Sunday Reads – Aug. 21, 2022
As always, it’s our goal to provide fodder for your Sunday dinner conversation, and this week’s lineup will not let you down.
New law and IRS: You aren’t being hunted
While the new Inflation Reduction Act absolutely takes a dim view of the $204 billion in unpaid taxes, it didn’t take long for social media — prodded by politicians — to twist the new Internal Revenue Service funding into a giant hairball. First, they said it would burden small businesses and lower income families with audits, then they claimed that new agents were going to be armed. As always, the truth lies somewhere between the extremes, and we’ve found a thorough roundup of what how the law affects you, your taxes and the IRS at FactCheck.org. Here’s a rundown:
- All 86,852 new hires aren’t agents. There’s a lot of support involved with all of that stuff we send in. And, that’s a 10-year projection. Most of the new hires will fill positions of 50,000 set to retire.
- The Secretary of the Treasury and IRS commissioner have directed that audits will not target anyone earning under $400,000.
- And about the guns and ammo in the budget, it’s no different from what they’ve been buying for 100 years — a small group serves warrants and arrests those who might run afoul of the tax laws in a big way. That’s how they jailed gangster Al Capone.
Check out the FactCheck roundup to get a clear view of what’s included so you can make your own decisions about it all.
Whiplash: PSC ballot, candidates
Careful readers of The Current will remember the various lawsuits stemming from the Georgia Public Service Commission elections this year. To summarize, one candidate, Democrat Patty Durand, was disqualified on the eve of the primary with a challenge after redrawn districts cut her residency calendar short. Another lawsuit, filed two years ago, challenged the way the races are set up to begin with: Commissioners serve and must live in specific districts, yet they are elected by statewide races. The suit argued that the statewide vote diluted the chances that a majority-minority district would ever likely be able to be represented by a minority voice. A judge agreed and said the state would need to fix the problem, taking the vote off the November ballot.
Since the May primary, the fall ballot has changed not once but four times. As we hit the Send button for this newsletter, the District 2 race (which includes Chatham County) has two qualified candidates, Durand and Tim Echols after a state judge ruled Thursday that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office made a mistake in the disqualification. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court said that will have to wait, and pulled the races from the November ballot again. The Current’s Mary Landers rounds up the latest moves for an elected body that determines how much you pay for electricity.
• Better off or worse? Most parents will tell you they work every day to make sure their children will fare better than they did. However, in new data from the Pew Research Center, only 27% of U.S. adults interviewed are optimistic about their children’s financial well-being; 72% said they’d face tougher times. And they aren’t alone. A majority of parents surveyed in 18 of 19 countries felt their kids would face tougher times. Only Singapore adults said they believe the future is brighter, and that was a close call: 42% said they’d fare worse and 56% said times would be better. We’ll leave that research right here for you to consider.
• Open gun laws and public gathering: By now we’ve all heard about the demise of Atlanta’s annual Music Midtown Festival because organizers couldn’t prohibit firearms at the event because of recent Georgia case law affecting public spaces. It’s an issue that’s common across many states now, and event planners are wondering what to do. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, two law professors say public entities like cities or counties may literally have to privatize or grant short-term ownership to an organizer to enable the ability to ban guns from an event. It’s an approach working in Missouri and enables organizers — or temporary owners of the space — to ban or restrict guns. The Current doesn’t publish or accept editorial opinions, but we’ll link to this one only because its content presents points of discussion to consider as well as solutions in other cities. No matter how you feel about firearms and restrictions, cooler weather is coming and the events calendars are heating up. If the Music Midtown Festival decision is any indication, the new carry laws will impact planning, and possibly attendance, for the event-filled social season in Coastal Georgia.
Does school travel time affect achievement?
School transportation is a blazing hot topic right now, because of deep cuts in routes, shrinking availability of bus drivers and higher gas prices. And those are not nearly all the reasons it’s high on everyone’s list — in Chatham County, students who attend the much-sought specialty schools and charter schools have limited bus access, adding tough transportation burdens to families or effectively cutting access to those “choice” programs for students whose families literally cannot take them to a school far from the neighborhood. New data from the Brookings Institute and the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis shows how critical school bus service can be to provide access to programs but it also warns that students, usually those in “choice” schools, who spend 4 to 5 total hours on a bus each day may suffer academically. Bringing it home: The need for public transportation is greater for all students, and especially for lower income students because they are the ones affected most when there aren’t enough buses, routes or drivers and the shortages deepen class divides of educational access.
Your second cup: Building solutions
After years of seeing families hit hard by unplanned and spiraling medical bills, two debt collectors quit their jobs and decided to do something about the problems they saw every day. They formed a nonprofit to buy up crippling medical bill debt and erase it in order to help families grow stronger. To date, the group has purchased $6.7 million to help 3.6 million people find relief. Read or listen to this NPR story on how a new perspective brought life-changing solutions to reality.
Fact Check: Contrary to social media posts, IRS will target ‘high-income’ tax evaders with new funds
The Inflation Reduction Act includes $79 billion for the IRS. Social media posts misleadingly claim the IRS will now hire “87,000 new agents” to investigate average citizens. But most new hires will provide customer services, and enforcement efforts will be aimed at “high-income and corporate tax evaders,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said.
A usually low-key, down-ballot race for utility regulators has been the focus of several court challenges because of its unique statewide vote for district representatives.
Durand was living in Gwinnett County but moved to Rockdale County so she could challenge the political maneuvering in court. Her lawsuit yielded correspondence between Chairwoman Tricia Pridemore and Echols showing Pridemore asking for Durand’s home address in Gwinnett as the maps were being drawn.
Kemp filing accuses the Fulton County district attorney’s office of being unresponsive to the governor’s efforts to meet while Willis fires back at points as “wrong” and “dishonest.”
Glass is again being diverted from landfills in coastal Georgia after a hiatus in curbside glass recycling
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