LISTEN: On the Monday, June 10 edition of Georgia Today: A new lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the creation of the city of Mulberry; Republican congressional candidates face off in a series of televised debates. We'll tell you why one was cut short. And a bail assistance nonprofit ends its work in Georgia because of a new state law.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Monday, June 10. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a new lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the creation of the city of Mulberry. Republican congressional candidates face off in a series of televised debates. We'll tell you why one was cut short. And a bail assistance nonprofit ends its work in Georgia because of a new state law. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

A map from the feasibility study outlining the proposed city of Mulberry in Gwinnett County.

A map from the feasibility study outlining the proposed city of Mulberry in Gwinnett County.

Credit: KB Advisory Group

Story 1:

Peter Biello: A Dacula man has sued the Gwinnett County Board of Elections and Registrations over what he's calling the unconstitutional creation of the city of Mulberry. Stephen Hughes says the new city of Mulberry, which voters approved last month, is governed by a charter passed by the state legislature that prohibits a property tax. His lawyer, Allen Lightcap, says the state can't do that.

Allen Lightcap: All types of cities and counties and organizations looking after their interests will be looking at this case because they want to know, "Wait a second, can the General Assembly write a local law that circumscribe my ability to tax?"

Peter Biello: Lightcap says the city's creation should be undone. Gwinnett County says it does not comment on pending litigation.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: A televised debate between the two Republican candidates hoping to represent southwest Georgia's 2nd Congressional District was cut short yesterday. That's because one of the GOP hopefuls, construction supervisor Chuck Hand, walked out of it after making a brief statement aimed at his opponent, a former Education Department official in Donald Trump's administration, Wayne Johnson.

Chuck Hand: This is where I get back in my truck and head back to Southwest Georgia, because I got two races to win.

Donna Lowry: Thank you very much. Uh, you're not staying, sir? Are you leaving? OK.

Peter Biello: The broadcast recording continued without Hand and only Johnson.

Wayne Johnson: Well, I don't know whether to take Chuck Hand's departure from the stage as his withdrawal from the race or not. But I certainly would think it might be in that direction.

Peter Biello: Speaking after his departure, Hand said he was, quote, "absolutely not" withdrawing from the race. Hand was likely to face questions in the debate about his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the riot. Voters in the largely Democratic district will decide the GOP race on June 18. Whoever wins will be the underdog in the November election against Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit Georgia for a fourth time this year. And once again, the Biden administration is targeting a key Democratic constituency in an election year. The White House said today the vice president's visit on Friday will include a moderated conversation at the 100 Black Men of America annual conference in Atlanta. It's part of a series of visits to swing states focused on economic issues as the November general election nears.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: Meanwhile, early voting across Georgia continues through Friday ahead of the June 18 primary runoffs. GPB's Sarah Kallis has the latest on campaigning for an open U.S. House seat in West Georgia.

Sarah Kallis: Prominent Republican U.S. representatives, including Jim Jordan, traveled to Newnan for a last-minute campaign stop to support former Trump advisor Brian Jack in the heavily Republican 3rd District. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Jack for Congress, and the candidate centered his rally speech around a return to Trump-era policies, including strict immigration restrictions. Two of Jack's primary challengers also campaigned for him. Linda Opsahl lives in Coweta County and supports Jack.

Linda Opsahl: I'm concerned about our government and I have grandchildren, and I want to leave a legacy for them like I grew up with.

Sarah Kallis: Jack is facing off against former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan in the Republican runoff. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Newnan.



Credit: AP Photo/Matt York, File

Story 5:

Peter Biello: A charitable bail fund says it's shutting down its Georgia operations because of a new state law. The Bail Project says because of Senate Bill 63, which adds new restrictions on charitable bail funds and new crimes that require cash bail, it's stopping its work, effective today. For more on why we turned to the Bail Project's communications director, Jeremy Cherson. Jeremy, welcome to the program.

Jeremy Cherson: Thank you for having me, Peter.

Peter Biello: So bail funds like yours help people come up with the cash needed to avoid long stays in jail before trial. Your organization does other things as well, but we'll start with that. This new law adds restrictions to bail funds. You're supposed to now meet the legal requirements to be a bail bond company, and you can only help three people per year even if you do. So put this into perspective for us. How many people in Georgia did the Bail Project regularly help before this law?

Jeremy Cherson: We've been operating in Atlanta and Georgia for about four years, and in that time, we've helped about 1,000 Georgians who've returned to court about 90% of the time, which is really what we're trying to show: is that cash bail is an unnecessary incentive to ensure that somebody returns to court, and our work demonstrates that. We provide simple support like court notifications, travel assistance to and from court, and we connect people with voluntary supportive services. That could be anything from drug treatment to mental health counseling to employment support. And we find that that is very successful. So it's very dispiriting and frustrating for us to see the Legislature attack charitable bail organizations at this time, because I think we represent and fill a gap in a needed space for pretrial services and support.

Peter Biello: Those pretrial services: Are those also being curtailed in Georgia?

Jeremy Cherson: Well, our operating model is such that we provide those sorts of supportive services to our clients once they become our clients. And with the new law, we won't be able to take on new clients anymore. So yes, in effect, though the clients that are still active, those whose cases are still pending with us currently, we'll continue to support them until their case is closed.

Peter Biello: I see. The new law requires cash bail for 30 additional crimes, including 18 that are always or often misdemeanors. So even if you were allowed to operate the way you used to, I imagine that this requirement alone would have put a strain on your operations. Correct?

Jeremy Cherson: It would have logistically strained our operation. So, for example, if they just expanded this sort of net by which there's a mandate that bail be set, we would have had a variety of additional offenses that would now be eligible for bail and would require us to help more. And I think that's why we see this law as being really detrimental and counterintuitive. You are, at one end, deciding to expand the application of cash bail — which is a broken public policy; it doesn't work — and on the other hand, you're trying to attack a humanitarian charitable intervention that's really out there trying to support people who are in need. You know, it's important for us to emphasize and state that cash bail is a — creates a two-tiered system of justice, one where people who have money can pay bail and people who don't are unnecessarily detained in many instances. That's a broken public policy, because the system should be organized so that safety, not wealth, determines who's incarcerated, pretrial.

Peter Biello: Supporters of this law say that crime victims felt the justice system didn't care about them when suspects were released without cash bail. What did you make of that argument?

Jeremy Cherson: I think it's important that we be conscious of victim service — people that work for victims and support victims. I think that they have a valid point of view here. Again, I still think that you don't solve that problem by allowing a cash bail system to continue to exist and persist. You do it by changing the system so that, safety, not wealth, determines who's incarcerated, pretrial.

Peter Biello: What do you suspect the impact on jails will be now that programs like yours, nonprofits like yours, can't operate the way they used to?

Jeremy Cherson: ... It won't help. Fulton County, for example, is already facing an overcrowding crisis that they've been dealing with for a while. A lot of that has to do with the egregious case processing delays that exist in the county, compared to other places where we operate. You know, people's cases last four times longer in Fulton County than they do elsewhere. There are people that get arrested and aren't even indicted for a year. When people can't afford to pay bail and the release mechanisms don't exist and people are detained and their cases aren't moving, they are effectively being punished before they've even been proven guilty of anything. So I think this kind of law, now that it's passed, will expand the number of people that are in jail and it will lead to overcrowding, and that will cause a strain on governmental resources. It'll probably make the jails more dangerous than they currently are.

Peter Biello: Jeremy Cherson of the Bail Project, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Jeremy Cherson: Thanks, Peter. I appreciate the opportunity.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: A delegation of Georgia Republican U.S. House members is expressing confidence that mail delays stemming from problems at a United States Postal Service facility south of Atlanta are nearing an end. Andrew Clyde was among three GOP representatives who visited the processing center in Palmetto this morning.

Andrew Clyde: I think they've got that management in place right now and the employees in place right now to continue to improve, and I expect within the next couple of months, you know, not to be getting those phone calls that we're getting right now from constituents that are concerned — and rightly so — about their mail not being delivered on time.

Peter Biello: Representatives Austin Scott and Mike Collins also toured the facility a week and a half after a visit by Democrat Jon Ossoff. Since it opened in February, postal customers across the state have experienced frustrating delays, some affecting needed medication checks and bills.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: An internet trade group is suing the state of Georgia to block a law requiring sites to gather data on high volume sellers who collect payment in cash or some other offline method. NetChoice, which represents companies including meta, Facebook's parent company, and Craigslist, filed the lawsuit last week in federal court in Atlanta. The group argues that the Georgia law is blocked by an earlier federal law. Supporters have said the law, scheduled to take effect July 1, is needed to crack down on thieves who are advertising stolen goods online.

the Netherlands

the Netherlands

Story 8:

Peter Biello: The king and queen of the Netherlands are keeping a busy schedule on a two day business and cultural visit to Georgia. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima are in the Peach State for the start of a four-day trip to the U.S. that also includes New York. Today in Atlanta, they were expected to meet Gov. Brian Kemp at the state Capitol and tour a hip hop recording studio and a Dutch company's cold storage warehouse, among other events. Tomorrow in Savannah, they're expected to visit the Port of Savannah, Savannah State University and the Telfair Museums, among other events. The royal household says Georgia is currently the Netherlands' 10th-largest U.S. trading partner.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: Atlanta's residential real estate market remains sluggish, despite a slight increase in sales volume in May compared with May of last year. Numbers from the Georgia Multiple Listing Service show while sales increased by less than 1%, fewer homes were sold. Homes are on the market longer and sellers are more willing to negotiate. Interest rates appear to be a continuing drag on the market. Meanwhile, other parts of the state appear to be faring better, with Savannah, Macon and Albany markets showing more robust year over year gains in sales volume.



Story 10:

Peter Biello: The historic childhood home of Macon music legend Little Richard has closed its doors indefinitely. The pause in operations at the Little Richard Neighborhood Resource Center comes after months of back and forth between the Macon Bibb County government, which owns it, and the agency that runs it. The Macon Bibb Community Enhancement Authority, according to letters obtained by the Macon Newsroom, funding for the center stopped late last year when the county put the authority on notice for violating a management contract that requires a financial audit of the center.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: In sports, some 37,000 fans filled Fenway Park to capacity on Saturday to watch the Savannah Bananas play at Major League Baseball's oldest ballpark. Unfortunately for Bananas Nation, the team lost to their archrivals, the Party Animals, by a score of 4 to 1. A few retired Red Sox players made cameo at-bats and pitching appearances, including Jonathan Papelbon on the mound and Johnny Gomez in the batter's box. Savannah will play four more games at MLB ballparks later this Banana Ball season, including in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Miami. And Hurston Waldrep made his major league debut yesterday in the Braves' game against the Washington Nationals. But it didn't go the way he hoped. He pitched three scoreless innings, but then gave up seven in the fourth as the Braves lost 8 to 5. Waldrep was the Braves first round pick in the 2023 draft, who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier yesterday. Atlanta has dropped 4 of 5 and is nine games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. The Braves have the day off today. They are scheduled to start a three-game series in Baltimore tomorrow.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And remember to subscribe to this podcast. We'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow with all the latest headlines. And if you've got feedback or a story idea we should know about, send us an email. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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