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November 8: Register for “Brew & Review,” an evening of pundits’ perspectives on the election outcome at 5 Seasons Westside. Hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation on Thursday, November 8, at 7 p.m. (Networking begins at 6:30 p.m.) $10; light appetizers and the first beer are on us! Information, registration here.
November 14: Register for “Free Trade and the Impact on Georgia,” a Policy Briefing Luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Georgian Club. Speakers are Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority and Tori Whiting, the Heritage Foundation’s Jay Van Andel Trade Economist. This event is a partnership of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and Heritage; seating is limited. Register here.
Quotes of note
“The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all citizens.” – Thomas Jefferson (1816)
“It almost inevitably is the case that people have the strongest feelings about the things they know the least about; people who actually know about any subject of genuine interest understand that such subjects tend to be complicated, and that expressions of outrage, however cathartic, do not render them any less recondite.” – Kevin Williamson
Amendments: Confused by the five proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot in Georgia? Find out more here in the Foundation commentary.
Early voting: Today is the last day to vote early in Georgia and for registrars to provide absentee ballots for the November 6 election. As of October 31, about 1,662,000 early votes had been cast. Nearly 1.5 million Georgians voted early in person; 165,000 absentee ballots had been returned and 100,000 were still outstanding. Check daily vote totals here; check your registration status at mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.
Toll lanes expand: The I-85 High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes extension opens Saturday, November 3. The 10-mile expansion in Gwinnett County will begin north of the existing I-85 Express Lanes at Old Peachtree Road. In the metro area’s reversible Express Toll Lanes, all private automobiles are tolled. In HOT lanes, vehicles with three or more occupants can ride free, (with the Peach Pass), along with motorcycles and alternative-fuel and transit vehicles. Source: PeachPass.com
Autonomous vehicles: Transportation “AntiPlanner” Randal O’Toole critiques a New York Times article headlined, “Urban planning guru says driverless cars won’t fix congestion.” He notes the urban planning guru, who “has the most to lose if driverless cars are successful,” argues autonomous cars will cause greater urban congestion. In fact, the declining importance of regional centers over the past 70 years or so would have to reverse for that to happen, O’Toole writes.
On the hook: The Honolulu City Council has voted 7-2 to use city-backed bond money for construction of its beleaguered light rail system. The city will spend up to $214 million (no more than $26 million annually) to help finance the now $8 billion-plus rail line, despite earlier assurances that no taxpayer money would be used. The price tag is currently $8.165 billion (up from $5.26 billion), with $1.55 billion in federal funds. Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser
Freedom to thrive: Georgia’s national ranking in the Economic Freedom of North America is unchanged over last year, at No. 7 in the 2018 report released by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and Canada’s Fraser Institute. Georgia dropped one place, to No. 25 in the nation on tax freedom. That is likely to improve when the state’s 2018 reforms are included; the report is based on 2016 data.
Opportunity knocks: Private sector employment increased by 227,000 jobs in October, according to payroll giant ADP, but small businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified employees to fill open slots. (Watch the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum session, “Education: Business Takes the Lead.”) Source: Accounting Today
What data? Forty percent of parents surveyed did not look at publicly available report cards on their children’s school or school district in the past year because they did not know the report cards existed, in a new national poll commissioned by the Data Quality Campaign. Another 32 percent did not know where to find the information. Source: EducationNext
Crisis deepens: As many as 121 multiemployer pension plans covering 1.3 million workers are underfunded by $48.9 billion and have informed regulators and participants that they could become insolvent within 20 years because they don’t have the money to pay the full promised benefits, according to an analysis of the latest annual financial reports filed by multiemployer plans with regulators. Source: MarketWatch
Energy and environment
Carbon tax: A new study released by the Institute for Energy Research analyzes the economic effects of a carbon tax. It modeled six scenarios and found a carbon tax will not be pro-growth; is not an efficient revenue raiser for tax reform; will not meet the long-term U.S.-Paris Agreement, and that a depressed GDP leads to long-term fiscal challenges, with particular stress on states. Read the study here.
Nuclear expansion: China’s 40 commercially operating nuclear reactors delivered a total of 193.77 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power to the grid in the first nine months of the year, up 13.3 percent from a year earlier, an industry group said. China’s ambitious clean-energy nuclear expansion goals were set back by Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster; nuclear power was 4.1 percent of its total generation over the nine-month period. Source: Reuters
Hurricane: Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens says reported insured losses from Hurricane Michael total more than $696 million, with about 68,000 claims filed so far, according to Metro Atlanta CEO. Senior Fellow Jeffrey Dorfman’s recent commentary discussed the devastation to Georgia agriculture; a special legislative session starting November 13 will discuss aid to the agricultural industry.
Social media: The Foundation’s Facebook page has 3,439 “likes” this week; our Twitter account has 1,861 followers! Join them!
This month in the archives: In November 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “Transforming Our Health Sector By Empowering Consumers.” It noted, “The health sector is poised to enter a dramatic new era of consumer-driven health care. People are demanding more control over decisions involving their health care and medical coverage. And the Internet allows consumers easy access to a wealth of medical information that was available only to professionals as recently as a few years ago. But public policy is lagging behind.’”
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read our latest commentary, “Solving the Problem of Guaranteed Issue and Pre-existing Conditions,” by Ronald E. Bachman.
Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to turn back your clocks!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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