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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    One of the biggest tourist towns in North Georgia becomes the latest to pass restrictions on short term rentals like those through Airbnb and VRBO.  The council vote 4-1 last week to ban short term rentals inside the city limits except those within the Central Business District and those with a commercial zoning. Rentals in unincorporated Fannin County are not affected.  “We’ve had concerns and we’ve had a few folks that wonder about why there’s so much traffic in and out of some of the homes. That’s how we’ve actually discovered there’s some nightly rentals in those places,” Mayor Donna Whitener tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Current rentals that have been paying sales tax to the city for 12 consecutive months would be grandfathered in and other homes could go before the city to seek a variance to allow it.  >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL REPORT BELOW. Homeowners like Richard Arnold complain it takes away the rights of property owners. He manages several Airbnb rentals and worries about the affect it will have on those owners’ ability to sell in the future.  “They can continue to rent their property because they’re grandfathered in because they’ve paid their city lodging taxes. But it affects their ability to be able to sell their property to someone who wants to do the same thing,” he says.  Pam O’Dell who runs the Short Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia expects it to having chilling effect on investors and tourism. She believes investors will no longer want to buy and renovate homes in the downtown area to use as rentals.  “A lot of people love downtown Blue Ridge. It is a pretty place and many people in the downtown area have worked long and hard to make it that way. That’s what attracts people. And if you have no place to stay, that’s an issue,” she says.  Whitener has until the end of this week to sign the ordinance or veto parts of it, which she says it likely.  “We’re not trying to cause anyone a hardship, but we also want to protect our residents. We do have residents with major concerns. They want to know who their neighbors are,” she says.
  •  A favorite eatery in downtown Canton is up for sale after nearly 50 years of making everybody’s favorite sandwich.  Mike DeLuca and his sister Donna operate R & M Hoagie Shop which their parents opened on the square in 1972. DeLuca says it’s time for a change and for somebody new to run it. “We just work all the time, and that’s just part of owning your own business. What we do is part of a young man’s sport. I want to travel for a while and see the world and not worry about having to be at work every day,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. DeLuca has seen generations of families patronize the shop over the years, many he grew up with including Michael Holland. “A lot of people come into town just for this,” says Holland.  But for many its more than just an eatery. Bill Proud says it’s about small-town life. “It’s an institution. It makes the downtown area and I think it just helps to promote the small-time atmosphere that this town has. It will be a big plus if the new owners keep the character of this restaurant,” he says. DeLuca says nothing is final yet and the shop will continue to run the way it has the last 47 years for now. “We want to continue it on. I’ve talked to some good people and that’s the whole game plan—just keep everything going the way it’s always been,” he says.
  • The new law allows him to hire consultants to customize waivers from the federal government aimed at expanding Medicaid to those making around $12,000 a year and to help lower premiums for those with existing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. “Georgians know that one-size-fits-all healthcare doesn’t fit at all. Through the Patients First Act, we will address Georgia problems with innovative Georgia solutions,” he says. Kemp budgeted a $1 million for the consulting process and expects to begin quickly. The bills passed both the House and Senate mostly along party lines with Democrats calling for a full expansion of Medicaid instead.
  • A bill to bring new voting machines to Georgia is headed to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.The State House gave final passage to the measure Thursday calling for new touch-screen voting machines with a paper ballot that would then be scanned to record the vote. The bill passed along party lines 101-69 with Democrats voting against it.
  • In an impassioned and sometimes emotional speech, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston took to the well of the House Monday morning to address his fellow lawmakers over accusations that he’s abused a law that allows attorneys in the Legislature to delay court cases.A resolution was filed by Buford Republican Rep. David Clark last week, with ten others signing on, calling for Ralston’s resignation after an investigation by WSB TV and the AJC found more than 50 cases over the past two years have been delayed for clients he represents.
  • Nearly a dozen State House members sign onto the resolution calling for Speaker David Ralston to step down.  Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) filed the measure accusing Ralston, a Blue Ridge attorney, of abusing his power by delaying more than 50 cases of his clients citing legislative privilege. Clark became especially upset when one of those cases involved a man accused of raping a teenager six years ago. “I can’t stay silent when something is being done wrong and especially when there are victims who are being hurt by our Speaker who’s abused his power,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Ralston maintains he’s done nothing wrong saying some of those cases are in the final stages of being handled and others are out of his control due to court schedules and witnesses. He is pleased with the outpouring of support he’s received former Governors Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal, both attorneys, and current Gov. Brian Kemp. “Many, many House members have reached out. And so, I think as people take a look at it and kind of sort through the fact from fiction, they kind of see what’s there. But if people want to drop a resolution, it’s certainly a free country to do that,” says Ralston. All the nearly one dozen lawmakers who signed onto the resolution are Republicans. One Democrat told Parrish his party has no plans to get involved. Ralston says he will not step down. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s not about me, it’s about getting the work done for the people of Georgia,” he says.
  • A bill to increase the penalties against hit-and-run drivers who cause serious bodily injury or death sails through the Georgia Senate. The bill is named for 23-year-old Charlie Jones, or C.J. as his family called him, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver in northeast Cobb County ten years ago. After the driver fled, he was subsequently run over by other vehicles that did stop. His cousin, Marcus Coleman, believes had the first driver stopped, Jones might still be alive.  He and his family have been fighting for justice ever since. “Our tenacity led us to find out the loopholes and the inconsistencies in the hit-and-run legislation which I understand hasn’t been updated since 1999,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. After C.J.’s Law failed to pass last year, the family worked with Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) to sponsor the bill this legislative session. “It is totally unacceptable to cause a serious accident, harm somebody and flee and keep going. You have a duty to stop and render aid when you cause an accident that causes serious harm,” she says. Her bill increases the current penalty of one to five years in prison to one to ten years. The driver who hit Jones has never been found. His family has returned to the scene every year on the anniversary of the accident in hopes the person will come forward. “This is not a vengeful type of push for legislation, because again we don’t feel like it would help us. But we feel like it balances the laws as drivers are becoming more and more distracted in today’s era,” says Coleman. He will continue to fight for the new law as the bill now heads to the House.
  • The first bill Governor Brian Kemp signs into law corrects a problem created last year when it comes to when a vehicle must stop for a school bus.  Senate Bill 25 requires all vehicles to stop unless there is a grassy median or physical divider. It corrects a bill passed in the final minutes of last year’s session that inadvertently changed the law allowing oncoming cars to pass on roads with a center turn lane.  “This was a team effort from the General Assembly, law enforcement, educators and concerned citizens to do the right thing and help save kids’ lives,” Gov. Kemp says.  Col. Mark McDonough, head of the GSP, tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish that last year’s change in the final minutes of the legislative session led to confusion for drivers.  “It takes that confusion away. We’re falling back to the way it was—the way it should be,” he says.  The bill took affect the moment it was signed into law.
  • The State Senate moves to fix a problem with a bill that became law last year that many say puts children’s safety at risk. In the final minutes of last year’s session, both the House and Senate approved the bill unaware it would no longer require cars to stop for school buses if there is a center turn lane. “Immediately one of my directors of pupil transportation reached out to me and said, ‘Oh y’all have made a fatal error that will put our students at risk all across the state’,” says Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen). His new bill, which passed the Senate unanimously today, reverts to the original law requiring vehicles to always stop unless there is a grassy median or some other physical divider. It now goes to the House. If approved there, it would go to Gov. Brian Kemp and take effect upon his signature. Heath says he is still unsure how the bill last year got changed in those final minutes leading to the unintended consequences. “That’s the problem that we have with the way the Legislature works. When things show up in conference committee reports, sometimes in a substitute bill in committee, or something happens on the floor, the people who are affected by these changes… sometimes they have no warning that the Legislature is about to do something that takes away your liberties,” he says.
  • The lone survivor of a plane crash in Union County just before Christmas is speaking publicly about the ordeal and her efforts to walk again. Brittany Whitener suffered spinal injuries in the crash that killed three of her close friends who all worked together at one point in time at a medical facility in Blue Ridge. “I consider them more like family,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Robert Atkinson, a 56-year-old pharmacist who had recently left to open a pharmacy in Blairsville, had been trying for months to get Whitener, 55-year-old Renea Greiner and 50-year-old Michelle Seay to go up in his single-engine Piper.  Whitener says December 19 was a time they could all finally get together. “It was just out of the blue, ‘Hey, let’s go on a night flight and look at Christmas lights’,” she says. Whitener, who was seated up front next to Atkinson, says they flew around north Georgia for about 30 minutes enjoying the lights and then headed back to Blairsville Municipal Airport. She remembers Atkinson pointing out the controls as they were getting ready to land and she even took a picture of the runway lights just before the crash. “I don’t remember much of what happened. I just know we were coming in to land and then the next thing I know I was hollering. I could see the rescuers in the woods and I just continued to holler until they got there,” says Whitener. She was air-lifted to a hospital in Gainesville and would learn following surgery that her three friends didn’t make it. “At first, I did have survivor’s guilt. You know, why didn’t they survive. I mean if I could survive, what’s the difference?” But Whitener says the spouses and family members of her three friends assured her she shouldn’t feel bad. Now the community is coming together to help the 29-year-old with medical expenses, including a t-shirt sale by the Blue Ridge Pharmacy, a GoFundMe page set up by the doctor’s office where Whitener works, and a benefit auction and dinner which will be held Feb. 16 at the Union County Civic Center. “We all four come from two small communities and for everybody to rally behind me — people I don’t even know — that’s more than what words can express,” she says. Whitener says her prognosis is good. She has already regained some feeling in her legs and is hopeful she’ll be walking again soon. “If I survived the plane crash and made it this far… it may take me a while, but I’ll walk again one day.”
  • 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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News

  • A Mississippi teen is fighting for her life after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Jonestown, Mississippi. >> Read more trending news  Family members said Lamonshae Williams was shot in the stomach during a graduation party overnight. She was rushed to Regional One in critical condition. Williams graduated from Coahoma Early College High School on Saturday. Relatives told FOX13 she graduated sixth in her class.  Another victim who was shot at the scene was treated at a local hospital and is expected to be OK. Lamonshae's mother Luetisha Gardner said she is heartbroken about the situation. She told FOX13 that Lamonsha's older sister was killed a few years ago. Jonestown has very limited police coverage, so Coahoma County deputies are currently handling the case. Officers have not identified any suspects at this time. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
  • A year ago, the world watched as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married at Windsor Castle’s historic St. George’s Chapel. Less than a year after their nuptials, they welcomed their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. On Sunday, the couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary. >> Read more trending news  Harper’s Bazaar reported that the couple has shared behind-the-scenes moments from their big day in an Instagram post on Sussex Royal. Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: A relationship timeline The video slideshow begins with a series of black-and-white photos that include images of Markle holding hands with her mother, Doria Ragland, and Prince Harry pretending to hitchhike to his wedding. Audio of “This Little Light of Mine,” which Sussex Royal said was selected by the couple for their recessional, can be heard as the images are displayed. The video slideshow ends in color images of the big day and wedding bells. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also shared a message to supporters, saying, “Thank you for all of the love and support from so many of you around the world. Each of you made this day even more meaningful.” Watch the video below.
  • Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College at institution’s Sunday morning graduation exercises, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school.  But during his remarks in front of the nearly 400 graduating seniors, the billionaire technology investor and philanthropist surprised some by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire class of 2019.  >> Read more trending news  “This is my class, and I know my class will pay this forward,” he said. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony. The announcement elicited the biggest cheers of the morning. Tonga Releford, whose son, Charles Releford III, is a member of the class of 2019, estimates that her son’s student loans are around $70,000. “I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Smith’s gift has been estimated at $40 million. Tonga Releford’s husband, Charles Hereford Jr., is also a Morehouse graduate. He said their younger son, Colin, is a junior at Morehouse, an all-male historically black college. The father said he doesn’t know who the keynote speaker will be at Colin’s graduation ceremony but is hoping for a return performance by Smith.  “Maybe he’ll come back next year,” he said.
  • The creepy, unsettling image of the “Momo challenge” will be coming to the big screen, according to one report. Deadline reported that “Getaway,” a horror film directed by Lilton Stewart III, will follow a group of teens on their last summer vacation before college who end up secluded in a cabin. >> Read more trending news  “In ghost story fashion, one tells the story of the urban legend, MOMO, a strange spirit of a bird-like woman that taunts its victims with specific personal details and violent commands via text message and phone calls,” Deadline reported. “What starts out as a harmless prank soon turns more sinister over the next 24 hours as the teens start disappearing without any motive or pattern.” The urban legend is inspired by the viral internet hoax that made the rounds last year. Related: What is the ‘Momo challenge’ and is it a hoax? Despite endless media coverage and local law enforcement warnings on social media of the supposed internet challenge, there were no verified cases of the “challenge” or people being harmed because of the game. “We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube,”  the video platform said on Twitter in February 2019. “Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.”
  • DJ Khaled has released the music video for his single “Higher,” which stars John Legend and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. The song comes from the producer-DJ’s new album “Father of Asahd.” >> Read more trending news  Billboard reported that the video, directed by Eif Rivera, starts with a tribute to Hussle, who died after he was shot outside his now-shuttered The Marathon Clothing brick-and-mortar store March 31. The video, TMZ reported, is the last one Hussle shot. Behind-the-scenes video obtained by the tabloid site shows Legend, Hussle and Khaled standing on top of a parking structure with a piano and retro cars in shades of blue. Khaled said in a statement Wednesday that the video footage was shot days before Hussle died. Legend reflected on shooting the music video after news broke of Hussle’s death. “Recently, I embarked on a soul-searching journey down a road I never thought I would travel in a million years. It began when a tragedy robbed the world of an enlightened soul, a brother, a father, a partner and my friend, Nipsey Hussle,” the statement said. “Just days prior, he shared his energy and positivity with me on a video set for a song called, ‘Higher.’ After much prayer and reflection, and with the full blessing of the Asghedom family, I am sharing that moment with the world. “The very title of the song reminds us that vibrating on a ‘Higher; level was the essence of Nipsey’s soul. It is in this spirit, of moving forward, of preserving his mission that I, my co-workers, producers and label partners are donating 100% of all our proceeds from 'Higher' to Nipsey's children, Emani and Kross. “The Marathon Continues.” Watch the music video on YouTube and see a teaser below.
  • Alec Baldwin, Robert DeNiro and 'Saturday Night Live' cast members took one last jab at President Donald Trump's administration this week in the comedy show's final cold open of the season. In Saturday's sketch, Baldwin's Trump led first lady Melania Trump (Cecily Strong), Vice President Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant) and other cast members in a musical number set to the tune of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now.'  >> Click here to watch 'Tonight, I'm gonna have myself a real good time,' Baldwin's Trump crooned from behind his Oval Office desk before the others joined in, one by one, dancing and singing. 'He's a billionaire unless you take a look at his tax returns,' Strong's Melania Trump sang at one point. 'He's gonna hide, hide, hide, oh, there's no showing you.' 'I wanna make a super-straight man out of you,' Bennett's Pence chimed in later. >> Read more trending news  Several other 'SNL' regulars appeared in the sketch, including Kenan Thompson as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Chris Redd as Kanye West, Kate McKinnon as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Mikey Day as Donald Trump Jr. and Alex Moffat as Eric Trump. But DeNiro, appearing as special counsel Robert Mueller, nearly put a damper on the celebration. 'Wait a second,' DeNiro's Mueller bellowed. 'I have something very important to say to the American people – something they need to hear.' 'No collusion, no obstruction, so don't stop me now,' Baldwin's Trump interjected as the song resumed. Read more here.