LISTEN: On the Wednesday, March 6 edition of Georgia Today: The controversial Senate committee investigating misconduct allegations against Fulton County DA Fani Willis interviews its first witness; state regulators hear public comment on a proposed strip mine near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge, and Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded a $25 million grant for cancer research.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, March 6. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, the controversial Senate committee investigating misconduct allegations against Fulton County Da Fani Willis interviews its first witness. State regulators here public comment on a proposed strip mine near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge and Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded a $25 million grant for cancer research. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: A Georgia Senate committee investigating misconduct allegations against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, heard from its first subpoenaed witness today. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports from the state Capitol.

Sarah Kallis: Witness Ashley Merchant is an attorney representing Michael Roman, a codefendant of Donald Trump in the Fulton County election interference case. Merchant presented lawmakers with documents alleging Fani Willis began a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade before hiring him to prosecute the case. Wade and Willis both deny the allegations, saying their relationship came after Wade was hired. Critics of the committee say it is a way to undermine the charges against Trump and others. But Sen. Bill Carlson, who chairs the committee, says it's not political.

Bill Carlson: We're looking at, going forward, what do we need to do to make sure that our prosecutors operate ethically and within the bounds of professionalism?

Sarah Kallis: Meanwhile, Judge Scott McCarthy, who presides over the legal inquiry into the allegations, is expected to issue a ruling on the case by the end of next week. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: All but one of Georgia's 14 U.S. House members has qualified to seek reelection. Nine representatives showed up at the state capitol on Monday, the first day of the state's candidate qualifying week. Four others, including Buddy Carter of Savannah, Andrew Clyde of Athens, Mike Collins of Jackson and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome showed up yesterday. Only Drew Ferguson in West Georgia's 3rd District said he wouldn't seek another term. Not surprisingly, that's created a crowded field of candidates. There are seven congressional hopefuls in that race. Also qualifying so far: two Democrats challenging Tifton Republican Austin Scott. Qualifying week continues through noon on Friday.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: The Secretary of State's office says it won't hold elections for the utility regulating Public Service Commission until federal courts resolve a legal challenge over whether statewide PSC elections violate the Voting Rights Act by illegally diluting Black votes. Democrat Patty Duran wanted to run for PSC in 2022, but those elections also were canceled because of the slow-moving case.

Patty Duran: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is not doing their job. The secretary of state is not doing his job, and they have the commissioners they want in office because they're all Republicans, and they give Georgia Power everything it wants, to the detriment of the people of Georgia.

Peter Biello: In November, the appeals court issued a ruling upholding statewide elections, but never finalized it. Without an election, commissioners that would otherwise face voter scrutiny will remain in office.

Morehouse School of Medicine

Morehouse School of Medicine

Credit: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Story 4:

Peter Biello: Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded a $25 million grant for cancer research. The award was given to address racial disparities in cancer care and outcomes. The Cancer Grand Challenges Award, funded by the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Research UK, is part of a larger initiative to address the biggest challenges of cancer research. Five recipients are chosen and granted $25 million each to address four research areas identified as the most pressing problems in the field of cancer research and care.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: The University of Georgia's College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, has broken ground on a $30 million agricultural research facility. Located on UGA's campus in Tifton in South Georgia, the 31,000-square-foot facility is aimed at advancing research in water conservation, sustainable farming, and pest and pollinator management. The project is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and includes construction of a new building and renovation on an older one. It's set to be completed by January 2026.

Story 6:

Peter Biello: State regulators heard more than three hours of public comment last night about a proposed strip mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Georgia. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: A critical habitat to many threatened and endangered species, the Okefenokee is the country's largest federal wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi. And so it was no wonder that about 300 people turned out for a virtual public hearing held Tuesday by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The agency last month issued preliminary approval to Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals for a titanium dioxide mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee. All of the roughly 100 citizens who took to the mic spoke in opposition, including Virginia Willis of Atlanta.

Virginia Willis: The idea of mining adjacent to the Okefenokee is nothing but unbridled greed. This place is unique and holy.

Benjamin Payne: The EPD is accepting written comment on the proposed mine until April 9. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: How much Delta Air Lines customers will have to pay to check a bag just went up. The Atlanta-based airline increased the cost of the first checked bag to $35 from $30, and the charge for a second bag rose to $45 from 40. That's for domestic flights. Delta last raised bag fees for domestic flights in 2018. The airline said this increase will help it keep up with rising industry costs. It also follows other major airlines, including American Airlines and United Airlines, who raised their fees on checked bags last month.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: One of Atlanta's oldest and most iconic restaurants, is temporarily closed after its roof collapsed. Southern cuisine mainstay Mary Mac's Tearoom says no one was injured in the overnight collapse. The cause of the collapse is under investigation, although it occurred during a heavy rainstorm. Mary Mac's has been an institution in Midtown Atlanta for more than 75 years. The restaurant says it will set a reopening date as soon as possible.

Story 9:

Peter Biello: This year's Vidalia onion season will begin on April 17. The Georgia Department of Agriculture today announced the first day the famously sweet onions can be packed and shipped to grocery stores across the country. The pack date is determined by soil and weather conditions during the growing season. Vidalia is a trademarked name for onions grown only in 20 counties in South Georgia. Onions were a $173 million crop in Georgia, according to 2022 farm gate data. The vast majority of those were grown in Vidalia onion country, which includes top producing Tattnall, Toombs, and Evans counties.


Story 10:

Peter Biello: In sports, in the NBA, Jalen Johnson scored 26 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 116 to 100 victory over the New York Knicks last night. DeAndre Hunter had 22 points off the bench and Dejounte Murray finished with 21. The Hawks host the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. Ronald Acuna Jr. is expected to be ready for Opening Day with the Atlanta Braves after a more thorough examination of his sore right knee found no serious issues. Acuna left the Braves spring training site in Florida to be examined by a doctor in Los Angeles on Monday night. The doctor found only irritation in the meniscus of his right knee. Acuna will be able to gradually increase his baseball activities, and is expected to be cleared when the Braves open the regular season at Philadelphia on March 28. And award-winning NFL journalist Chris Mortensen has died. He spent 32 years as a senior analyst at ESPN, which confirmed Mortensen's death on Sunday. There was no immediate word on the cause or place of death. For a few years in the 1980s, Mortensen worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and covered the Atlanta Falcons.

And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast yet, I highly recommend you do it now. That way it will pop up automatically in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon with all the latest news from Georgia. And if you've got feedback, we would love to hear it. Send it to us by email. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thank you again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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