Georgia Today: Georgia gas tax suspended; Voter registration roll purge; Health effects of 9/11
LISTEN: On the Tuesday, Sept.12 edition of Georgia Today: Gov. Brian Kemp is suspending the state's gas taxes again; state officials are preparing to remove 82,000 Georgians from the voter rolls; and 22 years after 9/11, the CDC is now sharing what it has learned about the health effects of those near the disaster site.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Tuesday, Sept. 12. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, Gov. Brian Kemp is suspending the state's gas taxes again. State officials are preparing to remove 82,000 Georgians from the voter rolls; and 22 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, survivors experience cancer, respiratory illness and anxiety disorders. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp is suspending the state's gas taxes again. The governor issued an emergency declaration today allowing him to halt collection of Georgia's 30-cent per gallon gas tax for a month beginning tomorrow. GPB's Donna Lowry has more.
Donna Lowry: The governor blames, quote, "runaway federal spending policies that hamstring domestic energy production." He says "Bidenomics" has, quote, "taken money out of the pockets of the middle class." But state Democrats say it's a political move because the state has a budget surplus. Georgia House Minority Leader James Beverly:
James Beverly: Why we keep getting revenue underestimated every single year. And so there are two things I think Biden helped. And then also the revenue: This is not his personal bank account. These monies should be used for Georgians, whether it be infrastructure, health care.
Donna Lowry: The monthlong gas tax break takes effect at midnight, but it will be a few days before motorists see lower prices at the pump. For GPB News, I'm Donna Lowry.
Peter Biello: State elections officials are preparing to cancel voter registrations for 82,000 Georgians. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, said today that those voters have been identified as potentially having moved out of state. If they don't respond to a mailed notice within 40 days, they'll be placed in inactive status. The office says more than 300,000 inactive Georgia voters will have their registrations canceled next year unless they have voter activity between now and then.
Peter Biello: A year after a new state mental health law went into effect, no Georgia insurers have proven to state officials that they're meeting one of its key mandates. The new law requires insurance companies to cover mental illness the same as physical illness. A report by Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King last month says most Georgia insurers are exempt from the law. But of the 28 nonexempt companies, none submitted sufficient data to prove they're in compliance.
Peter Biello: The Food and Drug Administration last month approved the first vaccine for pregnant people that protects newborns against infections from RSV. GPB's Sofi Gratis reports respiratory syncytial virus is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations among infants and young children.
Sofi Gratas: When given in the third trimester of pregnancy, Abrysvo, the RSV vaccine, was proven to reduce the risk of RSV to infants by 80% three months after birth. But though cases of RSV are already going up in the Southeast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not recommended approval for pregnant people yet. Dr. Martina Vidal with Emory's maternal fetal medicine division says uptake of the vaccine will likely take time.
Dr. Martina Vidal: Vaccine hesitancy is very real. Being really thoughtful and targeted and how we provide education and access to a new vaccine will be really important here in Georgia.
Sofi Gratas: By passing antibodies to babies before they're born, maternal vaccines are already used to help protect against whopping cough, COVID 19, hepatitis and the flu. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas.
Peter Biello: The city of Rome has approved a settlement with chemical maker DuPont to resolve a lawsuit claiming the company polluted its drinking water. City commissioners ratified the agreement last night, although its amount was not revealed. The city attorney said DuPont is suing to block the amount's disclosure. Previously published reports said the city could get more than $100 million from settlements with dozens of companies. The money would cover the cost to remove chemicals from the city's main water supply, the Oostanaula River.
Peter Biello: Valdosta city officials say it will take 8 to 10 weeks to clean up debris from Hurricane Idalia. The city announced a timeline for removing debris from city rights of way yesterday. The city is contracting with national disaster response company Ashbritt for the cleanup. Officials encourage residents to cut yard waste into 6-foot sections and to avoid blocking fire hydrants with debris as it waits for removal. Idalia hit Valdosta with 70 mile per hour winds when it barreled through South Georgia two weeks ago.
Peter Biello: New garbage trucks are rolling through Columbus this week. City sanitation workers started using the 40 new trucks yesterday that the city bought for $6 million using money from the American Rescue Plan. The trucks use side loading instead of three-person crews. That means residents are now using new 96-gallon carts that come with new rules, including not leaving trash bags on top of or next to carts. It also means the city won't have to rely on incarcerated people from the county jail to fill work crews.
Peter Biello: Yesterday marked 22 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. But tens of thousands of people are still sick from exposure to the disaster site. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is now sharing with the public what it's learned about the health effects of 9/11. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
Ellen Eldridge: For months after the attack, responders and survivors breathed in air filled with small pieces of the World Trade Center towers. That dust is now part of the Health Effects of 9/11 exhibit at the CDC Museum in Atlanta. A piece of that dust is magnified in a large photograph.
Anthony Gardner: Why is this such an important story to tell, 22 years after 9/11?
Ellen Eldridge: That's Anthony Gardner with the CDC's World Trade Center Health Program. He's giving a tour of the exhibit.
Anthony Gardner: Nearly 80,000 people have physical or mental health conditions stemming from their exposures to 9/11 related conditions.
Ellen Eldridge: Gardner lost his brother Harvey in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. He spent the last two decades advocating for the victims who experience things:
Anthony Gardner: Such as dust, smoke, debris and the traumatic events.
Ellen Eldridge: He says 22 years later, cases of cancer, respiratory illness and anxiety disorders are still being discovered. Kayla Bergeron was in her office on the 68th floor of the North Tower when the plane hit. For more than an hours he and others made their way down the survivors' staircase in the dark. She says once they finally made it out, a police officer told them to run.
Kayla Bergeron: You know, like after all this, who wants to run? And now look around is a giant plume of black. Oh my God. I ran six blocks to the Holland Tunnel in those under a car.
Ellen Eldridge: Bergeron was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a common mental health effect among survivors. Stories like hers are part of the CDC's exhibit. The collection also shows what health experts have learned over the decades. Lisa Delaney is with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. She was at the CDC on Sept. 11, 2001.
Lisa Delaney: We did not have a plan to send people out the door rapidly to conduct immediate sampling of the potential exposures.
Ellen Eldridge: Now she is leading the CDC's emergency preparedness program. The goal is to make sure first responders are protected from potential health hazards like those discovered in 9/11 survivors.
Lisa Delaney: It's always with us when we think about new emergencies. For example, the Maui wildfires. And now understanding what they were potentially exposed to and how that might impact their long-term health.
Ellen Eldridge: The 9/11 health effects exhibition at the CDC Museum is open through April of next year. There's also a digital version available online. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.
Peter Biello: Atlanta-based packaging giant Westrock is combining with Ireland-based Smurfit Kappa to create a global firm valued at $20 billion. Smurfit Kappa said today that it's buying Westrock in an $11 billion deal to create the world's second-largest packaging company. U.S. and European Union antitrust regulators would have to approve the merger. The combined company would be based in Dublin with its North American headquarters in Atlanta.
Peter Biello: In sports, the Philadelphia Phillies spoiled Matt Olson's 50th homer and salvaged a doubleheader split with a 7 to 5 win over the Atlanta Braves last night. The Braves won the first game 10-8 in ten innings. Olson is now one home run away from tying Andrew Jones's franchise record of 51 homers in a single season set in 2005. Right hander Kyle Wright made his first start since May 3 after being on the injured list with a strained right shoulder. He faced eight batters and allowed four runs in the first inning, with Edmundo Sosa doing the most damage on a two-RBI double off the left field wall. The Braves face the Phillies again tonight. Max Fried gets the start for the Braves.
And that's it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit our website, GPB.org/news. And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. We will be there for you in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon. If you've got feedback, we'd love to hear from you. Send it to us by email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.
For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news.
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