On the Friday, Feb. 9 edition of Georgia Today: A bill to create a new city in northeastern Gwinnett County heads to the governor's desk; lawmakers pass a bill that could force more unionization votes; and the Savannah Bananas baseball season gets off to a slippery start.

New Georgia Today Podcast Logo

Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, February 9th. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a bill to create a new city in northeastern Gwinnett County heads to the governor's desk. Lawmakers pass a bill that could force more unionization votes. And the Savannah Bananas' baseball season gets off to a slippery start. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill yesterday that bars businesses from receiving state incentives if they voluntarily recognize labor unions. Businesses could still receive state incentives if workers vote to unionize with a secret ballot. Democrats argue forcing a vote could cause unnecessary delays, and that the bill oversteps the state's power and violates national labor laws. The bill has the backing of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: A bill that would allow voters to create a new city in northeastern Gwinnett County is headed to Gov. Kemp for his signature. The House passed the measure yesterday on the city of Mulberry, which would be the second-largest and most affluent in the county. Before the vote, Rep. Sam Park, a Democrat from Lawrenceville, said he supports the right to vote for the city.

Sam Park: Throughout this entire process, all we have asked for is for there to be a careful, deliberate planning process that occurs over a two-year period that is the customary process for the creation of new cities. Now, if this bill passes, which I assume it will, given the prior actions taken by the majority party, that again has repeatedly undermined the will of the people in the most diverse county in Georgia, I think it is important for those who are going to vote on this proposal to, at the very least, have accurate information on what they are voting for. So keep in mind, especially for the voters in this area, if you vote for this city, you are voting for a new city that can impose taxes on you. Period.

Peter Biello: Some Democrats joined Republicans in passing the bill. If signed by the governor, the bill would place the question of cityhood on the spring primary ballot. Proponents of the city say a feasibility study found the city would be financially viable without collecting any city property taxes. Critics of the measure say the new city could cause the county to lose more than $9 million in annual revenue.

Demonstrators rally at the Georgia Capitol in support of a mental health parity bill in March 2022.

A group of advocates who support the Georgia House’s sweeping mental health bill rallied outside the state Capitol in March 2022 after opponents motivated by disinformation swarmed a series of hearings.

Credit: Jill Nolin / Georgia Recorder

Story 3:

Peter Biello: The Carter Center released results of its first Georgia mental health parity awareness survey during Mental Health Parity Day at the state Capitol. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has more on the results.

Ellen Eldridge: Surveys taken before and after the awareness campaign targeted people in Albany and Savannah. They show people are now more aware of their mental health rights. Sarah Phillips is the senior public policy associate with the Carter Center's mental health program. She spoke during a press conference at the state Capitol.

Sarah Philips: Parity is critical to us at the Carter Center, and it was near and dear to our co-founder, the late Mrs. Rosalynn Carter. She spent decades advocating for parity at the federal and the state levels, acknowledging that parity is fundamental to access to care.

Ellen Eldridge: The state unanimously passed its bipartisan Georgia Mental Health Parity Act of 2022. It ensures insurance companies must cover mental health issues the same way they treat health emergencies like a broken leg. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: The Georgia Democratic Party is working to excite its voters ahead of the 2024 election. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports from their annual Carter Lewis dinner held yesterday.

Sarah Kallis: Georgia Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams led the event, where Democrats highlighted election success in 2020 and 2022, and encouraged voters to cast ballots for Biden in the March 12 primary. Democrat and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the group, emphasizing Georgia's importance as a key state for both parties as they try to win in the 2024 presidential election.

Roy Cooper: Whatever we do, whatever we do, we can't let them put Georgia — your Georgia — in their win column. So are you ready for this challenge once again? Can you save our country once again?

Sarah Kallis: In 2020, President Joe Biden claimed a narrow victory in Georgia over former President Donald Trump, who he will likely run against in November. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: Newell Brands reported a fourth-quarter loss today of $86 million. The Atlanta-based consumer products company said it had a loss of $0.21 per share. Adjusted earnings were $0.22 per share. The results topped Wall Street expectations of $0.17 per share. The company posted revenue of more than $2 billion in the period, which also topped street forecasts.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: Advocates for a bike and pedestrian trail to link Athens and Savannah have unveiled detailed plans for the project. GPB's Orlando Montoya reports trail backers are partnering with a familiar name in Georgia Trail building to kick-start it.

Orlando Montoya: The Atlanta-based Path Foundation has more than 300 miles of popular trails around metro Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia. The group prepared a nearly 200 page report showing how the 211-mile Hi-Lo Trail could be built over the next 25 years. Hi-Lo Trail founder Mary Charles Howard says rural Georgians are missing out on the health and economic benefits of car-free trails.

Mary Charles Howard: People just aren't riding their bikes in those towns because there's no infrastructure for it and it's not safe to be on the road. And I thought lots of other people had this frustration as well. And I'm too stubborn to stick around and wait for somebody else to do it.

Orlando Montoya: The report includes possible routes, cost estimates and funding sources across eight counties, from Greene to Effingham. For GPB News, I'm Orlando Montoya.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: Former professional baseball and football player Bo Jackson has won a $21 million verdict in a civil case filed in Cobb County. Jackson alleged in a lawsuit filed in April that his niece and nephew tried to extort him. The court found that the harassment continued after Jackson's attorneys sent a cease and desist letter. The AJC reports, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Jason D. Marbutt found Jackson's relatives in default, adding that a reasonable person would find their behavior, quote, "extreme and outrageous."

Savannah Bananas mascot Split waves during the “Banana Ball World Tour Draft,” where locations were announced for the team's 2023 schedule.

Savannah Bananas mascot Split waves during the “Banana Ball World Tour Draft,” where locations were announced for the team's 2023 schedule.

Credit: Savannah Bananas

Story 8:

Peter Biello: Opening day for the Atlanta Braves comes in late March against the Phillies in Philadelphia. But last night, the Savannah Bananas got their season of baseball underway in Tampa Bay, Fla, losing to their archnemesis, the Party Animals, 5 to 2. GPB's Benjamin Payne tells us what to expect this year during the team's nationwide tour.

Benjamin Payne: The name of the game is still the same: Banana Ball. That means trick plays, dancing umpires and unorthodox rules. This season, though, the rulebook has a shiny new entry: The Golden Batter. It's like the designated hitter in traditional baseball, but in true Savannah Bananas fashion cranked up to 11. Here to explain is team owner Jesse Cole.

Jesse Cole: Any hitter can come up at any point during the game. So basically, your best hitter can hit in the ninth inning when the game is on the line. So it's gonna change the game. I mean, you think about in basketball, the best player gets the ball in their hands at the end of the game. Now your three-hole hitter, even if he just got out in the eighth inning, can now come up in the ninth inning with a chance to win the game.

Benjamin Payne: Also new this year: Banana Ball games at MLB ballparks. The team will visit six of them, including the oldest one in the league, Fenway Park in Boston. That's on top of the 20 other cities the Bananas will play in, including, of course, Savannah. There, at Grayson Stadium, the team has added...

Jesse Cole: A thousand more seats to right field and left field. We've done a huge renovation at the stadium. People are going to feel like it's a brand new ballpark going into its 99th anniversary.

Benjamin Payne: If you manage to score a ticket, don't forget to bring your glove. By Banana Ball tradition. If a fan catches a foul ball, the batter is out. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: In other sports news: in the NBA, the Hawks head to Philadelphia tonight to face the 76ers. It'll be the fourth meeting between these teams this season. The Hawks won last time in overtime with Trae Young scoring 28 points. And in volleyball, the Atlanta Vibe face the Grand Rapids Rise at home tonight. The Vibe are currently 3 and 0 in their inaugural season.

Credit: Stacy Reece/Salvation South

Story 10:

Peter Biello:Worth noting a moment of levity at the Capitol today. The House has passed a bill that would make cornbread the official state bread. The bill says cornbread was once relied upon by indigenous people and has, quote, "transcended its humble origins" to take a place of honor at such events as the Prater's Mill Country Fair in Whitfield County. There was, of course, some debate. Rep. Greg Kennard, a Democrat from Lawrenceville, challenged Republican Rep. Casey Carpenter on the merits of the bill.

Greg Kennard: Isn't it true that cornbread is something special? But wouldn't you agree that the biscuit is superior?

Casey Carpenter: Clearly, I don't believe that our would have dropped this fine legislation, my friend.

Greg Kennard: One more. One more question. Would you entertain a motion to strike out cornbread, insert biscuit and to make the state condiment gravy?

Casey Carpenter: I can. I could do with some gravy, but probably not on the biscuit. I appreciate that, though.

Peter Biello: Ultimately, the House enjoyed a rare moment of near-unity with the bill passing with the vote of 155 to 3.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit GPB.org/news. And if you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast, do it now. We'll be back in your podcast feed on Monday. If you've got feedback or a story idea, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening and have a great weekend.


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

Tags: Atlanta  Georgia  Podcast  news