Georgia Today: Trump drops trial request; US Treasury Secretary visits Savannah; Medicaid unwinding
On the Friday, Sept. 29 edition of Georgia Today: Trump drops his request to move his election interference case from Georgia to the federal courts; U.S. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen visits the port of Savannah; And some Georgia Democratic house and senate members expressing concerns about Medicaid unwinding.
Orlando Montoya: Hello and welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, Sept. 29. I'm Orlando Montoya. In today's episode, former President Donald Trump drops his request to move his election interference case from Georgia to the federal courts. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits the port of Savannah to tout President Biden's economic policies, And some Georgia Democratic House and Senate members are expressing concerns about how the state is handling the Medicaid unwinding process that was paused during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Those stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Orlando Montoya: A state judge has rejected a challenge to a new Georgia law creating a commission that could discipline or remove elected state prosecutors. An order today from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Paige Whitaker means the law can take effect while a case against it goes forward. Some Republicans want the new commission to crack down on what they see as rogue prosecutors. Democrats fear it will be used to remove progressive district attorneys like the one in Fulton County, Fani Willis, who's sought charges against former President Donald Trump.
Orlando Montoya: Trump's lawyers say he will not seek to get his Georgia election interference case transferred to federal court. The revelation came in a court filing yesterday, weeks after a federal judge rejected a similar attempt by Trump's former chief of staff. Meanwhile, in state court, GPB's Stephen Fowler reports the trial against two defendants in the case now has a jury selection date.
Stephen Fowler: 900 people will be summoned to serve as prospective jurors in the trial for Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, two of the 19 people indicted in the case involving former President Donald Trump and others who tried to overturn the 2020 election. At a case management hearing Friday, Judge Scott McAfee said jury selection would begin Friday, Oct. 20. Then, Monday the 23rd, lawyers from the DA's office and the defendants will begin questioning jurors to narrow down the pool. McAfee also said he'd tell them to expect the trial to last three to five months, eight hours a day, Monday through Thursday with breaks around Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that could be moot if prosecutors offer the duo plea deals and they accept them — a possibility in coming weeks as well. For GPB News, I'm Stephen Fowler.
Orlando Montoya: Georgia's two U.S. senators are remembering their late California colleague, Dianne Feinstein, as a woman who broke barriers. In statements released this morning, Jon Ossoff called Feinstein a trailblazer who paved the way for generations to follow. And Raphael Warnock said she, quote, "moved our nation closer to its ideals." The California Democrat and advocate for liberal priorities died last night after months of failing health.
Orlando Montoya: Pandemic-era funding for child care is set to expire tomorrow. The funding lapse is not related to the looming government shutdown on Sunday. GPB's Sarah Kallis has more on how Georgia is preparing.
Sarah Kallis: The funds stabilize the cost of child care in Georgia, and allow child care centers to hire more staff and raise salaries. In a survey conducted by the Georgia nonprofit Quality Care for Children, 80% of the state's child care providers surveyed said they will have to raise costs. CEO Ellyn Cochran says increased costs can affect everyone.
Ellyn Cochran: This is going to be an impact for families, but it's also going to be an impact for all of us. Because if your teachers, if your nurses, if your employees don't have a place to put their children, it's going to impact all of us.
Sarah Kallis: In Georgia, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and Quality Care for Children say they are focused on helping providers develop their business model to avoid closure. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis.
Orlando Montoya: Seven Georgia members of the U.S. House and Senate are telling federal health officials that they're concerned the state is not following requirements of Medicaid unwinding. That's the process by which states are redetermining Who is eligible for the federal health care program, after a pause in redeterminations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Georgia is one of 29 states that told the U.S. Health and Human Services Department that they either were auto-renewing people in Medicaid incorrectly or are still working to reinstate people dropped from coverage. A letter dated today from the lawmakers, all Democrats, to the agency's secretary, Javier Becerra, says they're, quote, gravely concerned that the error has caused thousands of children to lose coverage. The state agencies responsible for the unwinding have said previously that some of the people who have lost coverage for procedural reasons on paper are likely no longer eligible.
Orlando Montoya: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a visit to the Port of Savannah today. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports she touted President Biden's economic agenda.
Benjamin Payne: No new policies or programs were announced by Yellen. Instead, her 20-minute talk resembled a campaign speech for Biden, who has struggled to win over public approval for his economic policies. Speaking in front of a docked container ship, Yellen called the Port of Savannah —
Janet Yellen: By far the most impressive port I've ever visited in my life. This port's ability to receive and ship goods effectively and efficiently matters tremendously for our country's economic strength.
Benjamin Payne: She praised Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law for providing $48 million to aid Savannah's harbor deepening project, an investment which she says will yield $7 for every $1 spent. For GPB News. I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.
Orlando Montoya: Elections officials in Bartow County, northwest of Atlanta, say they've received numerous and extensive requests for information from a massive national network of websites that relies mainly on aggregation and automation to blast out conservative-leaning local news. The CEO of the network Local Labs, says the organization is using their requests in an attempt to expose election fraud that he is sure exists and that he says bureaucrats are hiding. The network's CEO, Brian Timpone, also says the company sometimes gets paid by Republican-backed clients, leading some to question its ethics. In Bartow County, the company requested a copy of every envelope that voters used to mail in ballots, something the county's elections director said would take one person working 163 days straight to produce. The elections director Joseph Kirk said Local Labs' broad and unclear requests seem more like fishing expeditions than a true interest in the data.
Orlando Montoya: Columbus school officials are releasing few details about gunfire that injured a middle school student on campus yesterday. A statement from the Muscogee County School District confirms a student was injured when a loaded firearm concealed in a computer case was unintentionally discharged at Rothchild Leadership Academy. Information about the student's condition and other circumstances behind the incident was not released. School officials say an investigation is ongoing.
Orlando Montoya: Federal environmental regulators are pushing Alabama to more stringently regulate coal ash. Grant Blankenship reports advocates here want those same regulators to push Georgia officials on the same issue.
Grant Blankenship: The federal Environmental Protection Agency says Alabama regulators program for managing long term coal ash storage is not sufficient and violates EPA rules about coal ash and groundwater. Georgia environmentalists spoke during a public hearing on the matter Wednesday and asked the EPA to look next to Georgia, where some coal ash ponds are being closed in contact with groundwater before state closure permits have been issued. Coosa Riverkeeper Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman's watershed straddles both states.
Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman: Just over the state line there is located Georgia Power's Plant Hammond, where Ash Pond 3 currently has a draft permit out that would continue to leave that coal ash sitting in groundwater.
Grant Blankenship: Even so, federal regulators continue to defer to Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.
Orlando Montoya: Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson became the team's single-season RBI leader in last night's win over the Chicago Cubs at Truist Park. Olson launched a two-run homer in the first inning that gave him the two RBIs he needed to bring his total to 136. That surpasses the record of 135 set by Eddie Mathews 70 years ago. Olson says his achievement is a credit to the hitters in the lineup ahead of him.
Matt Olsen: I don't really feel like it's a me thing that much. More of a product of the opportunity these guys are giving me.
Benjamin Payne: The Braves defeated the Cubs 5 to 3, completing a three-game sweep and securing home field advantage for the entire postseason. They begin their final three-game series of the regular season against the Washington Nationals tonight at Truist Park.
And that's it for today's edition of Georgia Today. I will, in fact, be at that Braves game tonight to see what all the Braves excitement is all about. And Peter Biello will be back on Monday. He is getting some needed vacation time today. And as always, if you'd like to learn more about these stories, visit GPB.org/news. We have much more on these stories there. And if you haven't yet hit, subscribe to this podcast. Take some time to do that right now, and that'll help us always to stay current in your feed. We love feedback. Send us your email at GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. And one final note, as we mentioned yesterday, tributes have been coming in from across the country and across the world as Jimmy Carter prepares to celebrate his 99th birthday on Sunday. Brunswick folk group Parr and Williams sent us an original song that they wrote as a dedication to the former president. And we're happy to share it with you today. Here they are to play us out. I am Orlando Montoya. Have a great weekend.
MUSIC: Parr & Williams - "Jimmy"
Hear the full song here.
For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news.
Read the latest updates on the Georgia indictments here.