On the Wednesday March 15 edition of Georgia Today: A bill banning gender-affirming surgeries for minors moves a step closer to becoming law; tax rebates for Georgians; the Savannah Bananas are taking the world by storm

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, March 15. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode: A bill banning gender-affirming surgeries for minors moves a step closer to becoming law; taxpayers are going to be getting tax rebates again this year; and an unusual form of baseball born in Savannah is taking the world by storm. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1

Peter Biello: A bill to limit gender-affirming care for minors is moving forward in the state House. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports the House Public Health Committee voted along party lines yesterday to send the bill to the full House for more debate.

Sarah Kallis: Senate Bill 140 prohibits doctors from performing gender-affirming surgeries or prescribing hormone replacement therapy. The bill does allow puberty blockers. Sen. Carden Summers sponsored the bill and said it protects children.

Carden Summers: Crux of this bill is simply to pause and allow people — allow young people to get a little bit more mature before they make a decision.

Sarah Kallis: Critics of the bill note that surgeries for transgender minors are not common and regret rates are low. They also point to statistics that show gender-affirming care can reduce suicide rates among transgender youth. The bill passed with an amendment that would allow patients to hold doctors liable if patients regret their decision after treatment. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis at the state capitol.


(Photo Courtesy of Ian Britton via FreeFoto.com.)

Story 2

Peter Biello: The state Senate has given final approval for another tax refund to go out to Georgians later this year. Taxpayers will receive a refund of $250, $375 or $500, depending on how they file their taxes. Brunswick State Sen. [and] Republican Mike Hodges presented the bill yesterday.

Mike Hodges: This bill is about getting state dollars back into the pockets of hardworking Georgians rather than letting the money stay at the state level.

Peter Biello: Senators approved the bill unanimously that now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.


Story 3

Peter Biello: The city of Savannah and the Savannah Police Department are being sued by the family of a 60-year-old man who took his own life while in police custody. The family of William Zachery Harvey filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court. Harvey was found dead in April 2021 in a police interview room where he had been questioned in connection with an assault. Five Savannah police officers were fired in connection with his death. Attorneys for the family say police ignored Harvey's threats to take his own life.


Story 4

Peter Biello: Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital marked the official grand opening Monday of a new 10-story tower that increases patient capacity. The $237 million expansion comes at a critical time in Atlanta health care. Four months ago, Wellstar closed its nearby Atlanta Medical Center with little warning, leaving Grady with a surge in trauma and critical care patients. Grady's chief strategy officer, Shannon Sale, says the expansion gave the hospital space to address the new surge.

Shannon Sale: When we moved the cancer center, we immediately came back and literally the same week and started demolition to build two critical care units. That is directly tied to the increase and volume from trauma and critical care.

Peter Biello: This new tower had been planned years ago for outpatient surgery and cancer care needs. It's Grady's largest investment in three decades and its first expansion downtown.


Atlanta Medical Center on Boulevard will close Nov. 1. (Wellstar Health System)
Credit: Wellstar Health System

Story 5

Peter Biello: Wellstar Health System is hitting back against federal complaints filed by a civil rights group and state and local officials over last year's closure of Atlanta Medical Center. Fulton County commissioners became the latest this morning to accuse the company of, quote, "health care redlining" when it abruptly shuttered its hospital in a majority Black area while keeping other hospitals open in majority white areas. In response, the company called the discrimination allegations, quote, "shameful and false." The company also names Fulton County Chairman Rob Pitts as being one of the local policymakers who declined to support Wellstar in funding discussions before the closure.


Story 6

Peter Biello: A plan by state House lawmakers to build on last session's bipartisan mental health bill is receiving a cool reception in the Senate. Some lawmakers have expressed concern over the bill's annual $72 million price tag. The most expensive recurring cost is for health related social supports like housing and employment for some Medicaid recipients. Republican Todd Jones represents parts of Forsyth and Fulton counties in the House. He told members of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee on Monday that the spending will save money in the long run.

Todd Jones: If we have a better understanding of what that individual's challenge is, we can come up with a better treatment plan and hopefully that individual is able to get better or at least get stabilized in a shorter amount of time, hence reducing the amount of resources that the state has to pay for that.

Peter Biello: The state senator leading the bill's review said a substitute bill is likely to emerge.


Story 7

Peter Biello: Chick fil-A is planning a $1 billion overseas expansion. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the company plans to open restaurants in Europe and Asia by 2026. Compared to its competitors, the Atlanta-based fast food giant has few international locations with just eight in Canada.


Savannah Bananas mascot Split waves during the “Banana Ball World Tour Draft,” where locations were announced for the team's 2023 schedule.

Savannah Bananas mascot Split waves during the “Banana Ball World Tour Draft,” where locations were announced for the team's 2023 schedule.

Credit: Savannah Bananas

Story 8

Peter Biello: Opening day for Major League Baseball is later this month, but Banana ball is already in full swing. It is a bizarre version of baseball played by the Savannah Bananas. The team has taken the sports world by storm with a ticket wait list of half a million people for their cross-country tour and more followers on TikTok than any Major League Baseball team. Recently, the Bananas played a team of retired MLB players under the rules of Banana ball. GPB's Benjamin Payne was at the game and has the story.

PA Announcer: When I say Savannah, you say Bananas! Savannah!

Crowd: Bananas!

PA Announcer: Savannah!

Crowd: Bananas!

PA Announcer: Whoa! Whoa! 

Benjamin Payne: Some 4,000 people packed into Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Ga., for what the Bananas call the greatest show in sports.

PA Announcer: This is not your granddad's pastime.

Benjamin Payne: It certainly is not. Bananas play by their own set of highly unorthodox rules. For one, there is a two-hour time limit and batters get a strike if they step out of the batter's box. Then there's perhaps the most popular rule in Banana ball: If a fan catches a foul ball, the batter is out.

PA Announcer: (singing): We will, we will peel you.

Benjamin Payne: The banana puns are always a fan favorite. The team used to be a regular minor league squad with occasional banana ball games, but those became so popular that the team left the league to play nothing but banana ball this year.

PA Announcer: Now batting: Johnny Damon.

Benjamin Payne: That's 18-year MLB veteran Johnny Damon, perhaps best known for helping the Boston Red Sox end their 86-year-long World Series drought in 2004. Here's Bananas broadcaster Biko Skalla with the call for Damon's first at-bat.

Biko Skalla: That ball is bomb but foul down the right field line. If it was fair, it was a homer.

Benjamin Payne: Damon would go hitless in his three at-bats. The rest of the retired Major Leaguers didn't fare much better, but the Bananas, mostly a team of 20-somethings, had a field day, winning 5 to 1. Late in the game, the tallest player in all of baseball hobbled slowly toward the batter's box.

PA Announcer: Please welcome Dakota "Stilts" Albritton!

Benjamin Payne: True to his name, Dakota Albritton is on stilts, standing 10 feet, 9 inches tall. He rose to the occasion with a runner in scoring position.

Biko Skalla: 0-2 this year, 1-6 in his career as that one's cranked down the thrid base line, fair! And the Bananas are going to walk the inning off.

Benjamin Payne: All the antics go beyond the baseball diamond. There's a pet band. And a cheerleading squad of grandmas called the Banana Nanas. So Johnny Damon was in good spirits after the game, even though Team Major League lost.

Johnny Damon: Obviously, we want to win every time we get out there, but it was fantastic. Everybody's leaving here happy.

Benjamin Payne: Former Oakland A Billy Burns assessed his team's performance.

Billy Burns: Horrible. You could tell all of us hadn't played in years, but it was a really cool experience and I've never played anything like that. And it was way faster pace than I thought. So I was exhausted after, like the second inning.

Benjamin Payne: Damon says the MLB can learn from how the Bananas appeal to a bunch of different groups.

Johnny Damon: They're bringing everything for the fans, for the grandmothers, for the babies, for the kids.

Benjamin Payne: The Bananas will play two more games against retired Major Leaguers this year as part of their 33-city exhibition tour across the U.S. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.

PA Announcer: Ba-nan-as. Ba-nan-as.


Peter Biello: True story: After I heard Benjamin's piece for the first time yesterday, I could not get "We will, we will peel you" out of my head. Hopefully, now that I've mentioned it, it's not also stuck in yours.

That's it for today's edition of Georgia Today. Now, tomorrow on the program, we're going to be remembering the late Georgia poet laureate David Bottoms. He died last week at the age of 73. He wrote some great narrative poems, a lot of them about baseball, incidentally, but also about ordinary life in Georgia, family life in Georgia, the natural world. He's touched a lot of lives with his poetry. And we want to know if he has touched yours. Is there a favorite poem by David Bottoms that has really moved you over the years? Something that's really got lodged in your heart or really just gets stuck in your head for the music of it? We'd love to hear from you about the life and legacy in the poetry of David Bottoms.

If you've got a thought. You can email us. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. That is also where you can send any feedback about this podcast. We'd love to hear from you about that as well. Again, GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. If you like this podcast, leave a review. It helps other people find us. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening. We'll be back with you tomorrow.


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