GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

 

 

By Georgia Center for Opportunity

 

The Georgia Center for Opportunity team was saddened to learn of the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis on July 17. Rep. Lewis served Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until the time of his passing this year. Rep. Lewis was a crucial figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s—during the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, he was beaten so badly by police that he was hospitalized.

 

Even though Rep. Lewis’ policy prescriptions did not always align with those of GCO, we commend his years of service fighting for equal justice and the chance for all Americans to thrive and prosper. Here are selected reflections from GCO staff members on the life and legacy of John Lewis.

 

Randy Hicks, president and CEO: “John Lewis was a warrior for justice, frequently calling America to live up to its lofty, well-articulated principles. We join with so many others across the state of Georgia and the country in mourning the loss of a man who committed his life to making America better.”

 

Joyce Mayberry, vice president of family formation: “The way civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis lived his life was the epitome of impact. He forever changed my life and the lives of so many others. While I never got the chance to personally thank him, hopefully my personal decision to serve my community daily is an action that would have received his approval. Rest in peace, sir.”

 

Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy: “I am sad that John Lewis passed away. He had courage to stand for what he believed in, even when he knew he would be beaten and he was putting his life in jeopardy. It’s easy to say we have that kind of courage, but he proved it. I’m glad I got the chance to shake his hand. Prayers for his family and friends.”

 

Jamie Lord, director of government affairs: I met John Lewis only once. Though shorter in stature, he loomed large. He was a sort of North Star in the moral quest for justice and equality. Before he was even born, I bought my son Congressman Lewis’ graphic memoir, March. I can only hope Lewis’ story helps inspire my son as it has inspired me. I hope he comes to live, as Lewis did, demonstrating a love of others, a commitment to justice and the bravery to put his very life on the line standing up for what is right. He really was one of the best of us and even in his passing he challenges me to be better, to do more.”


Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

By Buzz Brockway

 Ordinarily, the Georgia Legislature would have wrapped up its 40-day legislative session by the end of March. But 2020 is no ordinary year. As the pandemic spread, the Legislature suspended its session in mid-March with no return date announced. Eventually, lawmakers reconvened with 11 legislative days left to address a plethora of issues.

 

Looming large was the fiscal year 2021 budget, and as you can imagine, the budget outlook was much different in June than in March. State revenues plunged due to the shutdown and budget writers scrambled to decide the best path forward. After tapping into the state’s rainy-day fund, lawmakers passed a budget with 10 percent  cuts, approximately $2.2 billion smaller than originally proposed. No state department was spared, but some departments—like education—received smaller cuts than other departments. 

 

Apart from the budget, perhaps the issue that garnered the most attention was a hate crimes bill, HB 426. The murder of Ahmuad Arbery in Brunswick, GA, as well as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, created a political situation where ignoring this issue was impossible. Georgia previously had a hate crimes law that was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. HB 426, now signed into law by Governor Kemp, provides sentence enhancements after a person has been convicted of certain crimes motivated by bias against defined groups of people.

 

Two pieces of legislation we at the Georgia Center of Opportunity actively supported passed both houses and await the Governor’s signature. SB 288 allows a person convicted of certain non-violent misdemeanors, who have kept a clean record for a specific length of time, to seek to have those records restricted. This will allow these folks to have a better chance of employment. Another bill meant to assist people obtaining a job is HB 914. This bill will provide a temporary occupational license to spouses of members of the armed forces who move to Georgia. Georgia has a large number of military installations, so many people will benefit from this bill.

 

Other legislation of interest includes HB 888, which seeks to prevent “surprise billing.” A “surprise bill” occurs when an out-of-network physician treats a patient. These bills can become quite large. It is hoped this legislation will prevent this situation from occurring again. 

 

More progress was made in the fight against human trafficking as HB 823 and SB 435 passed.  HB 823 would prevent a truckdriver convicted of human trafficking of ever holding a commercial driver’s license again in Georgia. SB 435, known as the “Debbie Vance Act,” would allow a person convicted of trafficking to have their conviction vacated if they can prove they were a victim of human trafficking. 

 

Foster parents will be allowed to arrange for short-term babysitting under HB 912, which awaits the Governor’s signature. 

 

Government transparency and accountability got a boost with the passage of HB 1037. This bill would require audits on production companies seeking to take advantage of Georgia’s film tax credit. An audit earlier in the year revealed oversite problems in this very large tax credit. Price transparency for non-emergency medical services is the subject of SB 303, which was sent to the Governor’s desk. Empowering patients with pricing information can help lower costs for shopping of these non-emergency services. 

 

Despite the strange nature of the 2020 Legislative Session, many things were accomplished. The Georgia Center for Opportunity will continue to work hard to advance legislation to increase educational opportunity, knock down barriers to employment, and strengthen families. We look forward to continuing this effort in the next legislative session. 

 

 

 

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an access to quality eduction, fulfilling employment, and live within healthy families. See what policy issues we’re working on to break down barriers and create pathways for all Georgians to flourish. 

Visit our Policy Solutions Initiative

The Untold Story of Georgia’s Primary Elections

The Untold Story of Georgia’s Primary Elections

Georgia made national headlines after Tuesday’s primary elections. Most of the coverage focused on long lines, mail-in ballots, new voting machines, and results that were not finalized until the wee hours of the morning. (In fact, some results are still pending). 

There were some high profile contests, including a couple of congressional races. Every member of Georgia’s General Assembly (except, of course, for those retiring) were also on the ballot. 

But there was one outcome of Tuesday’s election that you’ve likely heard nothing about.

Both parties have the ability to put non-binding referendum questions on their respective primary ballots. While the results of these questions have no force of law, it is a great way to test voter opinion on various policy ideas. The results are far more accurate than a poll and can help parties and candidates understand the will of the super voters among the electorate.

This year, Republicans included the following as ballot question #1: “Should Georgia lawmakers expand educational options by allowing a student’s state education dollars to follow to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual or homeschool?”

The results were overwhelming: as of this writing (results are still coming in), more than 73 percent of voters said “yes.” In fact, the question had majority support in every single one of Georgia’s 159 counties, destroying a common narrative that rural voters don’t support school choice. In all but 12 counties, support was over  two-thirds. In many cases, the ballot question will ultimately receive more support than the Senate or House member representing the district. 

You might be tempted to argue that this only speaks to support for educational options among Republicans. And while the Democratic Party of Georgia didn’t include this question on their primary ballots, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible, other polling in the state consistently shows support for school choice among all Demographics—Republicans, Democrats, rural, urban, young, old, men, and women. 

Even an AJC poll, worded in such a way as to be biased in the negative, found that 61 percent  of voters supported school choice, even when warned that it might “undercut public school funding.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures, many families were forced into alternative ways of schooling for the first time ever. Families’ experience with how traditional public schools handled the shift to distance learning was mixed and inconsistent. Some schools and teachers excelled, ensuring students did not lose out on learning. Others threw their hands up  early, and kids have suffered. 

In the aftermath of these experiences, and in light of all the uncertainty facing a reopening of traditional public schools in the fall, many families have begun searching for alternatives–virtual education programs, private schools, and innovative public charter schools. 

But will public policy change to support these students who need something outside of the traditional model of education? So far, CARES Act relief has focused millions of dollars to the state Department of Education, local districts, and traditional public schools. Nothing to date has been offered to families whose students fell behind, need to play “catch-up” over the summer, or need a different environment when school returns in the fall. 

If legislators and state leaders are paying attention, that should change.

In recent years, there has been a reluctance on the part of legislators to expand existing school choice programs or create new ones. Usually, the argument goes that it will not be politically expedient to do so. 

Legislators might be dismissive of polling, but if they ignore actual voters who went all the way to the end of the ballot and chose to say “yes” when asked if money should follow the child to the best school for them, it could ultimately be at their own peril. 

Now that voters have spoken—clearly and specifically—how will legislators respond? Will they listen to the will of those who elected them? Elected officials (or those who wish to be elected in the future) have the ultimate opportunity for a win-win: they can give kids the educational opportunities they need and deserve while giving voters what they support and demand.

 

 

 

Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

GCO’s Vice President of Public Policy, Buzz Brockway is joined by GCO’s Jamie Lord to discuss the Georgia Governor’s suggestions for returning to school in the Fall. While these are merely suggestions, and schools will be able to choose their plans by district, these new guidelines paint a picture of what school in Georgia could look like in light of Coronavirus.

Reopening and Welfare Cliffs | VIDEO

Reopening and Welfare Cliffs | VIDEO

Reopening and Welfare Cliffs | VIDEO

GCO’s Vice President of Public Policy, Buzz Brockway goes over the data to discuss the impact the reopening is having on the general population. He also discusses the data around welfare cliffs. How do we help those in need without hurting their chances to grow their income?

Education In Georgia Is About To Change | VIDEO

Education In Georgia Is About To Change | VIDEO

Education In Georgia Is About To Change | VIDEO

GCO’s Vice President of Public Policy, Buzz Brockway is joined by GCO’s Jamie Lord to discuss the ways education will be impacted in the coming years. The state of Georgia faces new struggles both financially and with renewed expectations of what education is.

How and will the state meet the need of public education in the coming year?