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Georgia’s state budget for the next fiscal year will be around $24 billion.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly approved the plan that includes money for 3 percent raises for teachers and state employees.

Republican House Appropriations Chairman Terry England says an improving economy means the state needs to stay competitive.

“Turnover rate has risen to an average of 18.4 percent across state government. Turnover costs us money and costs institutional knowledge as well,” England says.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) arrives at a press conference across the street from the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison to speak with the media after visiting with death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis in Jackson, Georgia, Thursday, May 29, 2009.
Paul Abell / Associated Press

Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson says he wants to tighten regulations on coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity that can contain toxic materials, including arsenic and mercury. Coal ash can also be reused in products like wallboard and concrete.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it's safe to store it in municipal landfills, but Johnson said he'd like to see that decision changed.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

With nearly 500 film soundtracks to his credit, Italian film composer Ennio Morricone accepted an Academy Award last week. He won for Quentin Tarantino’s film “The Hateful 8.”

“City Lights” contributor Scott Stewart commended Morricone on his vast accomplishments.

“Ennio Morricone is one of the most prolific film composers in history,” he said.

Some of his most well-known scores include that iconic “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “Cinema Paradiso.”

Construction near Cumberland Boulevard
Al Such / WABE

A proposed law that would streamline road construction in Georgia is running into resistance from archaeologists.

They say it would threaten unknown grave sites, historical objects and ancient artifacts that have yet to be unearthed. It also could take away one of the key ways archaeologists do their work: As a part of the environmental review that's currently required in the state.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, speaks before Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, rear, signs an executive order requiring state agencies to start preparations now for the enactment of the state's medical marijuana bill Friday, March 27, 2015, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

A much leaner version of a bill to expand access to medical marijuana overwhelmingly received the approval of the Georgia House on Monday, a key deadline for bills to stand a chance of becoming law. 

The House voted 152-8 on the measure, which expands the list of conditions that would qualify a person to legally possess an oil derived from cannabis plants from eight to 15. Among the new conditions are post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS and autism.

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. REPUBLICANS HUSTLE TO HOUSTON FOR DEBATE

Donald Trump's rivals get one more chance to challenge the GOP front-runner on the debate stage before next week's slate of Super Tuesday nominating contests.

2. WHICH CANDIDATE'S WIFE HAD SMALL-TOWN SLOVENIAN ROOTS AND BIG DREAMS?

Cuba
Courtesy of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it plans to apply for direct flights from Atlanta to Havana, Cuba, before the application deadline on March 2. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recently signed a deal with Cuban leaders to restart commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.

Bidding Process

Courtesy of Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy

The Atlanta City Council was scheduled Friday to hear plans to address the sewage bubbling up in Atlanta Memorial Park in Buckhead. But discussion of the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management's short term and long term solutions was pushed back to a work session next week. 

“So does that mean we won’t hear any report today? Just nothing?” said Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens, who, like some Buckhead residents, was expecting to hear the issue addressed.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Atlanta is sometimes called a “city in a forest.” Nearly 50 percent of the city is covered in trees, according to a 2014 study from Georgia Tech, making Atlanta’s canopy the densest among all cities that have measured their tree coverage.

But lately some worry this common resource could be in jeopardy ─ especially in neighborhoods where real estate’s in high demand.

Development Uprooting Trees

Driving around Atlanta, the man working to preserve the city’s trees starts to sound like the grim reaper.

Emory University drug development groups are working to find a treatment for those infected by the Zika virus.
Courtesy of Emory Institute for Drug Development

More than 20 scientists with two drug development groups at Emory University are working to develop a treatment for the Zika virus.

Dr. Abel  De La Rosa said while federal health agencies like the National Institutes for Health work on developing a vaccine, it's important for other scientists to be working on a drug to treat people who've already been infected. De La Rosa is the chief scientific officer of both the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) and Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE). 

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. WHY POPE SOUNDED TOUGH NOTE DURING MEXICO VISIT

Observers say the pontiff clearly feels both the church and the government have failed Mexico's people.

2. OBAMA EXPECTED TO VISIT CUBA NEXT MONTH

Word of the trip comes as the two countries continue their efforts to normalize relations.

3. VA SYSTEM TAKES FRESH HIT

Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), speaking with Denis O'Hayer in his office in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building on February 15, 2016.
Denis O'Hayer / WABE News

  

February is Black History Month.  The Legislature is in session, too.  For many years, some African-American lawmakers tried to pass a resolution in which the state government apologizes, or expresses "regret," for its role in perpetuating slavery.  In some years, the proposed resolution went nowhere;  in other years, negotiators came close to compromise agreements, only to see them fall apart at the last minute.

The state of Georgia executed Travis Hittson Wednesday night.

He was officially declared dead at 8:14 p.m.

Shortly before he was given his fatal injection, Hittson decided against giving a final statement, but did agree to have a prayer card read.

The 45-year-old was convicted of killing Conway Utterbeck in April 1992.

Hittson is the second person to be executed in Georgia in 2016.

Last year, the state executed five inmates. 

An employee of the Protestant parish in Besigheim points to an entry in the parish register in Besigheim, near Stuttgart, southern Germany on Thursday, June 4, 2009, which marks the ancestor of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Daniel Maurer / Associated Press

This is part of WABE’s ongoing series “Finding Your Roots.”

“Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” airs Wednesday at 6 p.m. on PBA30 TV with an encore Saturday at 7 p.m. Watch a preview of Season 3, and see the full schedule at www.pba.org/roots

In the “nature versus nurture” debate of human identity, the “nurture” part is pretty easy to figure out. You likely know how and where you grew up, and by whom.

Alison Guillory / WABE

This is part of WABE’s ongoing series “Finding Your Roots.”

“Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” airs Wednesday at 6 p.m. on PBA30 TV with an encore Saturday at 7 p.m. Watch a preview of Season 3, and see the full schedule at www.pba.org/roots

As I write this reflection regarding my response to DNA results, I’m reminded of the first time I saw the television mini-series, "Roots."  

Alison Guillory / WABE

This is part of WABE’s ongoing series “Finding Your Roots.”

“Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” airs Wednesday at 6 p.m. on PBA30 TV with an encore Saturday at 7 p.m. Watch a preview of Season 3, and see the full schedule at www.pba.org/roots

I had high hopes that, somewhere deep in my DNA, there was an untold story. A family secret. A trace of a mysterious, exotic past.

Something.

John Julian / flickr.com//julianiii

The Georgia House votes on a bill Tuesday that would give the state control of the Fulton County Health Department board following a tuberculosis outbreak in Atlanta homeless shelters, and the failure to use tens of millions in federal grant dollars for HIV prevention and treatment.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Regulatory Division

Monday is the last day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is accepting comments from the public on a controversial reservoir proposed in Hall County.

The county has been working for decades to build Glades Reservoir, but the director of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, Judson Turner, recently said he doesn't think the project is necessary for water supply.

Georgia capitol
Al Such / WABE

State lawmakers are working on a civil rights law that protects people from discrimination. Georgia is one of a handful of states without such a law.

When it was first filed, the bipartisan "Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act " included protections based on race, color, religion and national origin. 

Protesters gather in front of the Ferguson Police Department before the announcement of the grand jury decision about whether to indict a Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown
Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

The Justice Department has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, one day after the city council voted to revise an agreement aimed at improving how police and courts treat poor people and minorities in the St. Louis suburb.

Messages seeking comment from Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III were not immediately returned.

Gary Lieberman / WABE

Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard Jackson High School, has been named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GAASP) "Principal of the Year." 

Johnson has been principal of Maynard Jackson for four years and is the first Atlanta Public Schools principal to win the award. In September, she will represent Georgia for the National School Principal of the Year award.

Atlanta Airport Offers Passengers Ashes On The Fly

Feb 10, 2016
Alison Guillory / WABE

“I’m not sure if you're giving me confidence or concern,” was one passenger’s response to Donna Mote, who was standing in front of the Atlanta airport's domestic terminal main security screening area, wearing religious garb and holding a small bowl of ashes.

 

It is one of many reactions Mote said she sees throughout Ash Wednesday, the day that begins the religious season of Lent. Others ask if the same ashes can be used for both Catholics and Protestants (Mote said “yes”).

 

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, right, and Google Fiber Marketing Director Scott Levitan hold a sign announcing that Google Fiber is coming to Atlanta. Some HUD housing facilities will offer residents who qualify free Google Fiber service.
Brenna Beech / WABE

More than a year after it first announced its plans to expand to the Atlanta area, Google Fiber is now available in two apartment complexes in the Atlanta area: the Wesley Plantation apartment complex in Duluth, Georgia, and Westbury Park apartments in Marietta, Georgia. 

Georgia is currently one of just a few states that does not have a civil rights law on the books to protect certain classes from discrimination, including those protected by federal civil rights laws.

On Tuesday, Georgia representatives grappled over which classes of people should be included in a proposed civil rights law that would have Georgia join the other states.

Rep. Taylor Bennett (D–Brookhaven) proposed to amend the bill that includes “race, color, religion, and national origin.”

Brenna Beech / WABE

The effort to fund an $8 billion MARTA expansion bypassed an unexpected obstacle Tuesday, but questions over its support in the Senate were highlighted during a Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee hearing on Tuesday.  

Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) is the sponsor of two nearly identical bills to help fund MARTA and expand it in Fulton and DeKalb counties, and he knows that to get them passed, he needs the support of lawmakers who haven’t had kind things to say about the transit agency in the past.

When Erin Scharko-Fisk was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child "we were told he was not compatible with life."

An ultrasound showed that little Micah had a thickening around his neck. "Which doesn't sound scary but apparently that is a big red flag that there is something wrong," Erin said.

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014, file photo, United Airlines jets are parked on the tarmac at Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark, N.J. All United Continental flights in the U.S. were grounded Wednesday morning, July 8, 2015, due to comp
Julio Cortez / Associated Press file

Reports from American Airlines and United Airlines show that air travel demand is growing modestly and there aren't many empty seats, but average fares continue to decline.

New government figures show that while fares are coming down, airlines are keeping most of the savings from cheaper jet fuel.

Historic Oakland Cemetery and Atlanta Skyline
Evan Jang / WABE

Growing up in the 1950s, William Bell had to enter Birmingham's segregated Lyric Theatre though a side entrance, marked "COLORED," that was walled-off from the elegant lobby. He climbed a dimly lit stairwell to watch movies from the steep balcony where black patrons had to sit for generations.

Now the mayor of Birmingham, Bell recalls the Lyric's beauty, but also the way it isolated black people.

After a naked, mentally ill black veteran was shot dead by a white police officer last March in an Atlanta suburb, the officer was allowed a privilege ordinary citizens don't get, and even police officers don't get anywhere except in Georgia: He sat in on the grand jury session considering the shooting and addressed the grand jurors without facing cross-examination.

A lawyer for the Atlanta Botanical Garden has asked Georgia's highest court to reject a lawsuit that argues that the garden can't order people carrying guns to leave the property if they have valid licenses to carry weapons.

News outlets report that the Supreme Court of Georgia heard a lawsuit Monday brought by the gun owner advocacy group GeorgiaCarry.org after one of its members, Phillip Evans, was escorted off the grounds in October 2014 for openly carrying a firearm. The lawsuit has already been dismissed by a lower court.

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