LISTEN: On the Tuesday March 28 edition of Georgia Today: Georgia's homelessness bill is headed to the governor's desk; lawyers debate the state's abortion ban before the Georgia Supreme Court; and why visiting Savannah will now be more expensive.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Tuesday, March 28. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode: A bill addressing how Georgia tackles homelessness is headed to the governor's desk; lawyers argue for and against the state's abortion ban before the Georgia Supreme Court; and it just got more expensive to visit Savannah. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.



Story 1

Peter Biello: The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides today in the case that questions the constitutionality of Georgia's six-week abortion ban. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more.

Sofi Gratas: The case from physicians and reproductive rights organizations, among others, argues Georgia's abortion law is void because when it passed in 2019, the right to abortion was still protected under the U.S. Constitution. But Solicitor General Stephen Petrany, representing the state, claims that argument doesn't stand following the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Stephen Petrany: And so the notion that somehow Dobbs does not undo that, it just — it-it would be incoherent.

Sofi Gratas: Court justices have promised a ruling as soon as possible. HB 481 was overturned by a Superior Court decision last November, but the state Supreme Court quickly filed an appeal reinstating the ban. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Julia Stone, says if this decision doesn't go their way, they'll be back to argue against HB 481 on the basis of privacy. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas.



Story 2

Peter Biello: A bill born from the frustration over homelessness is headed to the governor's desk after approval in the House. GPB's Grant Blankenship explains.

Grant Blankenship: Senate Bill 62 passed the House and does three things: empowers the state attorney general to sue cities that don't enforce their own laws against street homelessness; makes it illegal for communities to, quote, "drop off" the unhoused in neighboring communities; and mandates a state audit of how private nonprofits spend government money to stem homelessness. While some Democrats decried the measure as inhumane, House sponsor Rome Republican Katie Dempsey says the promised audit is an important step.

Katie Dempsey: If you want to address the concerns — not fix them all, but begin to understand them all and help your own community do that, then I ask you to vote yes.

Grant Blankenship: If signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, the audit of well over $200 million in federal homelessness spending in Georgia would be due by the end of the year. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship, in Macon.



The TikTok logo is seen on a cellphone on Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. The popular Chinese-made social media app is under scrutiny as a potential security problem, leading to its banning at certain government agencies, including Georgia state agencies.

Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Story 3

Peter Biello: The state Senate unanimously approved a bill yesterday to codify a ban on the use of TikTok on state-owned devices. Tick Tock is owned by a Chinese company, Byte Dance, and there is concern that its ties to the Chinese government could expose sensitive state data to a foreign government. The bill also would apply to similar social media platforms that are directly or indirectly owned by foreign adversaries. However, the bill provides exceptions for law enforcement investigations, cybersecurity research and for other governmental purposes. The bill goes to the governor for his signature.


Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the annual State of the City address in downtown Atlanta on March 28, 2023.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the annual State of the City address in downtown Atlanta on March 28, 2023.

Credit: City of Atlanta / Facebook

Story 4

Peter Biello: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens touted a string of economic successes in his second State of the City address this morning. Speaking to community leaders, he said those successes include publications naming the city as the nation's best to live and work, and Atlanta being named a World Cup host city in 2026.

Andre Dickens: And last, but certainly not least, we kept Atlanta whole as one city with one bright future.

Peter Biello: That was a reference to the thwarted Buckhead city movement, which failed in the state legislature. He also touted declining rates of violent crime, the filling of thousands of potholes and efforts to increase affordable housing. He also reiterated his belief in the need to build a public safety training center. Plans for the center and the South River forest, which opponents call "Cop City," have been met with numerous protests.


Savannah Port

Story 5

Peter Biello: It's going to get more expensive to visit Savannah. State lawmakers passed legislation yesterday allowing the city to raise its hotel/motel tax. Savannah state Rep. Edna Jackson says the current 6% rate is low compared to other cities.

Edna Jackson: They wanted to raise the hotel/motel up to 8%. And in talking with people from Augusta and, I think, Macon and other areas, they are already at that point.

Peter Biello: Jackson says the tax increase on visitors will prevent a tax increase on residents for things like trails, sidewalks and other projects. City officials had been seeking the tax hike for years, but until this year it always stalled for lack of support.



Story 6

Peter Biello: A new Amazon streaming series begins filming in Savannah this week. Produced by Norman Lear, it tells the story of a transgender woman returning home to a Southern family after 17 years away. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: Clean Slate stars Laverne Cox and comedian George Wallace, who learns for the first time that his estranged son is now a trans woman. The show is taking on added significance after Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed SB 140 into law, which restricts access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Chad Darnell, an Atlanta-based casting consultant working on the series, says while the new law concerns him, the show is a plus.

Chad Darnell: I believe this show is going to help a lot of families and save a lot of lives because it's going to be a very important conversation piece for families and for people who don't understand what it's like to be trans in this country today, especially in the South.

Benjamin Payne: Darnell says he worries Hollywood will try to boycott Georgia because of the new law — a move, he says, would do more harm than good. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Medical cannabis oil

A bottle of medical cannabis oil and a cannabis plant.

Story 7

Peter Biello: A bill that seeks to fix the problems that have long plagued Georgia's medical cannabis program is a step closer to passing the General Assembly. The state Senate voted 53 to 3 in favor of legislation the House passed earlier this month, but with a series of changes that will force it to return to the House before it can gain final passage, The state commission that runs the program was created back in 2019, but it took the agency until last year to award the first two licenses to companies in the state that would grow and convert the leafy crop to low-THC cannabis oil for patients suffering from a range of diseases. The awarding of licenses hasn't ended the difficulty in getting the program off the ground. Four additional licenses are now held up by lawsuits filed by nine companies that lost bids for those licenses. The House and the Senate are wrestling with the number of licenses to be allowed and whether the state should award licenses to companies that filed a lawsuit.


Story 8

Peter Biello: During the height of the COVID 19 pandemic. Author and Atlanta native Valerie Boyd pitched a collection of essays by black authors who could capture in real time how they weathered the storm. That book is now a reality. But Boyd is no longer with us. She died last year of pancreatic cancer. Katya Fleming, editor at large for Look Out Books, is with me now to talk about the collection, which is called Bigger Than Bravery, Black Resilience and Reclamation in the Time of Pandemic. KaToya Fleming, thank you very much for speaking with me.

KaToya Fleming: Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be with you, Peter.

Peter Biello: Tell us about Valerie’s pitch for this book. How did she spell out her vision?

'Bigger than Bravery' was published by Lookout Books in 2022.

KaToya Fleming: Valerie is my former mentor from [the University of Georgia]. I was a student of hers in the MFA program at UGA and when I landed at [University of North Carolina-Wilmington] as editor at Lookout Books, she approached me with a proposal for an anthology, a pretty ambitious anthology, with a dream roster of writers that she wanted, to speak to the ways they had survived — for lack of a better way to say that — the pandemic; the ways that Black writers had reclaimed their joy during the pandemic. And having Black writers speak to something other than trauma — it was something that wasn’t happening in literature at the time, so I was excited about having that be my first acquisition and working on that project with her, together. 

Peter Biello: There’s a wide range of essays here in this collection. There are some poems as well. Folks in Georgia will be glad to know some are based in Atlanta. There’s one where an author watches from their window in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood as someone digs through the trash and eats some of it. What a powerful scene that was.

KaToya Fleming: Yes. That's Shay Youngblood’s essay. It touches on — that essay and several others — the ways in which we connected to each other as humans during that time. There were so many different ways that each of us learned to isolate during the pandemic, whether it was music or food or the different ways that we comforted ourselves during those periods of being alone. But Shay’s essay in particular talked about her comforting herself with food but also realizing that there were people that had to do without.

Peter Biello: I don’t want to give the impression that this is the only food in this book. There’s a lot of food here.

KaToya Fleming: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Peter Biello: Can you talk a little bit about the way food was a source of joy and strength for people in this book?

KaToya Fleming: Absolutely. Destiny Birdsong’s essay deals with food in a way that speaks to the essence of what makes food so essential to our well-being. It speaks to how food creates family, creates memories for us and why it became such a source of comfort. The opening essay in the book, Jason Reynolds’ “Char” talks about how a barbecue grill became a source of comfort for him because it was a way to connect to his father, who was dying of cancer. So there are so many different ways that food was employed as a method of connection. 

Peter Biello: Music played a big role in this book as well and I understand there’s a Spotify playlist that goes along with this book now. Can you tell us about it?

KaToya Fleming: Sure. The writers gave us a list of songs that got them through the pandemic. Imani Wilson, in particular. her essay talked about specifically the music that got her through the pandemic and she has this great quote: “Music was the thing that held me together, a tight embrace.” And we thought it would be a great way to sort of bring together all the ways that music connected us, not just to the pandemic experience but to each other, connects us to one another. We asked the writers, “What’s a song that got you through?” And they all contributed a song and we put that together in a playlist, our “Quarantine Joyrides Playlist.” We have that whole list of contributor-curated tunes up on Spotify.

Peter Biello: KaToya Fleming is editor-at-large for Lookout Books, which has published Bigger Than Bravery, Black Resilience and Reclamation in the Time of Pandemic, edited by the late Valerie Boyd.


And that is all the news that is fit to squeeze into this podcast today. Thanks very much for listening to Georgia Today. Subscribe to us, why don't you? It's a great way to stay on top of the news. Hit that subscribe button and we'll pop up in your podcast feed tomorrow. If you've got feedback, we'd love to hear it. Email us at And if you like this podcast, leave a review. That'll help other people find it. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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