Stephen Fowler

Reporter

Stephen Fowler is an award-winning reporter and photographer focusing on politics from McDonough, Georgia. He graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, writing his thesis on the rise of the internet rapper and giving a TEDx talk on the storytelling power of music. He also served as the first-ever Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel, where he helped lead the paper into a modern digital era.

He got his start at GPB with All Things Considered in Atlanta, where he helped create live shows everywhere from a brewery to a baseball game to a rooftop midway, was part of award-winning hurricane coverage and (occasionally) filled in as the afternoon news host.

His reporting takes him many places, like the collapsed rubble of I-85, a soul food restaurant in the foothills of the mountains and protests in the streets of Atlanta. His stories can be heard on Marketplace, Here and Now, All Things Considered and NPR’s national newscasts.

David Goldman / AP Photo

The Secretary of State's Office has released its Request for Proposals (RFP) to upgrade Georgia's 27,000 touchscreen direct-recording electronic voting machines. 

Gov. Brian Kemp still has to sign HB 316, which would make Georgia the only state in the country to conduct elections solely on touchscreen ballot-marking devices.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

The controversial bill that would prevent doctors from performing abortion once a heartbeat is detected passed out of committee Monday morning. 

Three Republican men voted for HB 481 and were greeted by a chorus of "Shame!" from dozens of protestors as they left the Science and Technology committee room. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) was also urged to "trust women" as he entered the Capitol this morning from women dressed in red cloaks like characters from the book and television series "The Handmaid's Tale."

We're in the final weeks of the 2019 legislative session, and lawmakers are not going out quietly. They're debating changes to Georgia's abortion laws. House Bill 481, otherwise known as the "heartbeat" bill, already passed the House last week. Republican Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth, the bill's sponsor, says he aims to prevent doctors from performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected. 

GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler and "Lawmakers" Capitol correspondent Donna Lowry stopped by "On Second Thought" with an update on that legislation and other bills making their way through the Gold Dome.


The state Senate has approved HB 316, an omnibus voting bill that would tweak state election code and would make Georgia the only state in the country to solely use ballot-marking devices to conduct elections.

Lawmakers debated for about three hours on the measure, which was passed 35-21 along party lines.

Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) carried the bill in the Senate. He said the $150 million price tag in the budget has been thoroughly vetted by lawmakers and the state.

Grant Blankenship/GPB

As the state Senate is set to vote on a sweeping elections bill that would authorize $150 million in spending to modernize Georgia’s touchscreen direct-recording electronic voting machines, the long-term cost of the proposed solution remains a point of contention.  

The Georgia General Assembly session begins on January 14, 2019.
Ken Lund / Creative Commons

By the end of crossover day, bills must be clear of one chamber or the other to remain in play for the rest of the legislative session. The state House and Senate passed a wave of legislation by the deadline, including a "heartbeat" abortion bill. GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler and Capitol correspondent for GPB TV's "Lawmakers," Donna Lowry, joined "On Second Thought" to discuss this week in Georgia politics.


GPB

The Georgia House passed a bill Thursday that would greatly restrict access to abortions.

HB 481 passed 93-73 after more than an hour of passionate debate from both sides of the issue and the aisle. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), would ban doctors from performing an abortion once a heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks into pregnancy, with a few exceptions.

Andre M / Wikimedia Commons

This post originally published at 8:52 a.m. Thursday, March 7. It has been updated.

The (Crossover) day has come. Thursday is legislative day 28 of 40, and is the make-or-break time for most bills angling to make their way to the governor during this session. 

It's widely considered to be the final day a bill must pass out of the House or the Senate to continue its way through the legislative process.

Wikimedia Commons

The Georgia Senate has approved a measure that would move control of the world's busiest airport from the city of Atlanta to the state. 

SB 131, passed 34-22, would create the "Georgia Major Airport Authority" that would comprise elected officials and others appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker. 

GPB/ Grant Blankenship

Gov. Brian Kemp released a video Thursday urging legislators to pass a so-called "heartbeat" abortion bill before the Crossover Day deadline.

Kemp, who vowed on the campaign trail to sign the "toughest abortion laws in the country" if elected, appears to be sticking to his promise. 

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A U.S. House committee has issued a sweeping call for documents from the governor and secretary of state to learn more about what it calls serious problems with voting in Georgia.

In a letter dated Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked Gov. Brian Kemp information related to voter roll purges, the so-called "exact match" policy and polling place closures from the beginning of 2017 to now.

The 2019 legislative session is nearing a pivotal moment: Crossover Day.

Lawmakers have made it through nearly two months of committee meetings, floor debates and votes, but many big-name measures have not yet passed the House or the Senate and crossed over to the other chamber.

Here’s a look at major legislation that has not yet been voted on.

RURAL TRANSPORTATION

GPB

It's crunch time at the state Capitol as the legislative session barrels towards Crossover Day on Thursday.

That's essentially the last day a bill has to pass out of either the House or the Senate to be considered through the rest of the 40-day session. 


21 Savage performs at the Voodoo Music Experience in City Park in New Orleans in 2018.
Amy Harris / Invision/AP File

It's been a whirlwind month for Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage. 

The 26-year-old (real name She'Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) was arrested by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Super Bowl weekend for allegedly overstaying a visa from the United Kingdom when he was a teenager. He was held for nine days before being released on $100,000 bond. On Thursday, TMZ reported a district attorney in south Georgia dropped a felony case against the rapper for allegedly taking money for a show and never performing.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A bill that would upgrade Georgia’s voting machines is winding its way through the Georgia Senate after clearing the House earlier this week.

HB 316 calls for Georgia to purchase touchscreen ballot-marking devices with a paper component, and makes numerous changes to how election law deals with absentee voting, voter registration and how votes are tallied.

New Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been following the bill’s progress closely, testifying at many of the subcommittee and committee hearings. He says that county elections officials overwhelmingly support ballot-marking devices as the best option for voters, and he thinks so, too.

While the bill was being heard for the first time in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday, I sat down with Raffensperger to talk about the bill and the future of Georgia’s elections.

Read the transcript of our conversation below.

David Goldman / AP Photo

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has announced the 12 people tasked with reviewing a controversial law dealing with court cases for lawyers in the General Assembly.

The "legislative leave" provision allows lawmakers who are busy with legislative duties to postpone trials and other court dates. A recent AJC investigation found that Ralston, who is a defense attorney, had some cases delayed for years by citing his legislative schedule.

A Transportation Security Administration employee checks an air traveler's identification at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Atlanta.
John Bazemore / AP Photo

This week in Georgia politics involved the ongoing discussion over House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and calls for his resignation, Gov. Kemp's Medicaid waiver plan and possible state control of Atlanta's airport.

 

GPB reporter Stephen Fowler joined "On Second Thought" to discuss the Georgia legislature and Crossover Day, the last day bills have to pass out of one chamber or the other in order to be considered during the session.

 


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A bill that will be filed in the Georgia House would virtually ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its Roe v. Wade decision or if states are allowed to outlaw abortion.

In a press release Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced support for the bill, which provides a maximum penalty of $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison for someone who performs an abortion.

On the campaign trail, Kemp vowed to pass the "toughest abortion laws in the country."

Ezra Morris / GPB

It's a week before Crossover Day, the last day a bill can survive this session without passing either the House or the Senate.

That means it's crunch time for bills that have been filed, as well as a slew of bills that are both new and controversial.

Here's some highlights:

-The House passed the record $27.5 billion FY 2020 budget, which adds a $2,775 raise for teachers - and other school staff. Also included is $150 million for new voting machines, training for local poll workers and other maintenance costs.

Flickr

A fight over control of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is brewing under the Gold Dome.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

It's the end of day 23 in the 2019 legislative session, and the frenetic pace of lawmaking will only increase from here. More than 500 bills have been introduced so far in the House and more than 200 in the Senate. A bill must make it through at least one chamber before Crossover Day next Thursday.

One of those is the fiscal year 2020 budget that begins July 1. That document is set to be debated in the House Thursday.

Here are some brief updates from under the Gold Dome.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

The Georgia Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow Georgia to seek waivers from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

SB 106, the "Patients First Act," would use $1 million in state funding and a match from the federal government to hire consultants to research options to expand health care access to low and moderate income Georgians.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

The state House voted mostly along party lines to advance a $150 million bill that would fundamentally change how Georgians vote in the coming years. 

HB 316 passed 101-97, with Democrats Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City) and Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park) voting for the bill and one Republican, Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) voting against it.


House Speaker David Ralston steps away form the podium after speaking on the House floor on Feb. 11, 2016.
David Goldman / AP Photo

Republican House Speaker David Ralston is forming a bipartisan group to look at changing a law he is accused of abusing.  

Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced he wants to examine the century-old law often referred to as 'legislative leave' that allows lawyers in the General Assembly to postpone cases while doing legislative duties. 

David Goldman / AP Photo

This week in Georgia politics was all about the state's voting system. Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) filed a bill that proposed changing the voting machines from touchscreens to a new ballot-marking device. The bill also suggests changes to absentee ballots and voter registration.

GPB's Stephen Fowler stopped by "On Second Thought" to discuss the voting changes.

David Goldman / AP Photo

A Republican in the state house has filed a resolution calling for House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) to step down after a recent news investigation into Ralston’s day job as a lawyer.


Grant Blankenship/GPB

After three days and close to 10 hours of public testimony, a House committee passed a measure that would change Georgia's voting machines and modify state election laws. 


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A Democrat-led U.S. House subcommittee dealing with elections heard testimony on voting rights in Georgia Tuesday. 

The "Field Hearing on Voting Rights and Election Administration in Georgia" met at the Carter Center, and featured testimony from the ACLU of Georgia, a Fulton County voter and former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, among others. 


Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are looking at ways to improve internet access across Georgia, especially in rural parts of the state. 

There are a number of bills filed this session that address different pieces of infrastructure and regulation and could expand coverage, but the first one to make its way through the process is HB 23. 


GPB

It’s been another busy week in Georgia politics. Gov. Brian Kemp announced the Patients First Act, which would give him authorization to pursue waivers for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Democrats also unveiled a plan for Medicaid expansion, and the school bus safety bill became the first piece of legislation sent to the governor's office. GPB Politics Reporter Stephen Fowler offered his weekly recap to “On Second Thought” listeners.


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