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.

GPB

Sine Die is over and so is the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Lawmakers considered almost a hundred bills over a period of 14 hours on Tuesday.

GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler was there for the whole 40 days of the session, and he gave continuing updates to On Second Thought listeners throughout those weeks. Lawmakers capitol correspondent Donna Lowry provided ongoing coverage for GPB television viewers. They both stopped by the show after Sine Die to recap the closing hours of the session.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

SINE DIE. 12:00 a.m. April 3. Sine Die! The House and the Senate are done with the 2019 legislative session, using the final minutes to pass a medical marijuana cultivation bill years in the making. 

All bills not passed by both chambers today will be on hold until next session begins January of 2020.

One notable set of measures that did not pass? A jet fuel tax break for Delta and other airlines, a rural transportation plan and a proposal for the state to take over Atlanta's airport. 

Medical Marijuana Clears Senate

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

On the final day of the legislative session, actress Alyssa Milano and several local film and television workers held a press conference in opposition to a bill that would effectively end abortion in Georgia around 6 weeks into pregnancy.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

It's Sine Die, the final day of the legislative session in the Georgia House and Senate. If a bill does not pass both chambers and head to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk by the end of the day, it has to wait until next legislative session to continue its progress since this is the first year of a biennium. So while the stakes aren't quiet as do-or-die as Crossover Day or next year's Sine Die, today will be filled with last-minute efforts to pass policy changes large and small. 


State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, asks questions during a committe hearing at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.
David Goldman / AP Photo

Georgia is on track to have the toughest abortion laws in the country – and to have that law challenged in court.

Followed by a smattering of “Shame!” from the gallery, the Georgia House gave final passage to HB 481, which would effectively ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

GPB

The penultimate day of the 2019 legislative session brings discussion of medical marijuana cultivation, a controversial ban on most abortions and a proposed takeover of the airport. Next week marks Sine Die, the last day for a bill to pass both chambers and head to Gov. Brian Kemp for approval. Otherwise, the legislation will have to wait to pass until January 2020.

GPB reporter Stephen Fowler joined On Second Thought to discuss the ins and outs of the legislative session.


Donna Lowry | GPB

The House has passed a substitute to a controversial bill that would give the state control of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In the waning days of the 2019 legislative session, a "franken-bill" of several transportation priorities combined into one bill returns to the Senate after a vote of 104-70.

Creative Commons

Georgia's teachers are getting a pay raise as part of Georgia's record-setting $27.5 billion budget. 

Lawmakers approved a conference committee's report on HB 31 Thursday that worked out differences between the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, beginning July 1.

Stephen Fowler / GPB

The last Monday of the 2019 legislative session was a busy day for health-related measures. 

A bill that would allow Georgia to sidestep some federal health care rules associated with the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid is now on the governor’s desk after passing the state House.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris campaigned in Atlanta Sunday, making public stops at two historic African-American institutions in her bid to become the Democratic nominee for president.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

The Georgia state senate has passed a bill that would effectively ban abortions and give an embryo certain legal rights.

After nearly five hours of emotional, often personal testimony from several senators, HB 481 passed along party lines 34-18.

Senators read letters from constituents detailing their stories of abortions, shared anecdotes about pregnancy and in one case, a poem written shortly after the birth of their first daughter.

Lawmakers have only six legislative days left to debate and pass bills that could change policies all over the state. This week brought continued discussion about the potential Atlanta airport takeover and intense debate over women's reproductive rights.  GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler joined "On Second Thought" to discuss this week in Georgia politics.


Lawmakers have only six legislative days left to debate and pass bills that could change policies all over the state. This week brought continued discussion about the potential Atlanta airport takeover and intense debate over women's reproductive rights. 

GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler joined "On Second Thought" to discuss this week in Georgia politics.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Vice President Mike Pence had strong words for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms during a stop in Atlanta Thursday. 

Speaking to a crowd of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at an Atlanta-area office, Pence said he had just heard about Bottoms' 2018 decision to move detainees from the city jail and not accept any new ones. 

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

By the end of the week, the Georgia Senate could join the ranks of other state legislatures when they vote on a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would effectively ban abortions about six weeks into pregnancy.

While the proposed restrictions grab headlines, abortion rights opponents say the aim of this type of bill isn’t only to limit access to the procedure, but also to trigger a Supreme Court challenge to federal protections for abortion.

Both abortion rights advocates and opponents say language in Georgia’s bill could make the case.

 


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.

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