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March 29, 2019 - 12:00 am

ATLANTA-AIRPORT TAKEOVER

Georgia House opts for airport oversight, not takeover

ATLANTA (AP) — Instead of trying to take over Atlanta's massive airport, the Georgia House has passed a proposal establishing a legislative committee to oversee 10 of Georgia's major commercial airports.

The bill, which passed Thursday, is a House substitute to a Senate proposal calling for a full state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Atlanta officials strongly oppose the Senate bill and have said there's no need for additional oversight.

Republican Rep. Kevin Tanner says the House version is a more "measured approach" to past procurement issues at Atlanta's airport that led to the Senate original.

The bill also bundles two other proposals: extension of a jet fuel tax exemption and one seeking to improve transit options across rural parts of the state.

The legislation is likely to head to conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate bills.

CITY OFFICIAL-FALSE STATEMENTS

Georgia city worker accused of lying during criminal probe

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — A city worker in Warner Robins, Georgia, is accused of falsely reporting crimes and lying to authorities during a criminal investigation into allegations that he made against another worker.

News outlets report city Regional Development Authority Director Gary Lee was arrested on the charges Wednesday and later released after posting bail. Houston County Sheriff Capt. Jon Holland says the charges stem from an investigation into allegations of misconduct Lee made last summer.

An indictment says Lee falsely reported forgery to city police in June. It says he is also accused of prompting a notary public to issue a false certificate and making a false statement to authorities. It says he told authorities he didn't sign an employment form consenting to random drug and alcohol screening tests when he actually did.

MONUMENTS-GEORGIA

Georgia House passes bill increasing monument protections

ATLANTA (AP) — Confederate monuments and other memorials in Georgia could soon have greater protections under a bill passed by the state House.

The bill, passed Thursday, says anyone who damages or destroys a monument could be liable for triple the cost to repair or replace it.

It comes amid a nationwide push to remove statues honoring the Confederacy. Similar legislation in other states has been criticized for protecting those statues.

Sen. Jeff Mullis, who is white, has said the bill he authored protects history, including civil rights monuments.

Rep. Karen Bennett, who is black, says it protects Confederate monuments that "continue to inflame and divide our state" and act as reminder of "the pain, ill will and shame of slavery."

The bill now goes back to the Senate to consider House changes.

IMMIGRATION-LIBERIA

Trump extends humanitarian program for Liberian immigrants

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — President Donald Trump is extending a humanitarian program that allows Liberians to live and work in the U.S.

The White House said Thursday that Trump signed a one-year extension of the program for immigrants who came from the African nation to escape environmental disasters and war. The status for thousands of Liberians had been set to expire Sunday.

The Republican president decided last year to end the program dating to 2007. He said it wasn't needed because conditions in Liberia have improved.

Two civil rights organizations sued in Boston this month on behalf of 15 Liberian immigrants.

Trump now says a "12-month wind-down period" for the program is appropriate.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, wants Congress to enact a more permanent legislative resolution.

AP-US-ABORTION-GEORGIA-CELEBRITIES

Dozens of Hollywood celebrities oppose latest abortion bill

(Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com)

ATLANTA (AP) — More than 40 Hollywood celebrities have signed a letter sent to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston saying they will urge TV and film production companies to abandon the state if a "heartbeat" abortion bill becomes law.

The bill prohibits most abortions after six weeks from conception and could come to a House vote as early as Thursday. If approved, it will go to Kemp, who's expected to sign it.

While TV and film production companies have largely stayed on the sidelines regarding the bill, these actors and the Writers Guild of America are going public in their opposition. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports those who signed the letter, spearheaded by Alyssa Milano, include Alec Baldwin, Amy Schumer, Gabrielle Union, Ben Stiller, Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow and others.

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STATE BUDGET-TEACHERS

Teachers to see $3,000 raise under Georgia budget agreement

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia teachers and other certified school employees will see a $3,000 raise under the $27.5 billion spending proposal headed to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk.

The 2020 general budget, which begins July 1, was agreed to Thursday by both the state House and Senate.

Of the $611 million added over last year's budget, nearly 90 percent — $550 million — will go to the teacher pay raises.

Kemp previously said the raises are a down payment on his campaign pledge to raise teacher salaries by $5,000.

Other school employees including school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and janitors will receive a 2 percent increase for a total cost of $2.8 million.

The budget also includes funding for new school buses and for grants that public schools can use to improve school safety.

BLACK MEDIA ONLY

Only black reporters allowed in Georgia mayoral race event

(Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Organizers of a meeting to discuss an upcoming mayoral race in Georgia barred reporters from attending — unless they were African-American.

News outlets report the Wednesday meeting at a church in Savannah was held to try to unite the city's black community behind a single candidate for mayor. Signs at the door said "Black Press Only!" The Savannah Morning News reports white reporters were denied entry, while at least two black reporters were allowed inside.

The newspaper said the Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, who organized the meeting, declined to discuss the entry policy.

At least three black candidates have announced campaigns to challenge Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, who is white and seeking re-election this year. Two of them — Van Johnson and Louis Wilson — attended the meeting Wednesday.

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MISSING TEACHER-GEORGIA

Georgia high court delays trial in 2005 slaying of teacher

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's highest court has delayed the trial of man charged with killing a high school teacher whose disappearance remained a mystery for more than a decade.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the murder trial of Ryan Duke be put on hold while the court considers whether it has jurisdiction to hear Duke's emergency pretrial appeal. Oral arguments before the high court were scheduled for May 7.

Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday in Duke's trial. He is charged in rural Irwin County with murder in the October 2005 death of teacher and beauty queen Tara Grinstead.

Duke's attorneys are seeking to overturn the trial judge's decision to deny Duke funding to pay for expert witnesses in DNA, false confessions, and psychology.

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