Rural broadband: Explaining his proposal for a market-oriented approach to rural broadband deployment, Mark Jamison of the American Enterprise Institute writes, “Policies for rural broadband have seemed random the past eight years: Billions of stimulus dollars were thrown at unneeded and failed projects; the [Federal Communications Commission] expanded failing systems such as Lifeline; the Obama White House and the FCC moved to limit the profitability of rural broadband, and the FCC chose an arbitrary definition for broadband. These failed policies wasted billions of dollars and did little to help rural communities gain broadband connectivity. It is time to let markets lead the way.”
No more snow days? Snow, ice and freezing temperatures closed schools across North Georgia this week. But school systems are wising up. A missed day no longer needs to mean catching up in class, thanks to technology and the Internet. For Gwinnett County Public Schools, brick-and-mortar classes were canceled but students at home got their second Digital Learning Day, with assignments posted online. Source: Gwinnett Daily Post
Vacation rentals: Last year, Airbnb helped Floridians earn $450 million in supplemental income by allowing homeowners to offer up rooms or entire houses for tourists and travelers, according to Sunshine State News. Two Florida legislators have introduced legislation to reduce local government interference. They say their bills are commonsense solutions for property owners who they believe should have the right to rent their private property. A bill barring local government regulation of vacation rentals is also in the Georgia House.
Do no harm? Increased enrollment and spending on able-bodied adults in states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare “has threatened resources for the truly needy and other critical public services,” according to a new report released by the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Work requirements: Kentucky became the first state to obtain a waiver to implement work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, just one day after the Trump administration issued new guidance on Jan. 11 allowing the policy. Writing in The Hill, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute points out, “Work requirements help to ensure only those who truly need assistance are enrolled in Medicaid by incentivizing people to move off Medicaid rolls and join the workforce or seek higher-paying employment.”
Federalism: Alex Azar, set to replace Tom Price as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate Committee this week that he favors more flexibility for states to determine what is best for their Medicaid programs. Source: Medscape.com
Stagnant spending: The Affordable Care Act required tax-exempt hospitals to assess community needs and provide community-wide benefits. A study in the journal Health Affairs finds spending in these areas in 2010 was 7.6 percent of total operating costs and was just 8.1 percent by 2014. The bulk of that spending goes toward unreimbursed patient care, such as charity care. Broader community initiatives remained below 1 percent of operating costs. Source: Kaiser Health News
Race for Amazon: Atlanta is among 20 candidates on the shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters. Amazon received 238 proposals. The other candidates are Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Md.; Nashville; Newark, N.J.; New York City; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto and Washington D.C.
Infrastructure: It’s always worth questioning who stands to benefit from proposed solutions to any “crisis.” For example, the Trump administration is targeting the nation’s “crumbling infrastructure,” which the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card gave a grade of “D-plus.” Georgia earned a “C” average. A RAND Corporation report, “Not Everything Is Broken: The Future of U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure Funding and Finance,” warns that that “needs assessments” such as those the ASCE’s “offer an unreliable guide for policy and priority setting.”
Higher ed: Georgia ranks ninth in the nation for student enrollment in public higher education, and ninth in appropriations for higher education per student, according to Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School Fiscal Research Center.
Taxes and spending
Tax reform: Now that the Trump administration’s tax cuts have been pushed through and corporations can repatriate money at a reduced rate, Apple announced this week it will accelerate U.S. investment and create 20,000 new jobs. The company, reputed to have $250 billion abroad, says it will bring back billions of dollars it has kept in tax havens overseas and will pay a one-time tax of $38 billion on overseas cash holdings. Source: NPR.org
Work works: California’s per-capita GDP increased roughly twice as much as the U.S. average over the five years ending in 2016, according to the Pacific Research Institute. Despite almost a trillion dollars in welfare spending since 1992, however, the state has the nation’s highest poverty rate. California also has resisted work requirements for welfare recipients. “The generous spending, then, has not only failed to decrease poverty; it actually seems to have made it worse,” Kerry Jackson writes in an analysis.