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By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● June 23, 2023
Smart Brevity™ count: 4.5 mins . . . 1,200 words
Did you miss us? 🤗
We’ve heard from many of our readers that they felt like something’s been missing from their inbox lately.
So, here’s a fill of our insights on the latest political happenings (hello 2024!), state and local legislative updates, and more about our team and fomo-inducing events.
1 big thing: 💰 Atlanta budget season
City of Atlanta. At $790 million, Mayor Dickens’ approved FY24 budget is the largest the city’s ever seen – thanks to the largest reserves in its history. It includes:
- Expanding the take-home car program for police and fire personnel with a combined $6.2M in equipment and vehicle investments to improve retention and recruitment
- a 15% bump for the affordable housing trust fund, totaling more than $8M
- Youth investments, like summer jobs and youth programming – more than $6.3M
- $500K to establish the new Dept. of Labor and Employment Services
- The bottom line: When combined with other funds under its control, the City will have a nearly $2.5B economic impact for the fiscal year.
Atlanta Public Schools. The adopted $1.66B budget for the 2023-24 school year is up 15% from last year and similarly offset by bigger-than-expected revenues. The dollars will go toward:
- $490M dedicated to teacher and staff compensation including a one-time $3K retention payments for teachers in “critical needs” areas, such as special education and math
- 13% increase in funding for APS charter and partner schools whose students now make up nearly 20% of total enrollment
- Filling in the gaps left behind from the Sept. 30 end to federal CARES Act funding
- The bottom line. After a lull in enrollment, APS is back to pre-pandemic numbers and is expecting about 250 more students next year – meaning they’re budgeting a $15M increase in state funding which will account for about 17% of the budget at $200M.
2. Legislative updates
😎 Summer is study committee season, when state lawmakers hold public hearings with subject matter experts and dive deeper into complex issues the legislature deems worthy of further inquiry.
The Joint Tax Credit Study Committee met to review tax credits dealing with rural hospitals, EVs, and most notably, Georgia’s booming 🎥 film and entertainment industry.
- Georgia now exceeds NYC in studio space and is only behind California, and the tax incentives that got us here are under scrutiny.
- The state’s economist says the film tax credit program has done what it promised and should now seek ways to roll back or eliminate the costly program.
- The other side: Industry experts say production companies rely on the stability that the tax credits ensure — as they do in competitive places like Canada and England.
- They also say ending the credits would shutter the tangential businesses that support the industry.
Zoom in on CON. The House study committee on Certificate of Need Reform is tasked with learning about the efficacy of CON laws and figuring out what needs to be done to increase Georgians’ access to care.
- Catch up quick: During its first meeting, leaders in Fulton County, City of Atlanta and Dekalb County testified on the detrimental impact of the abrupt closing of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center. Piedmont Health officials said the same, while Wellstar defended their decisions.
Committee Chair Sen. Greg Dolezal noted, “One major takeaway from this first meeting is the glaring lack of information on the success of CON programs nationwide.”
The Expanding Georgia’s Workforce Study Committee in the Senate will meet with industry leaders and education professionals to discuss how to meet increasing labor demands in a complex job market.
- They heard from the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association; Georgia Power; UPS; Select Fulton; and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce so far.
3. Other political news
Passing the baton. At the recent Georgia GOP convention in Columbus, the party elected a new chair, former Sen. Josh McKoon, amid appearances from Kari Lake, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and of course, Donald Trump.
- Zoom out. The departing chair David Shafer’s reign was plagued with scandal over the 2020 election and a string of losses in recent races, but his successor and his deputies don’t come without a history.
- McKoon aligned himself with the “Trump fake elector” scheme – like the new first and second vice-chairs, Brian Pritchard and David Cross – but it wasn’t the focus of his victory speech.
Instead, McKoon said he will bring a broader, more forward-looking philosophy.
- Catch up quick. McKoon was known to back bipartisan legislation during his time in the Senate and held strong convictions on government transparency, spearheading the effort to cap lobbyist contributions and reform conference committee procedures.
- Our thought bubble: We’ll be curious to see if his moderation continues as party leader.
⏰ Opponents of Atlanta’s Public Safety Training Center have 57 days to get 70,000 petition signatures from Atlanta voters registered in 2021 to bring the controversial training center to a November vote.
- Yes, but: The City Council represents their constituents, and they seemed to have been pretty thoughtful about their votes. Take a look at each council member’s explanation for their vote here.
💲COVID relief pulling the plug. Many of Georgia’s 2.8M current Medicaid recipients will lose eligibility with temporary federal funding ending. Of the first 12,000 plans reviewed, 1,500 have been removed from the rolls so far.
- What’s next: The state is expected to ramp up reviews, despite being off schedule due to a staff shortage. (100 of the 550 new caseworker positions at the Dept. of Human Services have yet to be filled.)
4. Introducing Chuck Meadows
ORS has tapped native Atlantan Chuck Meadows to join the team as Chief Strategy Officer.
Chuck comes to the firm with an extended background as a nonprofit executive and leader in public policy strategy.
Previous to his most recent post as the executive director of a high performing charter school, Chuck led the Atlanta Beltline Partnership and held leadership positions in public policy at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Office of the Governor, and City of Atlanta.
“I’m excited to join a firm that empowers me to make an impact at the systems level,” said Meadows. “I’ll get to use what I’ve learned in a multitude of roles to support leaders across the South as they tackle the biggest challenges facing our country.”
5. Welcome to (our) house
🥳 We’re happy to have hosted so many of you in recent months, and there’s more opportunities to come:
- Outside the ATL, we’re co-sponsoring a reception with The Collaborative Firm in SAV during the annual Georgia Municipal Association Convention on June 24.
- June 27 we’re back in our South Downtown digs hosting Gabe Amo, the Rhode Island Democratic candidate for Congress.
See more of our event and studio space here, or better yet, come see us!
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