Axios Atlanta

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Thursday! We're almost there, y'all. You got this!

๐ŸŒค๏ธ Today's weather: Clouds giving way to some sun. High around 66.

๐ŸชผMember alert: All this week, please support local journalism by becoming an Axios Atlanta member starting at $50+ per year.

๐ŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Atlanta member Melodie Stembridge!

Today's newsletter is 949 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: The end of the legislative session is near

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Today is the last day of the 2024 legislative session, and state lawmakers will work well into the night on bills they hope will make it to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk for his signature.

Why it matters: A variety of legislation under consideration could address mining near Okefenokee Swamp, limit the number of voting machines and prohibit trans students from using bathrooms that line up with their gender identity.

Here is a rundown of what bills we are watching that could come up before the clock strikes midnight:

๐Ÿ“š Libraries: SB 390 would prohibit libraries from using taxpayer dollars on American Library Association membership or programs. Supporters accuse the ALA of holding views that do not align with Georgia librarians.

๐Ÿšป Culture war mashup: HB 1104, a "Frankenbill" that was changed to address mental health issues for student athletes, is now the latest iteration of culture wars in Georgia.

  • It would prohibit trans girls from participating in sports that match their gender identity; require schools to notify parents if their children check out library materials; ban sex education before the sixth grade; and require students to use facilities that align with their assigned sex at birth.

๐Ÿชง Stiffer penalties for rioting: A bill that would make rioting a felony could find enough support to pass before midnight.

โ›๏ธ Mining: SB 132 would establish a three-year moratorium on surface mining in areas where no prior permits have been issued. The narrowly written measure is aimed at pausing a controversial mining proposal near the Okefenokee Swamp.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Budget: House and Senate leaders must work out the differences in the roughly $36 billion spending plans to operate state government, the AJC reports.

๐ŸŽฐ Gambling: A resolution to put online sports betting up for a constitutional referendum has passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

โ›ช Religious freedom: The House has yet to pass SB 180, or the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government can't "burden a person's exercise of religion." Opponents say the law would give people the license to discriminate.

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2. Weekender: Climb the mountain

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The weekend belongs to you. Go have fun.

๐ŸŒ… Stone Mountain's non-denominational early morning Easter Sunday services โ€” one at the top of the monadnock, one at the bottom โ€” are an Atlanta bucket list item.

๐ŸŽธ Indie rocker Kurt Vile and the Violators play Variety Playhouse. (Thursday)

๐ŸŽญ The Center for Puppetry Arts explores the work of surreal Czech animator and filmmaker Jan ล vankmajer. (Friday)

โšฝ๏ธ Atlanta United hosts Chicago Fire at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Sunday)

๐Ÿงถ Artist Precious Lovell's clothing exhibition "The Ties That Bind & Ex-Domestication" continues its run at Hammonds House. (Through April 14)

๐ŸŽช Germany's Great Bavarian Circus is at Stone Mountain Park for just a few more days. (Through March 31)

๐Ÿฐ Plus: Egg hunts and photos with the Easter bunny in Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Sandy Springs and more.

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3. Who's attending religious services

Share of adults who say they never or rarely attend religious services
Data: Household Pulse Survey; Note:ย Adults who say they never attend a service or attend less than once a year; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

A new analysis of U.S. Census data shows 43% of metro Atlanta adults say they never or seldom attend church or religious services, compared to the national average of 49%.

Why it matters: More than three-quarters of Americans say religion's role in public life is shrinking, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center survey โ€” the highest level since the group first started tracking such sentiment in 2001.

By the numbers: 15% of Atlanta residents attend services 1 to 3 times a year, 8% attend 4 to 11 times per year, and 21% attend 12 or more times.

Zoom out: Statewide, 42% of adults in Georgia say they rarely or never attend services.

  • The states with the highest share of adults who say they never or seldom attend religious services are Vermont (75%), New Hampshire (66%) and Maine (66%).
  • Mississippi (32%), Alabama (36%) and Louisiana (37%) have the lowest shares.

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4. MARTA CEO: New rail stations won't replace Beltline expansion

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Mayor Andre Dickens' plan to build new MARTA rail stations won't replace the Beltline streetcar project, the transit agency's boss said yesterday.

Why it matters: Dickens' "infill stations" announcement during Monday's State of the City address excited transit advocates but raised questions about whether the polarizing Beltline rail project would get shelved to pay for the new stops.

  • MARTA CEO Collie Greenwood's comments to Atlanta City Council members helped ease some transit supporters' concerns โ€” for now.

Zoom in: In addition to the announced Murphy Crossing stop, Greenwood told the council's transportation committee, MARTA is considering previously studied and new locations, including along the Beltline.

What they're saying: "We're not ruling anything out, but I would say we're not beholden strictly to what has been said in the past," Greenwood said of the potential locations.

Yes, but: Dickens, who did not directly reference the Beltline rail during his Monday address, makes the final decision.

  • Meanwhile, the well-backed group of residents, developers and restaurateurs who oppose the streetcar expansion are continuing to press the administration.

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5. Five-ish Points: Increasing renter protections

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

โš–๏ธ A Fulton County judge has given the OK to prosecutors to pursue the death penalty for the man charged in the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings. (WABE)

๐ŸšŒ MARTA is hosting a 6:30pm meeting tonight at Southern Regional Medical Center to get input on the proposed Rapid Southlake, which would be Clayton County's first bus rapid transit line. (11 Alive)

๐Ÿ  State lawmakers sent to Gov. Brian Kemp a bill that would enhance protections for renters, including a requirement that properties must be "fit for human habitation." (Georgia Recorder)

๐Ÿ˜ง An EPA report alleges more than 1 million Georgia residents have been exposed to "forever chemicals" through their water systems. (Fox 5 Atlanta)

๐Ÿˆ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the Falcons are being investigated for tampering in the signing of Kirk Cousins. (AJC)

๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ Kristal loves how easy it is to bottom water her plants.

๐Ÿ“ Thomas is going to squeeze in packing for a trip, seeing Kurt Vile and swinging by the Gold Dome all into one evening. He loves challenges.

๐Ÿ˜ฎโ€๐Ÿ’จ Wil is happy he finally resolved his tire rim issue.

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Natasha Danielle Smith and Anjelica Tan.