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Georgia lawmakers gather amid tax and spending questions

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's 236 lawmakers have gathered to kick off an election-year session that could be dominated by budget, education and gambling issues. The state's flagging revenues are likely to take center stage during the first week. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will release his budget plan for the year beginning July 1. Kemp hasn't said whether he supports a further income tax cut or an additional pay raise for teachers. Politics will never be far from the forefront in this election year. Democrats hope to gain enough seats to take control of the lower chamber for the first time since 2004.


Flood damaged Atlanta hospital under renovation through Oct.

ATLANTA (AP) — The largest safety-net hospital in Georgia says it will take most of the year to gut and rebuild three floors of the facility damaged by flooding. The damage done to parts of Grady Memorial Hospital were originally thought to be fixed in three months but CEO John Haupert said Monday that the repairs would be finished in October. Haupert says time-consuming electrical upgrades, repairing drywall, wooden infrastructure, flooring and medical equipment forced the extended reconstruction time. A water pipe on the sixth floor burst on Dec. 7 and flooded the facility. Emory Healthcare says it will take some of Grady's patients while the hospital is under repair.


Lawyers ask Georgia panel to spare condemned man's life

ATLANTA (AP) — Lawyers for a Georgia man set to be executed this week are asking the state parole board to convert his sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Jimmy Fletcher Meders was convicted of murder and sentenced to die for the October 1987 killing of convenience store clerk Don Anderson in coastal Glynn County. He's scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday. A sentence of life without parole wasn't an option at the time Meders was sentenced. His attorneys say the surviving jurors from his trial have said they would have taken that path if it had been available.


Christmas crystal: Man charged with mailing meth to inmate

MACON, Ga. (AP) — Officials in Georgia say a man sent some illegal holiday cheer to a woman in jail and ended up getting arrested himself.  News outlets report 40-year-old Timothy Lee Snow sent the woman a Christmas card filled with drugs. Bibb County sheriff's officials say inmate Mary Beth Odum had told Snow over the phone how to send meth to her in jail. Deputies intercepted a contraband-filled card filled with methamphetamine and Suboxone and began investigating. They said Snow was found on Jan. 9 with meth, Xanax and a revolver. He faces multiple drug charges and a firearm charge. It's unclear whether Snow has an attorney.


Georgia sets anti-trafficking training for employees, others

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia is offering a new online training course to educate people on how to recognize human trafficking and how to take action if someone spots it. Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp announced the plan Monday. Kemp says he will mandate that all members of his staff take the training. The Republican governor says he will encourage the heads of state agencies to mandate it for almost 80,000 state employees. The half-hour video course is also available to the general public. Marty Kemp is encouraging members of churches, civic groups and others to view it.


Date rape drug found, 2 Alabama women arrested in Georgia

LaGRANGE, Ga. (AP) — Georgia authorities say two Alabama women are in custody after a vehicle search uncovered about 2 gallons of a chemical commonly known as a date rape drug. A news release issued Monday by the Troup County Sheriff's Office says an officer stopped a vehicle on Interstate 85 on Friday. The agency says a police dog detected the presence of narcotics, and a search found about 2 gallons of GHB. The substance is a depressant that's sometimes used to drug people targeted for sexual assault. The sheriff's office says a later search turned up more drugs at one of the suspect's homes in Alabama.


Injured baby right whale given grim prognosis after 2nd look

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Government experts say a newborn right whale spotted with grievous head wounds off the coast of Georgia is unlikely to survive. However, there is still a chance scientists may try to inject the baby whale with antibiotics using a syringe fired from an air gun. The injured calf and its mother were first spotted last week by an aerial survey team off the coast of Georgia. Dr. Teri Rowles is a veterinarian for the National Marine Fisheries Service. He said Monday that scientists got a closer look by boat last week and found wounds to the calf's mouth and the top of its head were worse than initial photographs led them to believe.


US Air Force investigating death of 2 airmen at Germany base

BERLIN (AP) — The U.S. Air Force is investigating the death of two servicemen who died at a base in Germany last week. Airman 1st Class Xavier Leaphart and Airman 1st Class Aziess Whitehurst were found unresponsive in a dormitory room at at Spangdahlem Air Base in western Germany on Thursday evening. The men, both aged 20, were pronounced dead shortly afterward. An Air Force spokeswoman said more information will be released as it becomes available. In a statement Sunday, base commander Col. David Epperson expressed his condolences to "the friends and families that have been affected by this tragedy.”