Friday Facts: March 8, 2024

As the calendar turns to March, the 2024 legislative session enters its final stretch. With Crossover Day – the date in which a bill must pass out of at least one chamber – now in the rearview and candidate qualifying coming to an end this week, what will the final weeks of this session hold? 

Perhaps the defining moment before the legislature adjourned in 2023 occurred when a bill that would have allowed students in failing schools to receive a scholarship account towards private school enrollment, educational supplies or tutoring failed to receive the necessary votes needed to pass the House. Opponents shrieked with delight while supporters were left bewildered to assess what had just occurred. 

Despite school choice legislation advancing elsewhere across the country – including our neighboring state of Alabama just this week – the bill has not received any legislative action since it failed on the House floor during Sine Die last year. While it remains a stated priority of every Republican leader under the Gold Dome, fewer  than 10 legislative days remain to get it across the finish line.  

Beyond school choice, plenty of work also remains on issues ranging from healthcare to housing affordability to taxes and more. Get all the details in this week’s commentary. We hope you will check it out, along with the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:

  • Rivian puts $5 billion Georgia plant on hold
  • $36+ billion fiscal 2025 budget moving forward under the Gold Dome
  • School choice rolls in Alabama as supporters wait for action in the Peach State
  • Vidalia onions headed to grocery shelves April 17

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest

Alabama’s CHOOSE Act puts pressure on Georgia to pass school choice

Another state that borders Georgia has passed comprehensive school choice legislation. This time it is Alabama. The CHOOSE Act creates education savings accounts, providing families with $7,000 for various educational expenses. After moving quickly through the House and Senate, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law Thursday.

Lawmakers avoid making long-term obligations with temporary surpluses

Gov. Brian Kemp signed an amended budget for the current year that spends almost $5.5 billion more than the original plan. One-time items represent almost 90% of the new spending in the amended 2024 budget. These items include everything from various transportation projects to a new medical and dental school to bonuses for state employees. 

Gwinnett County offers latest transportation tax plan

Gwinnett County residents have rejected paying a one-cent sales tax to expand transit service in four separate votes, most recently in 2020. A common theme in the four defeats was the presence of MARTA, something county leaders removed for this referendum. What is included in the transportation proposal this year?

Next steps in Georgia tax reform

The significant tax reforms enacted in 2022 were a good start. Those reforms made Georgia a flat-tax state with a 5.49% income tax on all earners, and that gradually drops to 4.99% by 2029. But work still needs to be done to remain competitive in this low-tax region of the country.

Parents, educators and taxpayers deserve to know school accountability ratings

Whether you work at these schools, send your children to them, or only pay for them with your taxes, you deserve to know what’s happening in them.

At The Capitol: Week of March 4

Since Crossover Day, lawmakers have been busy working on bills that passed the other chamber as we close in on Sine Die. Here is an update on what happened this week:

  • This is qualifying week for members of the state legislature, as well as local county officials. Candidates have until the end of the day today to submit their paperwork. 
  • Rep. Clay Pirkle, R-Asburn, announced last week he will not seek re-election this year. Pirkle has been in the House since 2015. 
  • Georgia Public Policy Foundation President and CEO Kyle Wingfield testified before the Senate Finance Committee about tax reform and what Georgia needs to do to remain competitive in a low-tax region. In February, the Foundation partnered with the Buckeye Institute in publishing “Next Steps for Georgia” that models how several tax scenarios would impact Georgia’s economy. 
  • The House adopted a $36.1 billion fiscal 2025 state budget this week that includes pay raises for teachers, state and university system employees and judges.
  • The House gave final passage to the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, which is a follow up to legislation passed last year. SB 332, authored by Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, will give the panel power to remove prosecutors it deems guilty of a variety of offenses, including mental or physical incapacity, willful misconduct or failure to perform the duties of the office, conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, or conduct that brings the office into disrepute. It is now headed to the Governor. 
  • The Senate amended the Georgia Development Impact Fee Act, which will allow local boards of education to collect fees from developers to be used for educational services in certain fast-growing counties. SB 208 is authored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming. This bill is limited to school districts that have experienced 20% growth in student enrollment over the past decade and have expenditures of more than $250 million on educational facilities during that same time period.
  • The House adopted the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act, which would enact penalties on sheriffs who do not report that an inmate is in the country illegally to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. HB 1105 is authored by Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah. It now moves to the Senate.
  • Following passage, Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, released the following statement: “While we continue to pray for Laken Riley and her family, the Georgia House took action today to strengthen public safety and security in our state, stand firmly against illegal immigration and for the rule of law – and I am proud of the passage of House Bill 1105.”
  • The House also adopted the Squatter Reform Act, which would create the offense of unlawful squatting when someone enters and resides in a property without the owner’s “knowledge or consent.” HB 1017 is authored by Rep. Devan Seabaugh, R-Marietta. 

The Latest


Rivian puts plan to build $5B Georgia plant on hold

Electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian will delay indefinitely plans to build a $5 billion EV plant east of Atlanta, the company announced Thursday. Instead, Rivian initially will begin building its new R2 midsize SUV model at its plant in Normal, Ill. Rivian announced plans to build the $5 billion plant in Georgia in December 2021 amid much fanfare. 

Georgia Ports Authority posts rail cargo record

The Port of Savannah set a record for rail traffic last month at the port’s Mason Mega Rail Terminal. The rail terminal handled 46,890 containers in February, an increase of 39% compared to the same month last year. The ports authority’s Appalachian Regional Port in Northwest Georgia also set a February record, moving 3,825 containers, up 23% over February of 2023.

Firearm parts manufacturer breaks ground in Richmond Hill

This week, Buck Holly and C&H Precision were joined by a variety of dignitaries as they broke ground on what will be the future expansion of their firearm parts facility. The 50,000-square-foot facility in Richmond Hill will open in April 2025. The new facility will include a dedicated gun range, a coffee shop and more as Georgia continues to grow defense and firearms manufacturing in the state.


Alabama school choice bill awaits Ivey’s signature

Alabama lawmakers fast-tracked Gov. Kay Ivey’s top-priority, universal school choice. The CHOOSE Act cleared the Senate this week after passing the House earlier. The bill creates education savings accounts for families of students to use toward eligible education expenses. With this, every state that borders Georgia has an ESA program in place. 

Florida’s open-enrollment program is a popular and overlooked school choice success

Established in 2016, Florida’s Controlled Open Enrollment lets students transfer to public schools other than their residentially assigned one so long as capacity is available. As of the 2022-23 school year, 272,800 students, more than 9% of public school students, opted to transfer. 

Gwinnett Tech offers EV work to auto repair program

With more and more hybrid and electric vehicles on the roadway, Gwinnett Tech is incorporating additional EV work in its course of study. It will soon roll out a program for maintaining vehicle charging stations, becoming the first technical college in the state to do so. The college’s automotive technology department will add a certificate program for hybrid-electric and battery-electric vehicles.

Government accountability

Blame Washington, not grocery stores, for food price hikes

If you’re struggling to pay for groceries, you’re not alone. Staples such as bread, lunch meats, dairy products, and eggs have seen price increases of 20% to 40% in the past three years. President Joe Biden is blaming grocery stores for “gouging” consumers, but there’s just one problem with that explanation: His administration’s own data disprove it.

Georgia cities see big bucks through fines, forfeitures

Two Georgia cities received more than three-quarters of their general revenue from fines and forfeitures, a new analysis from the Reason Foundation found. While Lenox (79.7%) and Warwick (76.9%), both in south Georgia, topped the list, five Peach State cities — including Oliver, Hiltonia, and Rocky Ford — collected at least half of their total revenues from such sources. 

College Park mayor files federal lawsuit against city

College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broome has filed a federal lawsuit against the city she’s in charge of. She claims the College Park City Council has tried to silence her from expressing her opinion during debates or discussions about legislative initiatives. In the lawsuit, the mayor alleges the city changed and tried to remove her from her duties for speaking out about their restraints.


Atlanta housing market picks up in February 

Numerous indicators in Georgia MLS‘ 12-county Housing Market Snapshot showed Atlanta’s housing market gaining steam last month as the spring selling season kicked off. On a unit basis, home sales surged 23% month over month while the median sales price rose 3.6% month over month and 7.1% year over year.

Planning Commission OKs 180 Homes in SW Cobb

Last year, Clithon Rice was a staunch opponent of a major subdivision proposed near his Brown’s Crossing neighborhood in southwest Cobb. But this week, Rice again spoke about a rezoning request in the area near his neighborhood, except this time, he pledged full support for the project.

New real estate opportunity brewing as some Americans opt to rent

As economic woes continue to pummel the housing industry, one real estate developer is finding opportunities within a new market – the “forever renters.” A portion of these “forever renters” are of the “higher-end” demographic and have an eye for apartments with large scale rooms, sophisticated aesthetics and kid-friendly amenities. 


Vidalia onions headed to grocery shelves April 17

The start of Vidalia onion season is almost here, with the official pack date announced by the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner and Vidalia Onion Committee this week. Vidalia onion fans across the country can mark their calendars for April 17, when the sweet onions are set to ship to grocery stores nationwide.

State Ag Department marks 150 years of service

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, marking a historic milestone as the United States’ first and oldest State Department of Agriculture. Established on February 28, 1874, the department has continually supported and safeguarded Georgia’s agriculture industry.

2024 state individual income tax rates and brackets: Where does Georgia sit?

States take a variety of approaches to income taxes. Nine states don’t tax your income, while California’s top income tax rate is the highest in the nation at 13.3%. Georgia is one of 12 states that have a flat tax, meaning the tax rate doesn’t change based on your earnings. But where does the Peach State rank overall?

Quotes of the Week

“History never repeats itself. Man always does.” – Voltaire

“The rarest of all human qualities is consistency.” – Jeremy Bentham

“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin

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