On the Tuesday, March 7 edition of Georgia Today: We detail the major bills that were passed or left behind on Crossover Day; Local faith leaders weigh in after Sunday's violent protest at the proposed police training center in Dekalb County; and high pollen counts mean worsened allergies for Georgians. 

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Tuesday, March 7. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode: Now that Crossover Day has come and gone, we have a wrap up of the major bills that moved on and those that were left behind. Local faith leaders weigh in after Sunday's violent protest at the proposed police training center in DeKalb County. And if you find yourself sniffling more than usual this season, we'll explain the possible reason why. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: It was a long day at the state capitol yesterday as lawmakers worked late into the evening on Crossover Day. GPB's Stephen Fowler has more on what passed and what got left behind.

Stephen Fowler: Many bills were passed on this final day for a bill to advance out of at least one chamber to be considered for the rest of session. The House and the Senate made quick work of a compromise on the amended state budget, including nearly $1 billion in property tax rebates for homeowners and expanded need-based college aid. There was little controversy until around 10 p.m. when the Senate passed a partial ban on gender affirming care for transgender minors along party lines. Democratic Sen. Sally Harrell is the parent of a transgender child.

Sally Harrell: But we cannot take away treatment for these kids without having something else in place, and we don't have anything else in place.

Stephen Fowler: Some notable failures include efforts to bring sports betting and gambling infrastructure to the state. And another bill shot down before a crossover date that would have annexed part of Atlanta to make the city of Buckhead City. There are still chances for lost bills to find their way across the finish line, so never say never. For GPB News, I'm Stephen Fowler.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: The Georgia House also overwhelmingly passed a bill that defines antisemitism and includes it under a recently passed hate crimes law. Sandy Springs state Rep. [and] Democrat Esther Panitch is Georgia's only Jewish state lawmaker.

Esther Panitch: Protections for Jewish people do not come at the expense of anyone else except antisemites. The ways in which hate has been brought against the Jewish people are plentiful throughout the ages.

Peter Biello: The measure would allow actions targeting Jewish people to be used as evidence of a motive when prosecuting crimes.

Kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.

Kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.

Credit: AP/Mary Esch

Story 3:

Peter Biello: The House voted to make kratom, an herbal extract with addictive properties, a controlled substance. If enacted, the legislation would move kratom products behind the counter, limit potency and make use of it illegal for people under 21. However, kratom advocates argue it helps with opioid withdrawal and pain. But lawmakers behind the bill say kratom has too many negative side effects. According to the state medical examiner's office, there were 239 deaths between 2017 and 2021, where kratom main alkaloid, mitragynine, was detected among other drugs. Kratom is currently unregulated by the FDA.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: The Georgia House and Senate passed several other bills of note yesterday, including a Senate bill aimed at accommodating electric vehicles. Senate Bill 146 passed near unanimously. It would allow utilities selling electricity to owners at charging stations to charge by the kilowatt hour rather than by the time it takes to charge up. The Senate also supported a plan to give $6,000 vouchers to students living in low-performing school districts. Parents could spend the money on private school tuition, homeschooling supplies and tutoring. It passed along party lines, with Democrats protesting that the proposal would deplete funding for public schools. In the House, lawmakers voted to raise the age limit for prosecuting young defendants in juvenile court to 17. Georgia is among just three states that still charges 17-year-old criminal defendants as adults.

clergy protest

Story 5:

Peter Biello: Several Atlanta faith leaders gathered at City Hall yesterday to demand the city stop construction of the new Public Safety Training Center. GPB's Amanda Andrews reports. This follows the violent protests Sunday in the South River forest.

Amanda Andrews: Activists held a two-day music festival this weekend as part of a protest action. Police arrested over 30 people and charged 23 with domestic terrorism after some people left the concert and set fire to vehicles, including a police car. Baptist Minister Leo Seyij Allen lives in Atlanta. He says the implications for the public if this project moves forward are concerning.

Leo Seyij Allen: We are profoundly troubled by the use of military tactics and escalated legal charges on members of our community and suppressing legitimate resistance while at the same time clear cutting the forest trees.

Amanda Andrews: Clergy members are demanding all charges be dropped. The project be discontinued and the land be returned to the Muscogee tribe. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews in Atlanta.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: Georgia Power said yesterday nuclear powered Plant Vogtle has begun splitting atoms in one of its two new reactors. It's a key step toward reaching commercial operation for Unit 3 at the plant southeast of Augusta. The company says operators reached self-sustaining nuclear fission inside the reactor that makes the intense heat that will be used to produce steam and spin turbines to generate electricity. Georgia Power says Unit 3 could begin commercial operation in May or June.

Story 7:

Peter Biello: Are you feeling a little sniffly? Well, that could be all the pollen in the air. Pollen levels in the extremely high range were recorded yesterday for the first time this season. GPB's Orlando Montoya reports.

Orlando Montoya The pollen monitor at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma has never recorded pollen counts in the extremely high range this early in more than 30 years of collecting data. The prior record was set on March 16th in 2012. Atlanta Allergies Doctor Kevin Schaefer says the rest of the state is most likely similarly pollinated.

Kevin Schaefer Weather in Atlanta is a bit psychotic and we have nice warm weather, dry days, and on those days the pollen will go crazy. If it gets cold again and or we have rain, it's going to wash it out and reduce it.

Orlando Montoya Schaefer assumes the culprit is a warming climate. He expects peak counts in late March and early April. For GPB News, I'm Orlando Montoya.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: The Georgia High School basketball championships are getting started tomorrow at the Macon Coliseum, and GPB will be broadcasting it live for a look at the teams who are still in the running, we turn to GPB's Jon Nelson.

Jon Nelson I have my brackets and I'm ready to talk. Sir, what is on your mind?

Peter Biello: All right. All things basketball, really. We've got boys and girls competing this week. Let's start with girls basketball. What teams are left standing at this point on the girls side?

Jon Nelson: So we're down to the final 16, eight classifications, and winners have made their way all the way through. [There are] some really cool storylines and some that are kind of tied to GPB. In Class A, Division I Girls, the Galloway School: Kiesha Brown, their head coach, she used to be a part of our on-air talent, one of the most storied players in the history of Georgia high school basketball, coaching there. You work your way through Clinch County, making their way through in single-A, D2 Girls, Banks County, the Leopards of Banks County, coming through in Double-A. Triple-A, Hebron Christian and Lumpkin County. Hebron Christian's head coach is Jan Azar. She is a legend and I mean that in all seriousness. She started the Wesleyan School program in suburban Atlanta about 25 years ago. She started it from scratch. The only year that they did not make the postseason was her first. Three years ago, she leaves Wesleyan to go to Hebron Christian and now Hebron Christian is playing in the last game of the year, and they get to go up against Lumpkin County. Lumpkin County, your defending champ, they just launch 3's. I mean, they literally just, it's like, okay, 3-pointer, we're open, go. Baldwin, coming from Milledgeville, they're going to have a bit of a home game. 5A Warner Robins is going to get a bit of a home game. Kell has the chance for the double, boys and girls in 5A. Will Warner Robins? Will the Demons stop that idea in 5A? Lovejoy in River Ridge in 6A. [In] 7A you've got Gwinnett County rivals in Norcross and Brookwood. Norcross? You can pencil them in for deep playoff runs each and every single year. This year is no different. They get the Brookwood Broncos. So pedigree is there on the girls side across the board.

Peter Biello: And how about the boys? What are you watching there?

Jon Nelson: Interesting story in Class A Division II. Charlton County out of Folkston down in Southeast Georgia, Charlton County hits a shot at the buzzer in the semifinals, knocks off nationally known Green Forest Christian. Charlton County is just running up and down the floor the entire time. Green Forest slows them down but Charlton hits a shot at the buzzer. They make their way to their first-ever final. Like ever, ever final. And they're going up against Wilkinson County. Wilkinson County, under the great coach, Dr. Aaron Jeter, had 10 championships during his tenure in the smaller classifications. One of his ex players, Xavier Whipple, took over for Dr. Aaron Jeter three years ago and he has got them now to their first final as they're chasing after.

Peter Biello: And the state of Georgia is one of the few that has sanctioned adaptive sports for basketball. I understand you're doing the play-by-play for that.

Jon Nelson: That is championship No. 17 on the weekend at GPB. And that one's going to be fun because in the booth with me is going to be the former executive director of the Georgia High School Association, Dr. Ralph Swearingen. Doc Swearingen has the week named after him. It's the Ralph Swearingen Basketball Championships. But he was instrumental in bringing adaptive sports to the fore in the consciousness as well, so for the wheelchair championships in basketball, it is going to be DeKalb against Houston County, two perennial powers there, and I get to call it with Doc Swearingen. And that's going to be a very, very cool moment as well.

Peter Biello: And Jon, there's also a dunk contest and a 3-pointer contest.

Jon Nelson: Emceeing this for me is going to be very, very cool. It's to see the imagination of the 3-point shooters and the dunkers. It's going to be a fun part there as well. Fantastic four days. So we have 17 championships plus three other activities in a four-day period starting at 1:00 on Wednesday afternoon. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday. So that's 72 plus — 17 championships plus three other activities — 20 activities in 82 hours, Peter! That's what we're doing.

Peter Biello: And I should ask you, Jon, before we go, how can people watch?

Jon Nelson: Well, let's see: If you have a digital tuner, it is on your GPB Knowledge channel in your local area. If you're, say, in the Atlanta area, it would be 8.3. If you're in Chatsworth in the North Georgia mountains, take your GPB affiliate and go to the point three. So it would be 18.3. So wherever it is locally in your digital tuner, go to point three. It's on your cable systems. You're going to have to look for it a little bit. There is some information in the sports section at GPB.org about where to look for it, but it's also going to be on all of our social media platforms: App, web, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch. It's all over the place, trust me. Go to NPR.org and you'll find it .

Peter Biello: GPB Sports. That's the handle right? @gpbsports.

Jon Nelson On the Twitters. Yes, sir.

Peter Biello: Excellent. All right. Jon Nelson, thank you so much.

Jon Nelson I'm going to make it!

Peter Biello: That was PBS's Jon Nelson, who's been covering high school athletics for GPB as a host, anchor and correspondent. And again, you can find the details of how to watch the games at GPB.org.

Story 9:

Peter Biello: And a little bit of baseball news. The Atlanta Braves plan to stop the sale of season tickets on or around March 17 to preserve the availability of single game tickets. Braves President Derek Schiller said yesterday this is the first time in team history season ticket sales have been cut off before the first game. The team says it is on pace to approach last year's Truist Park attendance record total of more than 3.1 million people.


Peter Biello: And we have come to the end of this edition of Georgia Today.Thank you, as always, for listening. And thanks also for subscribing. We've got more news coming your way tomorrow and we wouldn't want you to miss it. If you've got feedback, let us know. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. And if you like this podcast, leave a review that helps other people find it. I'm Peter Biello. We'll see you tomorrow.


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