cases and 18,500 deaths since the pandemic reached Georgia.
Medical Monday: In her latest “Checking Up On Health” post, Benita Dodd discusses a silent epidemic and an important recall.
Cheating pays: During the pandemic, about 50% of unemployment claims, or $400 billion, may have gone to scammers, according to Axios. So far, the Secret Service has recovered $2 billion worth of unemployment fraud.
Adding fuel to the fire: Crude oil and gas prices are soaring. The average price at the pump has increased 40% since the start of the year, from $2.25 on January 1 to $3.13 this week. AAA predicts it will reach more than $3.25 later this summer. Crude oil prices, meanwhile, are set to surge to a seven-year high. AAA blames summer demand and disputes at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Taxes and Spending
Leveling or raising? Effective July 1, Glynn County will require landlords of short-term rentals such as VRBO and Airbnb in unincorporated areas to obtain a $150 annual license and pay accommodation excise taxes for each unit. The county said the goal is “to create a level playing field for all rentals.” Source: TheGeorgiaVirtue.com
Votes that count: The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld two Arizona laws, one banning the collection of absentee ballots by anyone other than a relative or caregiver, otherwise known as “ballot harvesting,” and another disallowing ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
Georgia challenged: The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Georgia over the state’s new election law. “Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. The Arizona case (above) also involved Section 2.
Don’t BYOB license: Alpharetta’s 1986 law barring city elected officials from holding an alcohol license is being challenged by City Council candidate Brian Wall, a restaurateur. The ordinance also prohibits city employees, appointed officials and their spouses from obtaining an alcoholic beverage license. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Veteran aid: The Atlanta Braves Foundation and Major League Baseball’s Legacy Fund partnered with the Warrior Alliance to open a 3,800-square-foot community veteran center at The Battery. The facility features a lounge for veterans and their families to meet with case managers and the more than 30 community service providers with which the Warrior Alliance partners. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This month in the archives: In July 20 years ago, the Foundation published, “SyncTrans: A Vision for the Future of Mass Transit.” It noted, “In order to attract a significant number of people out of their cars, it will be necessary to mold the product (mass transit) to fit consumer demands rather than our failed effort to mold consumer demands to fit the existing product.”
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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