On the Monday, Jan. 29 edition of Georgia Today: Three soldiers based out of Fort Moore in Georgia are killed in a drone attack in Jordan; two controversial new voting bills clear their first hurdle in the state legislature; and a look at how peer-led recovery can help those suffering from mental illness.

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Orlando Montoya: Hello and welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Monday, Jan. 29. I'm Orlando Montoya. On today's episode, three soldiers based out of Fort Moore in Georgia are killed in a drone attack in Jordan. Two controversial new voting bills cleared their first hurdle in the state legislature, and a look at how peer-led recovery can help those suffering from mental illness. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Orlando Montoya: All three of the American soldiers killed in a drone strike by an Iran-backed group in Jordan on Sunday were assigned to a U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Georgia. GPB's Grant Blankenship reports.

Grant Blankenship: The Department of Defense says Sgt. William Rivers, Spc. Brianna Moffett and Spc. Kennedy Sanders were serving with the Army Reserves 718th Engineer Company, based at Fort Moore, near Columbus. All three were also Georgia natives. Sanders, 24, was from Ware County, some 200 miles southeast of Fort Moore. Scott Moye is the Ware County manager.

Scott Moye: I had no idea that one of the ones that lost their life was, one of our own. She actually graduated with my youngest daughter.

Grant Blankenship: Moye says once he learned, he quickly penned a county proclamation to drop flags to half staff.

Scott Moye: It was a way for us recognizing our own from her home county.

Grant Blankenship: Moye says the flags will remain lowered in  Ware County, in the words of the proclamation, "until the sun sets on the day of Sanders' interment." For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.



Story 2:

Orlando Montoya: The Georgia House has passed a bill that would revive a commission aimed at disciplining and removing elected county prosecutors. Democrats warned the vote today was aimed at derailing the prosecution in Fulton County of former President Donald Trump in an election interference case. The bill now heads to the Senate. Lawmakers created the commission last year, but it was unable to operate because the Georgia Supreme Court refused to approve its rules.


Story 3:

Orlando Montoya: Two controversial elections bills are moving to the House after passing the state Senate on Friday. GPB's Sarah Kallis has that story.

Sarah Kallis: Senate Bill 355 would ban ranked choice voting in Georgia, even though it's not currently used in elections here. Sen. Randy Robertson, who sponsored the bill, said ranked choice voting is confusing and would be expensive and difficult to implement. Senators also passed Senate Bill 358, which would remove the secretary of state from the elections board and give the board the power to investigate him. Sen. Derek Mallow, who opposed the bill, said it gives the board too much power.

Derek Mallow: Unlike the secretary of state, the state election board members are not elected. Instead, they're members that are appointed and are political operatives who are politically unaccountable to the people of this state.

Sarah Kallis: Both bills passed along party lines. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis at the state Capitol.


Story 4:

Orlando Montoya: A Georgia state trooper has died in the line of duty. The state Department of Public Safety said trooper Jimmy Cenescar died after his cruiser left Interstate 85 and struck an embankment in the Atlanta suburb of Suwannee yesterday. Senescar was trying to stop a motorcycle for a traffic violation. He was taken to a Lawrenceville hospital where he died. Cenescar previously served as an officer with the Atlanta Police Department when he was credited with saving a man's life after the man drove off an Atlanta bridge in 2021.


Story 5:

Orlando Montoya: Peer-led recovery is where people who've navigated mental illness and addiction recovery help those still struggling. And as GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports, it can save lives.

Ellen Eldridge: Georgia's peer policy collective grew out of the state's Mental Health Parity Act. Now, its advocates are asking those with lived experience to participate in legislative conversations around mental health — like Jocelyn Wallace, a certified peer specialist who spoke to lawmakers and advocates during Mental Health Day at the state Capitol in favor of Narcan distribution.

Jocelyn Wallace: I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for Narcan. I myself have 21 recorded reversals, from Narcan, from an opioid overdose.

Ellen Eldridge: Georgia was an early adopter of peer recovery programs and has been working in this space for 25 years. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 6:

Orlando Montoya: Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital is planning a $46 million expansion that includes upgrades to its burn center. The hospital says the burn center was last renovated about two decades ago. The expansion is expected to add 11 beds and bring operating rooms closer to burns services. Grady submitted the plans to Department of Community Health officials last week, and estimate the project will be finished by April 2025. The filing also includes plans to upgrade its lab space, which hasn't had a major renovation in about five decades. The proposal says the hospital's expansions have become more urgent after the 2022 closure of Wellstar's Atlanta Medical Center, which left Grady as the city's only Level 1 trauma center.

Natural Gas Drilling

Story 7:

Orlando Montoya: A new order by President Joe Biden could impact a liquefied natural gas export facility on Georgia's coast. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: On Elba Island, just east of Savannah, sits Southern LNG. It's one of just two facilities on the East Coast that export liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Biden announced Friday he is pausing the approval of new LNG export facilities in order to give federal regulators more time to study how natural gas and the chilling of it to liquid form contribute to climate change. The new order will not affect current operations at Southern LNG, but it does prohibit the facility from moving forward with the proposed expansion. Ali Zaidi is Biden's national climate advisor.

Ali Zaidi: We're learning more and more about life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. What's going on downstream? What happens when you chill the gas? What happens when you ship it? We've got to investigate these things, especially when we're in the middle of really what is a climate crisis.

Benjamin Payne: The Texas-based company that owns Southern LNG declined to comment. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Story 8:

Orlando Montoya: Georgia's net agricultural income is expected to fall to a 10-year average to about $3 billion. That's according to the state's 2024 Agriculture Outlook, presented on Friday by the University of Georgia Extension. UGA agricultural marketing professor Gopinath Munisamy says poultry could get a boost from a rise in beef prices.

Gopinath Munisamy: That high price is translating into people seeing that high price in the grocery stores for beef products, and are switching away from beef products into more of pork and more of chicken.

Orlando Montoya: Overall, commodity prices are expected to drop, while input costs are expected to stabilize after pandemic-related swings. Munisamy says the latest numbers show agriculture supports about 323,000 jobs in Georgia.

Sports betting

Sports betting

Story 9:

Orlando Montoya: And state lawmakers are taking another swing at a sports betting bill. Senate Bill 386 was introduced into the state Senate last week and has bipartisan backing from the chamber's leaders. The bill would make it legal to practice online and retail sports bets in Georgia, and 15% of the revenue would benefit HOPE scholarships and pre-K programs. Georgia lawmakers have debated sports betting bills for several years, but no legislation has managed to get through the General Assembly.

Orlando Montoya: And that's it for today's edition of Georgia Today. If you'd like to learn more about these stories, visit gpb.org/news. We have many of these stories and in greater detail on the website, so check that out. Send us your feedback for Georgia Today. We are at GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. And as always we remind you to hit subscribe on this podcast so you always stay current with us in your feed. I'm Orlando Montoya sitting in for Peter Biello today. Thanks for tuning in.


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

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