ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia’s top stories in 2019 included a milestone for Jimmy Carter, as the state’s former governor became the longest-lived president in U.S. history as he continued to face some health challenges.
Other Georgia news that made national and international headlines: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his retirement, setting off high-stakes political drama.
The year also saw Atlanta hosting the Super Bowl and Georgia buying new voting machines amid questions about election security.
Here’s a look at the state’s top news stories in 2019:
Jimmy Carter became the longest lived president in U.S. history, surpassing George H.W. Bush. He turned 95 on Oct. 1. Carter also suffered a series of falls and was hospitalized several times in 2019. The former president has overcome multiple health challenges in recent years, including being diagnosed with melanoma in 2015. More recently, he was released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta last month, after recovering from surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding from one of the falls.
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson completed a nearly 45-year political career with his retirement from the U.S. Senate, effective Dec. 31, days after his 75th birthday and halfway through his third term. Isakson has battled Parkinson’s for several years. A lifelong Republican, Isakson climbed through the ranks of Georgia politics. His resignation handed a plum appointment to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who angered the GOP’s conservative base by choosing political novice Kelly Loeffler instead of Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch defender of President Donald Trump. Loeffler, who takes office Jan. 1, 2020, will face voters for the first time next November in a special election to fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term.
GEORGIA VOTING MACHINES
Georgia is up against a court-ordered deadline to retire the state’s outdated, paperless voting system before any ballots are cast in 2020. Election officials are working to distribute more than 33,000 new voting machines that combine touchscreen voting with printed ballots, among Georgia’s 159 counties. Georgia will be closely watched in 2020 after election officials faced a torrent of criticism in 2018. That led to lawsuits and changes in state law that included switching to a new election system at a cost of $106 million.
A federal judge in October temporarily blocked Georgia’s restrictive new abortion law from taking effect. Judges have blocked similar measures in other states. The Georgia law bans abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present, with some limited exceptions. It was signed in May by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Georgia’s so-called heart beat law is one of a wave of laws passed recently by Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide.
GEORGIA HEALTH CARE
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled two proposals that would transform health care in the state. The first could make Georgia a testing ground for several contentious proposals from the Trump administration that would transform the market for individual and family health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The other would expand Medicaid to the state’s poorest able-bodied adults, but on the condition that they work, volunteer, receive job training or attend school.
SUPER BOWL 53
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta hosted its first Super Bowl in February. The National Football League championship marked the third time the game has been played in Atlanta. The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3.
The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs, then made baseball history as they lost 13-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals, knocking them out of the National League Division Series in dramatic fashion. With 10 of their runs coming in the very first inning, the Cardinals had the biggest first inning in Major League Baseball postseason history to win the decisive Game 5 on Oct. 9.
A former Georgia police officer was found not guilty of murder in the killing of an unarmed, naked man. However, Robert “Chip” Olsen was convicted of aggravated assault and other crimes in the death of Anthony Hill. He was sentenced in November to 12 years in prison. Olsen had responded to a call of a naked man behaving erratically at an Atlanta-area apartment complex in March 2015 when he killed Hill, 26, a black Air Force veteran who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. Olsen, who is white, was acquitted on two counts of felony murder.
CARGO SHIP OVERTURNS
A massive cargo ship carrying more than 4,000 automobiles capsized off the Georgia coast, polluting the sea and some beaches. The Golden Ray, a South Korean vessel, tipped onto its side Sept. 8 shortly after leaving the Port of Brunswick. The ship’s pilot and 23 crew members were all safely rescued. The ship remains beached about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER INDICTED
Georgia’s insurance commissioner in May was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. A 38-count indictment accuses Jim Beck of orchestrating an elaborate invoicing scheme to steal more than $2 million from his former employer. Beck has declared his innocence, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and voluntarily suspended himself from office shortly after the indictment.
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