Friday Facts: May 3, 2024

Kimberley Strassel, a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Georgia Freedom Dinner hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Strassel’s writing, especially her weekly “Potomac Watch” column, typically involves national politics and the federal government. And while that may seem only partly related to a state policy organization’s work, her perspective proved insightful not only in relation to the work we do, but for what all of us can do for a stronger republic.

In her speech to the Foundation, its board, donors and supporters, Strassel pointed out a few things that are apparent to Americans every day: The federal government is a mess. Executive power has been creeping for over a century. Congress, when it exercises its power that hasn’t already been ceded to the executive, is frequently ineffective. Out of control spending, inefficient bureaucracy and legislative hang-ups have negatively impacted American life from cost of living to personal freedoms and even the effectiveness of our armed forces.

Despite the apparent bleakness of this prospect, many people fail to take the next logical step in affecting change: Instead of repeatedly pushing the rock up the hill that is the federal government, Strassel urges us to think more locally.

Please check out this week’s commentary on Strassel’s speech and the need for federalism. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:

  • The second of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle has entered full commercial operation
  • Why Gen Z is ditching traditional four-year colleges for blue-collar work
  • Kemp signs a number of new bills
  • Feds hold interest rates steady

Have a great weekend,

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest 🍑

Hybrid schools look to the future

Elementary and high school students alike need opportunities to learn from their failures. Hybrid schools help them do that. That was one of the lessons that Florida resident Toni Frallicciardi imparted last week as she attended the 2024 National Hybrid Schools Conference in Cobb County. They want to help parents and students develop new forms of K-12 schooling, outside the conventional education system.

Kemp signs Georgia Promise Scholarship Act

Georgia joins the growing number of states providing state-funded scholarships to families, allowing them the flexibility to choose non-public educational options that best meet their children’s unique learning needs. This is a legislative win for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which has played an active role in advocating for more extensive school choice legislation. 

Georgia elections are better-positioned than ever before

Early voting begins this week in Georgia’s primary elections, the next step in a long political slog this year. Georgia’s 16 electoral votes will be hotly contested given our new status as a swing state, and we can expect an equally bitter fight over the security and accessibility of our elections. Too bad, because election security and accessibility in Georgia ought to be settled issues by now.

Is this Georgia fee still constitutional?

Until recently, impact fees were believed to be immune from attacks under the Takings Clause of the United States Constitution and corresponding clauses in state constitutions, including Georgia’s. But on April 12, 2024, the United States Supreme Court held otherwise. What does this mean for Georgia?

Georgians deserve more transparency, consistency and opportunity with open enrollment policies

The debate over educational freedom is often pitted as a matter of public education vs. “other.” The truth is, there’s a lot of potential for students to have options within the public system, including programs that allow students to transfer outside of their school district. 

The Latest


Georgia Power completes Plant Vogtle nuclear project

The second of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle has entered full commercial operation, Georgia Power officials announced this week. Unit 4, which went online nine months after the completion of Unit 3 at the plant south of Augusta, can produce enough electricity to power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses.

Kemp signs farm package

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a package of bills Tuesday aimed at improving agriculture, by far Georgia’s No. 1 industry. Of the bills signed, a new law establishes licensing requirements for growing hemp as well as manufacturing and selling low-THC hemp products while another prohibits the ownership or acquisition of Georgia farmland by agents of foreign adversaries. 

More than 2 million workers are missing. Who are they, and how are they affecting the economy?

There are 2.3 million fewer people employed today than if the employment-to-population ratio had stayed the same as it was four years ago, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. This lack of workers is hurting economic growth and exacerbating the federal government’s unsustainable budget.

Fed holds rates steady as inflation casts doubt on future cuts

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady for the sixth straight time after a string of disappointing inflation readings dimmed the odds of cuts later this year. The widely expected decision — which left interest rates unchanged at a range of 5.25% to 5.5%, the highest level in 23 years — comes amid signs that progress on inflation is stalling, or even starting to reverse.


Georgia Tech embraces artificial intelligence with new “digital sandbox” 

The Georgia Institute of Technology is embracing the age of artificial intelligence. Earlier this month, Georgia Tech unveiled its new AI Makerspace on campus, described as a “digital sandbox,” that aims to facilitate access to resources for students to become proficient in emerging tools and advance AI.

Kemp signs bill to increase state employees, teachers’ paid parental leave

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation doubling annual paid parental leave for state employees and school personnel, including teachers. Previously, state employees could take three weeks or 120 hours of paid parental leave during a 12-month “rolling” period following a child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. However, a new law increases the paid leave to six weeks — or 240 hours.

How Gen Z is becoming the toolbelt generation

Long beset by a labor crunch, the skilled trades are newly appealing to the youngest cohort of American workers, many of whom are choosing to leave the college path. Rising pay and new technologies in fields from welding to machine tooling are giving trade professions a face-lift, helping them shed the image of being dirty, low-end work. Growing skepticism about the return on a college education, the cost of which has soared in recent decades, is adding to their shine. 

Biden announces fresh round of $6.1 billion in student loan handouts, brings total given to $160 billion

The Biden administration is continuing its mass student loan handouts as it announced another $6 billion that it would be giving to borrowers ahead of the 2024 election, this time for students who attended Art Institutes. In the statement, the president and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona described the school as “predatory” and said the new handouts would help students who were victims of their actions.

Government accountability

AG Chris Carr files lawsuit against Title IX changes by Biden administration

Attorney General Chris Carr has filed suit against the Biden administration’s revised Title IX rules. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Now the Biden administration has redefined “sex” to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” In addition, the new rule effectively requires schools to ensure that students use a classmate’s “preferred pronouns” or risk losing federal funding.

Georgia governor signs series of public safety bills

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of public safety bills this week, including a measure to require Georgia counties to comply with federal immigration laws. Kemp signed Senate Bill 63, which expands the list of “serious offenses” for which bail is required, SB 421, which stiffens the penalties for “swatting” and drive-by shootings and House Bill 1105, which forces local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration laws.

Georgia eliminating Atlanta’s variable speed limit signs

Georgia officials are paying more than $400,000 to remove 167 variable speed limit signs in metro Atlanta. While the signs allowed officials to change the interstate’s speed limit depending on variables such as congestion, state officials opted to remove them, admitting the signs had many problems over the years.


Walmart to close all its health centers, including 17 in Georgia

Walmart is closing its health centers and virtual care service as the retail giant has struggled to find success with the offerings. There are 17 in Georgia. Walmart, which launched its health centers five years ago, said this week that it’s learned through managing the health centers and virtual service that “there is not a sustainable business model for us to continue.”

Piedmont Newnan Hospital’s South Tower opens this week

Healthcare in south metro Atlanta is expected to improve with the opening this week of a new $65-million South Tower at Piedmont Newnan Hospital. Piedmont Newnan is a medium-sized hospital that operates at full capacity, meaning its current 167 licensed beds stay occupied, and new patients must wait for space.

Tennessee passes legislation to reform hospital certificate of need law

Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation to reform the state’s hospital certificate of need law. Among the several reforms is the removal of restrictions on opening satellite emergency rooms in counties with an existing hospital. The new law states that if the emergency room is located within 10 miles of the hospital’s main campus and not within 10 miles of another hospital, the new facility does not need to request a certificate of need.


Braves fans, Xfinity users can’t watch games as Bally Sports goes dark

Baseball fans relying on Comcast Xfinity to watch the Atlanta Braves have been unable to do so since Wednesday. Bally Sports Regional Networks, the broadcasting platform for most Braves games, is currently unavailable for Xfinity customers due to failed negotiations between the two companies.

How California’s ban on diesel locomotives could have major national repercussions

Some states, due to their size or other leverage, can impose their own policies on much or all of the country. The problem has been made clearer by an under-the-radar plan to phase out diesel locomotives in California. If the federal government provides the state with a helping hand, it would bring nationwide repercussions for a vital, overlooked industry.

Reality stars Kim Zolciak and Kroy Biermann’s Georgia mansion receives foreclosure date

Kim Zolciak, of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame, and Kroy Biermann, a former NFL player, are facing foreclosure on their multimillion-dollar Georgia mansion once again. A Fulton County judge recently ruled the court “intends to initiate a non-judicial foreclosure proceeding on or after May 3, 2024” in a petition for an injunction initially filed in October by Truist Bank.

Quotes of the Week

“The axiomatic error undermining much of Western Civilization is ‘weak makes right’. If someone accepts, explicitly or implicitly, that the oppressed are always the good guys, then the natural conclusion is that the strong are the bad guys.” – Elon Musk

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” – C.S. Lewis

“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein 

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