On the Friday September 15th edition of Georgia Today: Attorneys on both sides of a high-stakes Georgia redistricting trial made their closing arguments; A new federal program offers help for struggling rural hospitals; And the US Soccer Federation announces a big commitment to the city of Atlanta.

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Orlando Montoya: Hello and welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, September 15th. I'm Orlando Montoya. On today's episode, attorneys on both sides of a high stakes Georgia redistricting trial made their closing arguments. A new federal program offers help for struggling rural hospitals, And the U.S. Soccer Federation announces a big commitment to the Atlanta region. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Atlanta Police Deparment Hiring

Story 1:

Orlando Montoya: $11,000 pay raises for state law enforcement officers over the last two years have not solved recruitment and retention challenges for the Georgia State Patrol. That's according to the agency's deputy director, who told a panel of state lawmakers yesterday that the patrol has been forced into a bidding war with other agencies over an ever decreasing pool of candidates. Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Colonel Billy Hitchens said despite the raises, Georgia is 36th in the nation for state trooper salaries. Georgia House Speaker John Burns formed the panel to look for ways to attract and keep more law enforcement officers.

Story 2:

Orlando Montoya: Georgia's high stakes redistricting trial is now in the hands of a federal judge. After attorneys on both sides made their closing arguments yesterday. If the judge rules for the challengers, one of Georgia's U.S. House and multiple state legislative districts could be redrawn to contain more black voters, that could shift those seats to Democratic control. The case is one of several going forward across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court this year upheld its interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.

Story 3:

Orlando Montoya: Former Atlanta public schools superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring is joining the U.S. Department of Education as a consultant and strategic advisor. The agency made the announcement yesterday. Herring started as the superintendent of APS during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic. She stepped down from the position last month after the district declined to renew her contract in June. In a release from the US Department of Education, the agency said Herring's new role will help shape the department's strategy to engage state and local officials.

Story 4:

Orlando Montoya: Georgia has become one of only a handful of states in the nation to have a federally designated rural emergency hospital. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports, it's a new option to help rural hospitals stay open.

Sofi Gratas: Under the new designation. A rural hospital has to close its inpatient beds, where patients stay for more than 24 hours and instead commit to 24 hour emergency care and other outpatient services. In return, they get a $3 million annual stipend and a boost in reimbursements for care from the federal government. Last year, Irwin County Hospital in Missoula was using just 10% of its beds. That cost a lot of money. But CEO Quinton Whitwell says as the first rural emergency hospital in the state...

Quinton Whitwell: It has put our hospital in a position now where we are really doing well. Instead of always wondering if we're going to able to make payroll the next time.

Sofi Gratas: Over the last 15 years, eight rural hospitals in Georgia have closed. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.

Story 5:

Orlando Montoya: A line of severe thunderstorms yesterday caused flooding in parts of downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium was evacuated after water flooded parts of the building. Aquarium officials said no exhibits or animals were affected. Video posted on social media showed cars under water at shows at Clark Atlanta University said some of the university's residence halls were flooded and that affected students were being relocated to new housing. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement last night that preliminary rain gauges showed 3 hours worth of rain in just 15 minutes. The Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday relief for Georgia taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Idalia following FEMA's disaster declaration in 28 counties in south and east Georgia last week, the IRS said individuals and households that reside or have businesses in those counties now will have until mid-February to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments, for example, certain deadlines filing on or after August 30th and before February 15th, 2024, are granted additional time to file.

Adopt a puppy!

Story 6:

Orlando Montoya: Nearly 30 animal shelters across Georgia are participating in a national adoption weekend running through Sunday. GPB's Amanda Andrews explains It's part of an effort to save lives.

Amanda Andrews: A little under half of Georgia's 148 animal shelter rescue centers are no kill shelters. Even so, in 2022, over 15,000 dogs and cats had to be euthanized due to low adoption rates and high animal populations. Best Friends is a national animal welfare organization working to stop all pets from being killed and animal shelters by 2025. Lifesaving Center's director Alexis Pugh says. Local shelters need to reach out for support.

Alexis Pugh: If you're feeling overwhelmed and overcrowded in your shelter, don't hide it. Don't be ashamed by it. Ask for help. Involve your community. And that's what we're doing with National Adoption Weekend.

Amanda Andrews: Pets are available for adoption and for fostering at reduced or waived fees. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews.

Story 7:

Orlando Montoya: An Atlanta based group that helps young people deal with grief, has become the first Georgia organization to be recognized with the U.S. Surgeon General's medallion. Kate's Club will accept the honor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Founded 20 years ago, the group provides support programs focusing on social connections, coping strategies, confidence and self-esteem. Kate's Club executive director Lisa Amans says the secret to their success is destigmatizing mental health.

Lisa Amans: A child can grieve and have fun. They can be sad and be with peers and learn how to process their grief together, not alone. And when kids come to Kate's Club, we don't carry that stigma with us because we're Kate's Club. We're not going to therapy.

Orlando Montoya: Amans says her group is humbled by the award the surgeon general's highest honor in addition to Atlanta programs. They also operate in Albany, Brunswick and Newnan.

Soccer time

Story 8:

Orlando Montoya: The U.S. Soccer Federation announced this morning that its national headquarters will move from Chicago to Atlanta. The decision brings with it the promise of a first ever national training center for all 27 U.S. soccer national teams. Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Katie Kirkpatrick says the move establishes Georgia as the center of gravity for soccer in the U.S..

Katie Kirkpatrick: It also is a great step as we get ready to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the number of matches that we will have here. So it is a great flag to plant in the ground. And when you think about what U.S. soccer has described, it will be a new headquarters. It will be a new training facility complete with multiple fields. So it not only impacts the growth of the sport, but it's also going to impact the community and the sense that we're going to have a lot of people coming in and saying what a great place to live and work.

Story 9:

Orlando Montoya: An exact location within the Atlanta region and a timetable for the move and facility are yet to be announced. And the Baseball Hall of Fame is opening an exhibit dedicated to one of Savannah's biggest exports in years. The hallowed shrine in Cooperstown this weekend plans to celebrate the sport's wackiest team, the Savannah Bananas. The Hall's president says the team is helping attract younger, less traditional crowds to baseball. And I can tell you, I've been to a number of those games and they are indeed very fun.


Orlando Montoya: That's it for today's edition of Georgia Today. If you'd like to learn more about these stories, visit GPB.org/news. Hit subscribe on this podcast. So you stay current with us in your feed and send us feedback to GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Orlando Montoya, sitting in for Peter Biello today. Have a great weekend.



For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news.

Read the latest updates on the Georgia indictments here.