ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
56°
Sunny
H 62° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    56°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 62° L 42°
  • clear-day
    62°
    Today
    Sunny. H 62° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    60°
    Tomorrow
    Mostly Cloudy. H 60° L 38°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Georgia Senate approves state takeover of Atlanta airport
Close

Georgia Senate approves state takeover of Atlanta airport

The Georgia Senate voted Thursday to approve a measure that would give the state control of Hartsfield-Jackson airport, a move that Atlanta’s mayor said is tantamount to declaring war on the city.

Georgia Senate approves state takeover of Atlanta airport

The Georgia Senate voted Thursday to approve a measure that would give the state control of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a move that Atlanta’s mayor said is tantamount to declaring war on the city.

The bill’s Republican supporters say the switch is needed to protect the state’s economic engine from corruption and mismanagement, and the indictment Wednesday of a longtime Atlanta contractor on bribery charges added fuel to the fire.

» Live: Use AJC tracker to follow Georgia bills

» Photos: Crossover Day at the Georgia Legislature

The measure, Senate Bill 131, passed by a 34-22 vote despite stiff opposition from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. City officials say the airport has become the world’s busiest, and one of the most efficient, under Atlanta’s oversight. And they say any takeover attempt will jeopardize the airport’s finances and trigger a wave of litigation.

It now heads to the Georgia House, where it has a more uncertain fate. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has yet to take a formal stance on the measure, said in an interview that he’s monitoring the debate.

“I’m still where I was: I’m watching the process,” Kemp said in an interview. “I’ve spoken with the mayor and I’ve spoken with (the bill’s Senate sponsor) Burt Jones. We’ll wait and see. We’re still doing the due diligence.”

The bill passed after more than an hour of emotional debate between Republican backers of the measure and a core of Democrats who vehemently oppose it.

Jones, made his case for the bill as he unfurled a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featuring a front-page article about the indictment of contractor Jeff Jafari.

“Once again another indictment, charge of corruption,” said Jones, a Jackson Republican. “It always has brought me to the conclusion that someone should look into those instances that have been going on there, causing so much… really embarrassment to the state of Georgia as a whole.”

Democrats say the state has no legal right to take control of the airport that the city still controls. One opponent after another described how the airport has become one of the leading economic engines for the state under city oversight — and that state oversight won’t necessarily prevent corruption.

“It’s hard to get anybody to come to the table that already owns the table. Atlanta owns this airport. Some of us in here may not like that, but they do,” said state Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, who later added: “When we start talking about ethics, I don’t think our hands are clean in here either.”

The bill includes language that would provide an out from a state airport takeover— if the city and the Georgia General Assembly agree on a “joint governance plan” by July 2020, in which case the airport takeover act would be repealed.

It passed after a series of amendments brought by Democrats failed. They included an effort to require any public officials who own land within three miles of a major airport to disclose it, and another to oust members of the new authority who fail to follow the requirements.

‘Big stakes stuff’

The state’s push for control of Atlanta’s airport has simmered for decades, with supporters often sounding the refrain that the crown jewel of the region’s economy needs more oversight. But this was the first time it has gotten this far in the legislative process.

The momentum behind the measure is a sign of how vastly city-state relations have changed since Kemp took office.

When a similar measure surfaced last year, Gov. Nathan Deal joined with Democrats to ground it before it could lift off. Kemp has taken a more hands-off approach.

Even if it becomes law, city and airport officials say there are a number of barriers that could block a state takeover -- starting with federal regulations.

The Federal Aviation Administration will not allow a takeover of an airport without the current operator’s consent, unless there is a final judicial decision requiring the change or other resolution of the dispute. That policy was set after North Carolina in 2013 tried to take over Charlotte’s airport.

After years of litigation, the FAA set a policy restricting hostile takeovers of airports. And today, the city of Charlotte still owns and operates Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

Other problems include language in bond documents that could leave to a wave of legal problems. And a lease with Delta Air Lines, which also opposes the takeover, could block a change in control of the airport.

If the airport were taken over by the state, “the big stakes poker here is probably mostly on the procurement side,” said Steve Van Beek, an airport consultant and head of North American aviation for Steer. Contractors with decades-long relationships with the city would see a different mix of decision-makers.

“The two big questions all this begs is, Is it just a political power play?” Van Beek said. Or is it “an evaluation of the current management or structure of the city of Atlanta?”

“It’s really big stakes stuff.”

» Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

Read More

News

  • A Jackson County, Georgia, woman helped reunite a family with a book of baby photos she found scattered on the streets of downtown Commerce.  >> Read more trending news Mystyn Wilson says she was walking down Elm Street in front of the Lanier Tech campus when she found several photos on the ground along several blocks and a photo album on the other side of the road.  Wilson took the album home in hopes of finding the family it belongs to. She posted images of the book on Facebook and reached out to WSB-TV for help.  '(The) baby is probably an adult now, I just know someone is going to really be missing this book,' Wilson wrote. 'I've lost things like this myself and it really eats me up inside... So I'm really hoping to get his back to whomever it belongs to.' The photos show a smiling family with several generations holding an infant.  Shortly after WSBTV.com posted the story on their Facebook page, Wilson found the owners of the photos.  Hallie McElvery, of Commerce, commented on the post, saying: 'A box flew open on the trailer while my husband was moving.' McElvery then posted the good news on her Facebook page that the pictures has been found. The two will meet Thursday where Wilson will return the photos to McElvery.
  • A new study on the effects of medication prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests that teens and young people could face an increased risk of psychosis with certain drugs. >> Read more trending news   The study, conducted by researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at teens and young people who had recently begun taking two classes of drugs – amphetamines (marketed as Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (marketed as Ritalin or Concerta) – used to treat ADHD. The study showed that while the chance of developing psychosis – a condition that affects the mind and causes a person to lose contact with reality – is low, there is an increased risk of developing the disorder in patients taking the amphetamines. “The findings are concerning because the use of amphetamines in adolescents and young adults has more than tripled in recent years. More and more patients are being treated with these medications,” said Dr. Lauren V. Moran, lead author of the paper. “There is not a lot of research comparing the safety profiles of amphetamines and methylphenidate, despite increasing use of these medications,” Moran said. Moran said that clinicians have long observed “patients without previous psychiatric history” developing psychosis “in the setting of stimulant use.” The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, looked at insurance claims on more than 220,000 ADHD patients between the ages of 13 and 25 years old who had started taking amphetamines or methylphenidate between Jan. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2015. According to the study, researchers found that one out of every 486 patients started on an amphetamine developed psychosis that required treatment with antipsychotic medication. One in 1,046 patients started on methylphenidate developed psychosis. The study showed that the development of psychosis appeared in people who had recently begun taking the amphetamines. Moran stressed that “people who have been on a drug like Adderall for a long time, who are taking the drug as prescribed and are tolerating it well, are not likely to experience this problem (psychosis).” The paper, “Psychosis with Amphetamine or Methylphenidate in Attention Deficit Disorder,” is set to be published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. 
  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Wildlife officials in New Mexico are warning hikers and other visitors about a potential danger on a trail in the Sandria Mountains east of Albuquerque: mountain lions. >> Read more trending news  Although the chances of actually encountering a mountain lion are low, officials have fielded numerous calls recently over sightings of the big cat on the La Luz Trail, according to KOB-TV. Forest workers want people to take precautions, especially around dawn and dusk when jogging and running can trigger the big cats’ instincts to chase and attack. “We do not want to discourage people from visiting the forest,” wildlife biologist Esther Nelson told KOB, “but we do want to make people aware and offer some precautionary measures to keep visitors and their pets safe.” A few other tips include keeping children and pets close at all times and don’t hike alone. Although mountain lions are usually quiet and elusive animals, the National Park Service offers recommendations in case of an encounter. If you see a lion, stay calm, don’t approach it, don’t run from it, and don’t crouch down or bend over. >> Related: Jogger kills attacking mountain lion with bare hands If a mountain lion moves toward you or acts aggressively, do everything you can to appear intimidating. Speak in a loud voice and try and appear larger. If that doesn’t work, park officials suggest throwing stones or branches at the cat to try and scare it off. If it does attack, fight back however you can. Also don’t forget to report any attack to a forest ranger.