Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation He Calls ‘Largest Expansion of School Choice in History of These United States’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday in Miami that establishes an Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program under which every family in the state can receive up to $8,000 to cover education expenses outside of the public school system. “The state of Florida is number one when it comes to education freedom and education choice,” DeSantis said at a press conference.

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Georgia Sets Trend by Allowing Property Tax Relief for Natural Disasters

Georgia will be the only state among its neighbors to allow local governments to give residential property owners a temporary break on their taxes for storm damage.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last week House Bill 311, which was authored by State Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan. It allows local governments to provide tax relief on property taxes, either through a millage rate reduction (one mill equals $1,000 worth of property value) or a credit once a disaster is declared by the federal government.

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Georgia Unemployment Rate Remains Low for Seventh Consecutive Month

For the seventh straight month, Georgia’s unemployment rate remained at 3.1%, 0.5% below the national average in February.

The Georgia Department of Labor says the Peach State in January had the highest labor force participation rate in the Southeast at 61% and also had the highest employment-to-population ratio in the region, 59.1%.

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Georgia’s Roads Are Increasingly Dangerous for Pedestrians and Motorists

Georgia’s highways are increasingly dangerous for motorists and pedestrians, anecdotal and limited empirical data reveals.

“There are several reasons why drivers have gone haywire since the start of COVID,” Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist, told The Center Square via email. “When COVID and lockdowns began, there were fewer cars on the streets and highways, so drivers took advantage of this by speeding and making ‘whimsical’ impulsive maneuvers.

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Trump Seeks to Bar Georgia DA from Charging Him amid Possible New York Arrest

Former President Donald Trump’s legal team filed a petition on Monday with a Georgia state court to bar the Fulton County district attorney from pressing charges against him.

Trump attorney Drew Findling submitted the filing to the Superior Court of Fulton County, asking that DA Fani Willis be barred from further involvement in the ongoing investigation and that a grand jury report regarding Trump’s attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election in the state be “quashed.”

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Programs, Awareness Campaigns Not Stopping Railroad Crossing Crashes

As freight trains grow longer and more frequently block railroad crossings, federal dollars are going toward removing grade crossings.

“A lot of organizations and agencies have education and awareness campaigns to stay off the tracks, but every year thousands of people still walk along and across tracks and many are killed or injured,” Benjamin Dierker, the executive director of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, told The Center Square via email.

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Georgia Reports Increased Revenues in February

Georgia reported its February net tax collections surpassed $2.1 billion, an increase of 8.7%, or $169.3 million, compared to last February.

The state reported more than $1.9 billion in net tax collections a year ago. So far this fiscal year, the state’s net tax collections surpassed $20.9 billion, an increase of 5.9%, or roughly $1.2 billion, over fiscal 2022.

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Georgia Unemployment Rate Increases in January

Georgia’s regional commissions reported higher unemployment in January but the labor force grew in all but one of the state’s regions, according to numbers released on Thursday.

The Georgia Department of Labor says it is an annual trend for unadjusted unemployment rates to increase in January after the end of the holiday season.

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Metro Atlanta Focused on Bus Rapid Transit Rather than More Costly Light Rail

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is advancing bus rapid transit for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Project.

“Atlanta is not known for its mass transit system,” Wes Guckert, president & CEO of The Traffic Group, a traffic engineering firm, told The Center Square via email. “With more than 75% of the city’s six million residents driving to and from work, it should come as no surprise that Atlanta is tied for second worst place in the nation when it comes to using public transit to get to and from work.

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Georgia’s Kemp Signs Tax Rebate Bill

Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a bill this week that would provide $1 billion in tax rebates for Georgia income tax filers.

House Bill 162 provides a special state income tax refund for Georgians who filed returns in both the 2021 and 2022 taxable years. It marks the second year in a row that Georgia taxpayers will receive a rebate.

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Georgia’s Homeless Population Has Increased Since 2020

While Georgia saw its homeless population decrease by 45.6% between 2007 and 2022, it has increased by 4.4% since 2020.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development numbers revealed that 9.9 in every 10,000 people in Georgia were experiencing homelessness in 2022.

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Georgia House Passes Bill to Raise Unemployment Insurance Contributions

The state House voted 105-64 to pass House Bill 518, changing the required rate of unemployment insurance contributions that support the Georgia Department of Labor.

The measure lowers the administrative assessment businesses pay from 2.7 percent to 2.64 percent. It reverts to 2.7 percent after Dec. 31, 2026.

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Chief Justice: Backlog of Georgia Courts’ Cases ‘Could Take Years to Resolve’

The backlog of cases facing courts across Georgia “could take years to resolve,” Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs said during his “State of the Judiciary” address on Wednesday.

Boggs pointed to Fulton County, where he said there are more than 4,000 “pending indicted felony cases.”

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Georgia House Signs Off on Fiscal 2024 Budget

The Georgia House signed off on a proposed fiscal 2024 budget, a spending plan that includes raises for state employees and allocates additional funding for law enforcement.

“This budget reflects sound, conservative fiscal policy while demonstrating compassion for Georgians in need,” state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an announcement. “We have been good stewards of the taxpayer dollars with which we have been entrusted, and I am proud of all the House members and staff who worked on this important piece of legislation.”

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Georgia Senate Says Kids Don’t Need Permits or to Pay Taxes on Lemonade Stands

As a parent, T.L. Matthew knows setting up a lemonade stand can be fun and educational.

“In my personal experience, setting up a lemonade stand with my daughter was a fun and rewarding bonding experience that taught her valuable skills in communication, entrepreneurship, and money management,” Matthew, the CEO and founder of Fayetteville-based SumFoods, told The Center Square via email. “Unfortunately, in many states, kids who try to set up their own businesses have been bogged down by unnecessary regulations and taxes, forcing them to obtain permits and licenses or risk being shut down or fined.”

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State to Fund Public Safety Office in Atlanta’s Buckhead Community

A week after state lawmakers killed a proposal to de-annex and incorporate a portion of Atlanta as Buckhead City, state leaders announced they plan to fund a state patrol office in the community.

Last week, the state Senate voted 33-23 against Senate Bill 114, which would have allowed residents of the proposed Buckhead City to vote on the measure in November 2024. This week, House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, announced the proposed fiscal 2024 budget will include nearly $1.3 million for the state patrol’s “satellite post.”

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Georgia Senate Passes Bill to Create State-Funded Education Savings Accounts

The Georgia Senate passed legislation to create state-funded education savings accounts.

Under Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, taxpayers would fund $6,000 per student per school year. Families could use the money to defray “qualified” education costs, such as private school tuition.

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Georgia Leaders Plan to Review State’s Tax Credits

Georgia leaders plan to review the state’s various tax credits, saying they want to ensure any credits provide a “significant return on investment” for Georgia’s taxpayers.

The review, announced Thursday, will include the oft-lauded film tax credit. House and Senate members will work with various industry stakeholders and state offices, including the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget and the Georgia Department of Revenue.

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Atlanta Police Say 35 Detained, 23 Arrested after Mob Attacks Officers, Destroys Construction Equipment

The Atlanta Police Department said 35 people are in custody after a violent mob attacked police officers and destroyed construction equipment at the site of the proposed law enforcement training center.

Police said Sunday “a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers.”

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Georgia State Senate Passes Bill to Close ‘Zuckbucks’ Loophole

The Georgia Senate has passed a bill to prohibit local election offices from using private funding to conduct elections, after election officials reportedly used a loophole to accept the money.

The bill stipulates “costs and expenses related to conducting primaries, elections, runoffs, or other undertakings authorized or required by [state law] shall be paid from lawfully appropriated public funds.”

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Georgia Considers Banning Child Sex Changes

Republican Georgia representatives proposed a bill Thursday banning child sex change procedures including surgeries, hormones and puberty blockers, while state senators’ similar February proposal excluded puberty blockers from the ban.

Georgia House Bill 653 bars cross-sex medical interventions for minors and prohibits school employees such as nurses and counselors from withholding information about a child’s gender identity from parents. Senate Bill 140 would ban cross-sex hormones and surgeries for minors, but not puberty blockers.

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Atlanta Suburb’s Secession over Rising Crime Moves Forward

One of the wealthiest suburbs in the city of Atlanta is pursuing secession from the city, citing the rise in violent crime under the city’s Democratic leadership.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, state-level and local Republican lawmakers passed two bills on Wednesday formally proposing that the neighborhood of Buckhead be turned into its own “Buckhead City.” The bills are currently being considered by the State Senate.

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Judge Approves Grand Jury Members in Georgia Election Case to Talk About Testimony

The judge overseeing the case alleging former President Trump and his allies pushed to overturn the 2020 election results in the state says members of the grand jury involved in the matter “can talk about the final report” – following the jury forewoman’s eyebrow-raising media tour. 

However, Judge Robert C. McBurney acknowledge that if jurors start to “synthesize the testimony” and the group’s thoughts on on their deliberations the matter can get “problematic.”

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Georgia Election Chief Blasts County for Taking $2M in Zuckerbucks, Suggests Legislative Remedy

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) slammed DeKalb County for accepting $2 million in private money for election administration — or “Zuckerbucks” — in “violation” of state law while suggesting a legislative remedy to prevent counties from directly receiving such funds.

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Policy Group Pushes to Eliminate Georgia’s Certificate of Need Program

Americans for Prosperity-Georgia recently launched a six-figure campaign encouraging Georgia lawmakers to repeal the state’s certificate of need requirement.

The General Assembly established Georgia’s CON program in 1979, though state officials started reviewing healthcare projects in 1975.

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Arkansas Senate Passes Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Massive Education Reform Bill

The Republican-led Arkansas Senate Thursday passed Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ (R) Arkansas LEARNS Act, a comprehensive education reform plan that seeks to eliminate Critical Race Theory (CRT) in classrooms, increase the salaries of teachers, and broaden school choice in order to “empower parents.”

“We are one step closer to unleashing the boldest, most comprehensive, conservative education reform package in the nation — a blueprint for success for the rest of the country,” Huckabee Sanders tweeted.

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Georgia Lawmaker Proposes State-Funded Education Savings Accounts

Proposed legislation would allow Georgians to create state-funded Education Savings Accounts.

Under Senate Bill 233, taxpayers would fund $6,000 per student per school year. Students could use that money to defray “qualified” education costs, including private school tuition.

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Sewon Plans to Spend $300 Million on Georgia Manufacturing Facility

An automobile body parts manufacturer plans to open a manufacturing facility in Effingham County.

Sewon America plans to spend more than $300 million on the manufacturing facility at Rincon’s Grande View industrial park. Officials said the project would create 740 new jobs and is Rincon’s “largest known private investment.”

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Inflation Continues to Worry Georgians, Groups Say

Inflation will likely stick around for the foreseeable future, and the elevated inflation continues to worry Georgia businesses, groups said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased by 6.4% over the past 12 months, higher than anticipated. Additionally, the Producer Price Index increased by 6% over the same period.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene Starts PAC to Encourage Government to Stop Giving Money to Ukraine

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., announced Monday the creation of her “Save America, Stop Socialism” PAC to encourage the government to stop giving money to Ukraine. 

“I’m fed up with our American government and Biden supporting the war in Ukraine and doing absolutely NOTHING to protect America’s border,” Greene wrote on Twitter. “Help me fund a national ad campaign to STOP WWIII!”

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Georgia Jury Forewoman Says ‘You’re Not Going to Be Shocked’ on Trump Indictment Decision

The forewoman of the Atlanta-area special grand jury that investigated alleged election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in Georgia said Tuesday that multiple indictments were recommended and “you’re not going to be shocked” about whether Trump was indicted. Forewoman Emily Kohrs said would not specifically say who the Fulton County grand jury recommended to be indicted, but stated, “It is not a short list,” The New York Times reported.

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Georgia Plans to Dole Out $15 Million to Expand Broadband Across the State

Georgia officials plan to dole out an additional $15 million to expand broadband in unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced a second round of Capital Projects Fund grants funded by American Rescue Plan Act dollars to expand high-speed internet service. The Office of Planning and Budget will administer the funding through a competitive grant process.

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Georgia Law Would Allow School Librarians to Face Prosecution for Distributing Obscene Material

A new bill in the Georgia legislature would, if passed, make school librarians liable for distribution of obscene materials to students, the latest shot in the ongoing culture wars over controversial materials in schools. 

The bill, SB 154, would mandate that the “sale or distribution of harmful materials to minors” would be “applicable to libraries operated by schools.”

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More Plaintiffs Agree to Dismiss Challenge to Georgia’s Election Law

Georgia officials are claiming victory after three plaintiffs challenging the state’s new voting law petitioned the court to voluntarily dismiss their claims.

Critics have argued that the state’s new voting law, Senate Bill 202, the Election Integrity Act, is a burden on local election officials and made it more challenging for Georgians to cast ballots.

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Dershowitz Says It Was Unconstitutional for Georgia Grand Jury to Release Report on Trump

Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said it was unconstitutional for a Georgia judge to release parts of a Fulton County special grand jury report looking into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to challenge Georgia’s 2020 election results.

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Parts of Georgia Grand Jury Report on Trump Election Probe Released

A Georgia judge on Thursday released parts of the Fulton County special grand jury report into efforts from former President Donald Trump and his allies to alter the results of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

Five pages of the report, including its introduction and conclusion, were released following county Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s order earlier this week.

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Georgia State Senator Introduces Bill to Repeal State’s Certificate of Need Law

A Georgia state senator has introduced legislation to repeal Georgia’s certificate of need law.

State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, introduced Senate Bill 162. It would repeal the CON requirement for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services.

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Georgia Lawmakers Considering Law Enforcement Legislation

Lawmakers could soon consider legislation allowing cities to install noise detection cameras.

“These are a little bit like red light cameras where they can measure the decibels coming out of the car, take a picture of your license plate, mail you the ticket,” state Rep. Betsy Holland, D-Atlanta, said during a virtual town hall last week.

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Georgia Officials Award $150.3 Million Worth of Transportation Projects

The Georgia Department of Transportation awarded 31 projects valued at more than $150.3 million in December.

The largest single investment was a roughly $16 million award to E.R. Snell Contractor. As part of the project, the company will mill and resurface nearly 10.9 miles of U.S. Route 20/Georgia Highway 402 from west of Columbia Drive to the Rockdale-DeKalb county line.

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Proposed Georgia Gun Legislation Has Unintended Consequences, Expert Says

Proposed legislation in Georgia that purports to crack down on anyone who uses a gun during a violent felony could have serious ramifications for lawful gun owners, an expert told The Center Square.

Senate Bill 7, nicknamed the “Gangs, Guns, Gone” bill, would require judges to hand down mandatory minimum sentences in cases where someone uses a gun during a violent felony, even if they did not discharge a weapon. Under the proposal, anyone convicted under the statute must serve the time before any other sentence, which cannot be shortened by any sentence-reducing measures.

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Georgia Legislation Would Incorporate a Portion of Atlanta as Buckhead City

A group of Georgia lawmakers has introduced legislation to incorporate a portion of Atlanta as Buckhead City.

Senate Bill 114 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations-General. A similar measure failed during the last session.

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Proposed Georgia Legislation Would Bar TikTok from State-Owned Devices

Georgia lawmakers have proposed legislation prohibiting state employees from using social media platforms that a foreign adversary controls on their state devices.

Senate Bill 93 would apply the prohibition to state-owned devices the legislative and judicial branches use and K-12 schools statewide. It would bar employees from using TikTok.

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Georgia Senate Passes Measure to Ban COVID Vaccine Passports

The Georgia Senate voted Tuesday to permanently block governments across the state from denying services to unvaccinated residents.

Senate Bill 1 removed a sunset provision in state law to make permanent a prohibition against state and local governments requiring residents to provide proof of a COVID vaccination to access government services.

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