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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    As a bill to regulate daily fantasy sports in Georgia awaits a vote in the Senate, former Atlanta Brave Tom Glavine makes a pitch for its passage.  The Hall of Famer admits he enjoys playing himself and has a better understanding of the link between sports fans and the game.  “You know how many times I would have somebody say to me, ‘Hey, I really enjoy watching you play and I have you on my fantasy team. I need to you pick it up. I need you to do a little bit better’,” he told reporters at the State Capitol Tuesday.  Glavine does not believe it’s gambling as opponents like Virginia Galloway with Faith and Freedom Coalition call it.  “It’s addictive online gambling,” she says. “It’s predatory in nature. The state should not be in the business on promoting predatory gambling.”  The bill would require fantasy sports operators to pay a fee to register with the state and then pay a 6 percent tax annually.  The bill’s sponsor Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) says 1.5 million Georgians already play daily fantasy sports and the measure could generate $1 million to the state in a year if passed.  The bill passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Monday and is awaiting a vote before the Senate Rules Committee which would decide whether to bring to the full Senate for a vote.  There are just four legislative days left this session.
  • A bill to allow direct craft beer sales to consumers in Georgia is closer to final passage after overwhelming support in the state House. The bill, which would allow consumers to purchase a pint of beer at a local brewery without a tour and then take home up to a case, passed 147-14. Chris Herron with Creature Comforts in Athens expects the number of breweries in the state to double because of it. “This just opens up all kinds of opportunities for people to start much smaller, which means they kind find homes in a lot of different retail outlets that they wouldn’t have been able to find homes at before in much more sort of downtown, city locations all across the state,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. He says there are currently 84 “breweries in dreaming” ready to start up in Georgia which could do so with a much smaller investment. The House added liquor distilleries to the bill so it must go back to the Senate to agree to the changes. But the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild expects the Senate will have no problem signing off. It could go to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature later this week.
  • A bill to help Georgia firefighters diagnosed with cancer receives unanimous passage in the state Senate. The measure would give those diagnosed with one of nearly two dozen cancers including leukemia, lung, and breast up to $25,000 to help with treatment and other expenses.  Those who couldn’t work during treatment would be eligible to receive 60 percent of their pay for up to three years. City and county governments, which have signed off on the legislation, would cover the costs of the insurance policy. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), a firefighter himself, presented the bill on the Senate floor. “It will hopefully only have to be used for a small amount of people.  But to them and their families, it will mean everything in the world and that’s what it’s all about is having their back,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Albers says 38 states have similar laws. Gilmer County firefighter Brian Scudder, who was the inspiration for the bill, was diagnosed 12 years ago with stage 4 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  He says studies show firefighters are more likely to get cancer than the public or any other occupation due to the amount synthetics and petroleum’s that burn in a fire. “That’s why our cancer rate has gone from a normal cancer rate to 65 percent or higher... at a much younger age,” says Scudder, who has been at the Capitol for each step the bill has taken this session. The bill was changed in the Senate to cap the payout amount to $50,000 per lifetime. It now must go back to the House to approve those changes. Dennis Thayer, with the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Association, calls Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of a similar bill last year a blessing. “We have a better bill today that will provide a real benefit for firefighters that contract cancer,” he says.          
  • The State Senate passes a bill to require the Georgia Lottery put more money towards the HOPE scholarship. When the lottery was created, 35 percent of proceeds were intended to go towards the scholarship and Georgia Pre-K. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Coswert says that amount has hovered around 25 percent the past five years. His bill would require that percentage be increased by 1 percent a year for three years up to 28.5 percent. “This bill just gives clarity to it… tries to nudge them back up to our original intent of 35 percent profitability,” he says. As a result, prize payouts would decrease, but Cowsert does not believe it will have an impact on sales. If at any time they begin to drop, the increase would end. “I think their own data shows that there’s very little risk that a small increase will result in a decrease in sales,” he says. The bill passed 53-0 and now goes to the House.
  • A state lawmaker who wants to expand Georgia’s medical marijuana law believes it could be answer to Georgia’s opioid drug crisis. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) told a House committee by adding eight more conditions that can legally use cannabis oil, doctors would have an option other than prescribing drugs such as oxycodone, which can be highly addictive, for pain. The recommendation was among those made by a special medical cannabis working committee in the state House. “There is a proven response with clear data to the opioid epidemic and that’s responsible medical cannabis legislation,” he says. The eight conditions include intractable pain, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, Tourette syndrome, autism, PTSD, AIDS, and those in hospice care. Dr. Parin Chheda, a palliative care physician, says he would love to prescribe cannabis oil for his patients who are in hospice care rather than drugs like morphine. While working in California, a patient whom he sent home to die, returned to visit him only two months later in much better health having used medical marijuana. “I deal with patients and families at the end of their lives.  It’s hard.  It doesn’t make much sense to me to limit a potential therapeutic benefit to them,” he told committee members. But Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action, says medical marijuana is not only against federal law, but the evidence of its benefits isn’t proven. “They are being guinea pigs and they are taking risks they don’t even understand they’re taking--and that the doctors not (sic) necessarily understand,” she says. The committee could make changes to the bill before voting on it next week.  The state Senate passed its own bill last week that only adds the condition of autism but reduces the amount of THC currently allowed under state law from 5 percent to 3 percent.
  • The Georgia House passes its record $25 billion budget for 2018 that includes pay raises for state law enforcement, teachers, and caseworkers with the Division of Family and Children Services. More than 3,000 law enforcement including state troopers will receive a 20 percent pay increase-- something Col. Mark McDonough, head of the Georgia State Patrol, says has already made a big difference since Gov. Nathan Deal made the recommendation last year. “Our applications have been doubled and we see a much higher quality individual right off the bat,” he told WSB’s Sandra Parrish earlier this week. The budget also includes $28.5 million for a 19 percent pay raise for DFCS caseworkers in an effort to attract more to the agency as well as retain the ones it already has. It also includes $50.7 million to increase the daily amounts that go to foster families. “For a long time we have needed to let the foster parents know how much we appreciate them, and I think we’ve done that verbally. But it’s a completely different circumstance when you’re able to actually put money with that,” he says. Teachers and state employees would also receive a 2 percent pay raise in the budget. Appropriations Chairman Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) says the spending plan also includes $600,000 to add four scientists and two technicians to the GBI’s crime lab to investigate a backlog of rape kits.  The process, which began last year, has already had 50 hits on criminals currently in the system. “Once something like this starts, there are many more than we ever realized were out there,” he told House members. Nelly Miles, the GBI’s public affairs director, says the lab is able to process as many as 300 rape kits a month and the additional staff would mean 80 more. “We’re making progress.  The additional funding has been extremely helpful,” she says. The House passed the budget 167-1.  It now goes to the Senate which is expected to make its own recommendations.  The two sides will have to reconcile their differences before the 40-day session comes to an end next month.
  • The Georgia Senate passes a bill to expand Georgia’s medical marijuana law but is setting up a showdown with the House that may not be decided until the 40th and final day of the legislative session. The measure by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), who is a doctor, adds autism to the list of conditions that can legally use cannabis oil but lowers current THC levels from 5 to 3 percent. He admits there have been no problems with current THC levels reported by the 1,300 patients who are registered with the state or from the 300 physicians who are able to prescribe it. Despite adding autism, children diagnosed with the condition who are under 18 would not be allowed to use it unless their condition was deemed severe.  Efforts to change the bill on the floor of the Senate, including lowering the THC levels to 1 percent and another to keep it at the current 5 percent, failed. Several parents, who have been fighting to expand the law to include more conditions, watched the debate including Sebastien Cotte, whose six-year-old son uses cannabis oil with 5 percent THC for his seizures. “We moved to Colorado once, I hope we don’t have to do it twice.  But I don’t know,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Shannon Cloud, who uses it to treat her daughter's seizure disorder, is equally dismayed. “It just doesn’t make sense to take away from patients.  If they have something that’s working, why would we go back?” Watson told reporters after the bill passed 41-12 that it puts the Senate in a good position to negotiate with the House which has its own bill. “I would hope that we can be patient.  I think we’ll get to where we all want to be and that’s for what’s best for the state of Georgia, what’s best of the patients, and best for healthcare,” he says. The House bill expands the list of conditions by six including autism, PTSD, AIDS, Tourette syndrome, intractable pain, Alzheimer’s, and those in hospice care. It’s expected to go before a House committee next week.      
  • A bill to help keep Georgia’s hospitals afloat receives final passage in the state House and is now headed to the governor’s desk. The measure renews for another three years the fee hospitals pay into the Indigent Care Trust Fund. The 1.4 percent provider fee generates $300 million dollars each year that, in turn, draws down $600 million in matching Medicaid funding. Without it, Gov. Nathan Deal says it would have left a $900 million hole in the budget. David Tatum, chief public policy officer for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, says CHOA is the largest beneficiary of the fee. “Without it we had estimated we could lose tens of millions of dollars,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Tatum says while not renewing the fee would have forced CHOA to make some tough decisions, it likely would have forced some rural hospitals to close. Deal’s office says he plans to sign the bill into law next Tuesday.
  • A bill that could bring casinos to Georgia gets its first hearing before a packed Senate committee. The measure by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would allow for two “destination resorts” that would include 40 percent of gaming and 60 percent entertainment. One would be located in metro Atlanta with the other in a secondary city with a population of at least 180,000. “We’re looking at a minimum of a $2.45 billion investment that will create somewhere in the vicinity of 7,500 permanent jobs.  That’s not even counting the construction jobs,” says Beach. Fifty percent of the proceeds would go to fund the HOPE Scholarship, 30 percent for a new needs-based scholarship, and the remaining 20 percent for rural hospitals in the state. With just a little more than an hour allowed for testimony, few were able to speak during the hearing. But Mike Griffin with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board told Senators its placing money over morality. “The fact that we’re using all of these ornaments now being placed on the Christmas tree, it’s almost like 30 pieces of silver to everybody to buy them off so they’ll get into this,” he says. Griffin is also concerned there will be a rise in child sex trafficking if more gambling is allowed in Georgia. The horse racing industry also complained during the hearing that pari-mutuel betting was left out this year. “While the horse racing coalition recognizes that our industry alone does not meet the threshold of a mega-casino in downtown Atlanta, we do know, based on our research from other states, the economic impact on rural and agricultural areas of Georgia will be proportionately more significant than a mega-casino in Atlanta,” says Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition. The committee plans to hold at least one more hearing on the bill.  A similar measure is also in the House.      
  • Republicans in the State House are taking another shot at allowing guns on college campuses in Georgia. The bill looks much like it did last year when it was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.  It would allow anyone with a carry permit license to bring their firearm onto public college campuses except in sporting events, dormitories, or sorority or fraternity houses. After its final passage in both the House and Senate last session, Deal expressed his concerns about allowing guns around campus daycares, faculty and administrative offices, and disciplinary hearings. Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), who was a co-sponsor of last year’s bill, has addressed at least one of his concerns in her new bill. “We are prohibiting firearms from pre-school classes.  So we are trying to partner and work with to come up with a very strong Second Amendment bill,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. The measure does not address faculty or administrative office space. “As a woman I would like the ability to defend myself or protect myself when visiting a professor’s office,” says Ballinger. But when it comes to disciplinary hearings, she says government buildings can already add security measures outside the doors prohibiting guns under House Bill 60 that passed and was signed by Deal in 2014. More than a dozen House Republicans have signed onto the new bill. Opposition is again expected to be swift from Democrats and Georgia's colleges and universities.
  • Sandra Parrish

    News Anchor Reporter

    Sandra Parrish has been a reporter for WSB Radio since 1995 and covers political, legislative, transportation, and educational news. She graduated from the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism in 1989 and worked as an anchor/news director for WPLO in Lawrenceville, an anchor/assistant news director for WNGC in Athens and an anchor/reporter for WDUN in Gainesville before joining the WSB news team. Over the years, she has received over a dozen Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for "Best Use of Sound", "Best Series", and "Best Sports Reporting". She's also received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Georgia Association of Broadcasters, Society of Professional Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. Sandra is a former member of the board of the Georgia Associated Press Broadcast Association. She is married with two daughters.

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  • An off-duty Fulton County police officer shot a man after a chase in Atlanta Wednesday morning, the GBI says. The officer, whose name has not been released, was in his personal vehicle about 11 a.m., when he responded to a theft at a T-Mobile store on Mount Zion Parkway in Morrow, GBI spokesman Rich Bahan said.  The officer followed the suspect’s car into the city limits of Atlanta while reporting the incident to 911, Bahan said. At some point near Alyson Court, the two cars collided and when the driver got out of his car the off-duty officer shot him with his service weapon, Bahan said.   MORE:  Sheriff: Man out on bond for murder arrested after fighting victim’s family Ex-NFL player jailed after allegedly attacking woman in front of kids Police: Men brought ‘bag of bullets’ to shootout with alleged gang members Witness Jay Mitchell told Channel 2 Action News he thinks the man was shot in the stomach area after the police officer chased him and tried to pull him over. The suspect kept driving even after he was shot, Bahan said, and Atlanta police stopped him in the 1700 block of Lakewood Avenue. Whether the off-duty Fulton County officer stayed on the scene was not released, but his car was found parked at a store on Cleveland Avenue, Channel 2 reported. The man who was shot was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, Bahan said. The shooting is the fourth in less than a week involving a Georgia officer. A Georgia State Patrol trooper fatally shot a man after a chase early Saturday in Polk County. Jason Dennis Watkins, 36, was taken to Polk County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. RELATED: GSP trooper fatally shoots man after chase Willie Ivy III, 29, of Atlanta, died after a Fulton County police officer and an armed security guard shot him early Saturday in College Park, the GBI said.  RELATED: Man dead in police-involved shooting incident in College Park A Pickens County sheriff’s sergeant on Tuesday shot and critically injured Gary Lee Castle after he “moved aggressively” toward the official “with a large metal pipe in his hand,” the sheriff’s office said. RELATED: Sergeant shoots, critically injures man, Pickens County sheriff says In January and February, the GBI conducted 17 officer-involved shooting investigations, agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. RELATED: OVER THE LINE: Police shootings in Georgia The GBI investigated 78 police shootings in the state last year. In other news:
  • A middle school bus driver in the Valdosta area is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol while students were on her bus, according to the Lowndes County sheriff. Amanda Mullinax, 41, registered more than twice the legal limit, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said. A school resource officer at Hahira Middle School smelled alcohol on Mullinax, and a student said she had been drinking, the Macon Telegraph reported. The night before, deputies were called to a domestic dispute at Mullinax’s home and found she had been drinking heavily, Paulk said. RELATED: School bus driver charged in accident that injured child She could face multiple counts of child endangerment since there were about 44 students on the bus, the newspaper reported. Read more of the story here. In other news:
  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of federal judges. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing,” Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Anyone including the President of the United States?” Blumenthal pressed. “Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied. In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump’s travel ban. Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait. “I can’t get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes,” Gorsuch said. Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion. “In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?” Graham asked. “No, Senator,” Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, “I would have walked out the door.” Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, “nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States.” With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination. That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster. “If there aren’t 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it’s appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gorsuch’s lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed. “Just don’t drink vodka,” Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience. Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise. “You never been to Russia, have you?” “I’ve never been to Russia,” a smiling Gorsuch said.
  • Donald Trump Jr. is facing criticism for tweeting in the hours after Wednesday's London attack a months-old comment from London Mayor Sadiq Khan that terror attacks are part of living in a big city. Trump Jr. tweeted : 'You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.' The tweet included a link to a Sept. 22 story from Britain's Independent newspaper that includes the quote from Khan, who was asking Londoners to be vigilant following a bombing in New York City. British Member of Parliament Wes Streeting was among numerous Britons who responded to the tweet with criticism. He called Trump Jr. 'a disgrace' and accused him of using a terrorist attack for 'political gain.' When asked about Trump Jr. on Thursday, Khan told CNN: 'I'm not going to respond to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. I've been doing far more important things over the past 24 hours.' He added that 'terrorists hate the fact' that cities including London, New York and Paris have 'diverse communities living together peacefully.