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National Politics

  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and the partial government shutdown (all times local): 3:05 p.m. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump did not propose a 'good faith' proposal to end the government shutdown. The New York senator said Tuesday that Trump's offer to protect some immigrants from deportation in exchange for $5.7 billion from Congress to build the border wall with Mexico is 'one-sided, harshly partisan and was made in bad faith.' Senate Democrats are expected to reject the measure when it comes to a vote later this week as the shutdown drags on. Now in its 32nd day, the shutdown has left some 800,000 federal workers facing another Friday without paychecks. Schumer says the White House wasn't 'seriously negotiating' with Democrats. He says Trump's immigration proposals do not reflect earlier bipartisan efforts. He says, 'That's not 'The Art of the Deal.'' ___ 2:10 p.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls President Donald Trump's offer to provide some deportation protections for immigrants along with for his $5.7 billion demand for the border wall with Mexico a 'nonstarter.' Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that Trump needs to re-open the government before any negotiations over border security. As the partial government shutdown stretches to Day 32, the House will push forward more proposals to end it. One measure adds $1 billion more for border security. The Democratic leader said House has voted more than nine times to re-open government. Some 800,000 federal employees are poised to miss another paycheck on Friday. Pelosi said Congress can't give in to Trump demands 'every time he has an objection' and threatens to 'hold the employees hostage.' ___ 1:45 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats should get behind his bill to reopen shuttered parts of the government and toughen the nation's borders. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday the legislation he unveiled on the Senate floor should appeal to Democrats who want help for so-called 'Dreamer' immigrants. McConnell noted that the bill contains some of those protections. He emphasized it is the only measure before Congress that would reopen the government and which President Donald Trump will sign. McConnell will try to muscle through the massive bill, which includes $5.7 billion for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The partial government shutdown is in its 32nd day. The bill was immediately shot down by Democrats. They insist that the government reopen before any border security talks. They also say the immigration provisions are inadequate. ___ 12:20 a.m. President Donald Trump's proposal to break through the budget deadlock appears to be gaining little traction. Despite the fanfare of the president's announcement and the rush to release the legislative package late Monday, voting in Congress is not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seems doubtful that the measure will pass swiftly. Democrats say they are unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump reopens the government. Meanwhile, the impact of the shutdown continues to ripple across the nation as it stretches into its 32nd day.

Local Politics

  • Weeks before the Super Bowl comes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with boosters estimating a $400 million boon to Atlanta’s economy, a group of local residents is fighting for the stadium itself to contribute to the pot. For a year and a half, some residents have argued that the stadium — which has been exempted from property taxes since it was built — should be paying into city, school and county tax funds. A lawsuit the group filed in 2017 estimates its tax bill at $26 million a year under June 2018 tax rates. If the suit filed against the Fulton County Board of Assessors were to succeed, it could have implications for other stadiums around the country that also are exempted from property taxes. Over the life of a 30-year agreement the Falcons have to use the stadium, it might generate more than $700 million in property taxes, according to estimates by attorney Wayne Kendall, who is representing the residents who filed the suit. His estimate is based on the $1.5-billion stadium paying current property tax rates for Fulton County, Atlanta and the Atlanta Public Schools across three decades. “I just believe the public is getting screwed on the deal,” Kendall said. “The Falcons aren’t paying the $26 million they should be paying, and everyone else will have to make up the difference.” Fulton County property values have skyrocketed in recent years, and residents have complained about too-high tax bills. The county worked to reduce the tax burden by freezing values in 2017, a move they’re still fighting for in court. Residents also passed a number of referenda last year that are designed to limit some tax increases. The case was dismissed by Fulton County Superior Court, but Kendall appealed and the lawsuit was kept alive by the state appeals court last month. The suit, now back before Fulton County Superior Court, argues that the Fulton County Board of Assessors erred when it decided the stadium was tax exempt. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was funded through a combination of loans to the Falcons, money from the NFL, sales of permanent seat licenses and $200 million in bonds backed by Atlanta hotel-motel taxes. But it’s owned by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, a state agency that also owns the largest convention center in Georgia. The Falcons have an agreement with the authority to operate the stadium for 30 years. Kendall, in the suit, said that’s the issue: When the Falcons played at the Georgia Dome, the Dome was exempt from paying property taxes because it was owned by the state. At the Dome, the Falcons had an agreement to use the facility for 20 days each year. The rest of the time, the GWCCA managed the building and received all the revenue from concessions, merchandise and private suite sales. The Falcons only got revenue from ticket sales at their home games, the suit said. But at Mercedes-Benz, the agreement is different: The Falcons manage the stadium year-round, and receive the revenue from all events held in the building, not only ticket revenue. Kendall argues that under the new agreement,the Falcons are a long-term leaseholder, and long-term leases are taxable under state law. Victor Matheson, a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross, said while there are some stadiums that pay property taxes, the vast majority do not. There are questions about whether that’s right, he said — after all, “there’s no fundamental reason why a football stadium shouldn’t pay property taxes.” But he said the case is a long shot. If it succeeds, he said, it could have ripples for stadiums across the country, as many agreements are set up in a similar fashion. “I wish them luck, but it’s probably unlikely,” he said. “If this domino were to fall … that would be a real game changer nationwide.” Still, he said, team owners are likely to seek other subsidies from local governments if a property tax exemption disappears. Both Fulton County and the Falcons declined to comment on the suit. But in their court filings, attorneys for the county Board of Assessors said the Falcons hadn’t been granted a long-term lease, but had instead been given a license to use the stadium property. Those cannot be taxed, under state law. In other news: Kendall said in filings that the final agreement on the stadium lease was never reviewed by the Board of Assessors as required by law. He also said the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s tax exempt status was never approved in a statewide referendum and was therefore unconstitutional. While an earlier judge dismissed the constitutionality claim among others, appeals court judges said that is one aspect that should be reconsidered. Kendall said he didn’t understand why Fulton County — which would benefit from more tax dollars — was arguing the case. “I don’t know why they’re fighting it,” he said. “It’s in their best interest to collect the taxes. Somehow, the roles have gotten perverted here.” Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College, said the San Francisco Giants are among the teams that pay property taxes at the stadium. In Massachusetts, he said, state law doesn’t allow teams to “simply disguise what in practice is true ownership” of a stadium. Sports economist Matheson said the exemptions amount to a “pretty big handout” to stadiums. “My gut reaction is it’s clever,” he said. “More power to them.”

Latest from Jamie Dupree

Georgia Politics

  • A cotton farmer in Cuthbert is waiting on federally backed loans and crop forecasts for planting season. A broker of small-business loans near Cartersville has halted construction of his home after much of his revenue evaporated. A researcher in Atlanta specializing in moon dust has a NASA contract on hold. As the partial federal government shutdown approaches one month, the economic fallout is hitting the pocketbooks of more Georgians than the 16,000 federal workers furloughed in this state or working without pay. On Saturday, President Donald Trump proposed a compromise with Democrats to reopen the government. He wants to trade temporary protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants for money to build his wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Trump’s proposal as a “nonstarter” moments before the announcement, signaling a swift end to the dispute appeared unlikely. With roughly one quarter of the government without funding, some small businesses that rely on federal backing for loans are pausing plans. Other companies are waiting on patents and approvals for new products, including beer. Employers can’t confirm the immigration status of potential new hires because E-Verify, the U.S. government’s electronic verification system, is down. Backed-up security lines have snarled Hartsfield-Jackson, causing travelers to miss flights in the country’s busiest airport and raising fears about what could happen when Atlanta hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. The shutdown isn’t nearly as far reaching as the one that crippled the entire federal government for 16 days in 2013. But the ripple effects of the current impasse, already the longest on record, are undeniable. And while not dramatic, they expand over time, said Michael Wald, former senior economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The first day to seven days, the impact is minimal, then it progresses geometrically,” he said. Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said Tuesday the shutdown would slice the country’s economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week it lasts. That’s twice the impact he had predicted earlier. Overall, Georgia stands to lose $489 million for every month the government is partially shut down, making it the eighth-hardest-hit state, according to an analysis by The Ascent, a financial company. Federal workers represent an estimated 3 percent of the state’s workforce. Small businesses, farms hit Doug Hood, who lives on 15 acres near Cartersville, says he’s lost between half and three quarters of his income during the shutdown. He brokers bank loans backed by the Small Business Administration, a lifeline for many startups. On the day the shutdown began Dec. 22, three loans he had brokered were put on hold. He says they ranged from $500,000 to $2.6 million for a manufacturing company, a real estate firm and an assisted living center. The manufacturer hasn’t bought the machine it planned, also postponing plans to hire 10 more workers. “In the meantime, I can’t close loans. I can’t buy another cow,” said Hood, who also has a small farm. “We are building our own house and that’s been put on hold because we don’t have the money to do the plumbing.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed Hood and others before Trump’s latest proposal Saturday aimed at ending the funding impasse. The SBA says it guaranteed 1,876 loans in Georgia totaling $1.4 billion in fiscal 2017. Most of the growth was in the hospitality, retail, healthcare, professional services, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Atlanta entrepreneur Jenny Bass, owner of Essve Tech in Alpharetta, says she was days away from buying another manufacturing company with an SBA-backed loan for several million dollars when the shutdown arrived. “It is extremely frustrating. I have spent money on attorneys, accountants and real estate surveys and now it’s just stuck. The longer it drags on, the higher the risk that the deal won’t close.” Georgia’s vast farm country has been particularly hard hit by the shutdown after an already tough 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is one of nine Cabinet-level departments that has been shuttered. That has leftmany farmers unable to collect on earlier claims or file new ones for disaster assistance for crop losses or damage caused by October’s Hurricane Michael. The same goes for tariff relief from the trade war with China. Farmers also can’t apply for federally backed operating loans to get started on planting for 2019 or assistance loans to help them with expenses. Dania Devane has been caught in the squabble. The Cuthbert resident dodged one disaster when she harvested her crop of peanuts before Michael stormed into southwest Georgia. But Chinese tariffs have hit her soybean and corn sales, and recent heavy rains damaged and kept her from harvesting some of her cotton, still hanging from bolls and degrading with every day of exposure to intransigent weather. Devane would typically go to the local Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency to start loan processes and get crop forecasts for next year, but the shutdown foiled those plans. “A lot of the smaller farmers are not going to be able to get a loan for this year,” she said. “And we don’t know what to do.” The Trump administration on Wednesday announced some FSA offices would reopen for three days to perform “certain limited services” for farmers and ranchers, mostly cleaning up paperwork from last year. There was no immediate word on when they would start new loans or process disaster assistance. The White House also has tried to lessen the impact of the shutdown in recent days by calling back thousands of other federal workers earlier deemed non-essential. That includes more than half of the Internal Revenue Service’s furloughed employees who are needed to process tax returns and will work without pay for now. Federal contractors go without, transportation slows A sprawling ecosystem of federal contractors for shuttered agencies are getting pinched. Roughly a quarter of Rock Spring Restoration’s scheduled work is with the federal government and those contracts are now on hold. That includes projects in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area and other forests, where the small company gets rid of invasive species, shores up eroding streambanks and hills and replants areas with native Georgia plants.Walter Bland, Rock Spring Restoration’s owner, says there’s enough other work in the pipeline at the moment but that the shutdown could become a bigger problem if it drags on. “This is just a really good example of how our political system is failing,” said Bland as his six-man crew cut trees Thursday at Deepdene Park alongside Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta. The shutdown has reached space policy analyst Laura Seward Forczyk, the founder of the Atlanta-based Georgia Space Alliance and consulting firm Astralytical. Her company’s private-sector contracts have included studies on atmospheric satellites and how dirt from the surface of Mars or the moon could be used for rocket propellant. A project with NASA, however, is up in the air. “The deadline was supposed to be March. Now it’s who knows when,” said Forczyk. “My NASA civil servant partners aren’t allowed to work on anything while they’re furloughed.” The economy is moving more slowly - literally - amid transportation bottlenecks. One of the most visible impacts is at Hartsfield-Jackson, where TSA agents, forced to work unpaid during the funding lapse, are calling in sick in growing numbers, triggering long security lines. Delta Air Lines’s planned debut of the Airbus A220 later this month will likely be delayed due to the shutdown. Chief Executive Ed Bastian warned Tuesday the shutdown had cost the Atlanta-based company $25 million in revenue in January as fewer government contractors and employees traveled. The Georgia Department of Transportation has delayed $92 million worth of contracts for two dozen highway projects, including several bridge maintenance projects in metro Atlanta. More funding could be halted at a February board meeting should the impasse continue, according to a department spokeswoman. Moody’s Investors Service has warned the creditworthiness of U.S. transit systems could deteriorate if the funding lapse continues, “leading to weaker financial positions, deferred capital projects and higher annual debt service costs.” MARTA services in Atlanta will continue to operate normally during the shutdown, a spokeswoman said, but ongoing transit projects are a different story. MARTA pays for such projects with local funding and then requests federal reimbursement, which can’t happen with Transportation shuttered. That could force the transit system to choose eventually between using reserves or selling bonds — or delaying projects. In Savannah, officials say it’s business as usual at the port. But Chatham Area Transit is grappling with a funding lapse while rehabbing the four ferries that dart between downtown and Hutchinson Island. Curtis Koleber, CEO of Chatham Area Transit, said it was about to make its final payment on the first boat to its vendor using federal grant money. That’s when the Transportation Department’s online portal went dark because of the shutdown. The local transit authority had to draw down its own funds to cover the costs. Some Georgia companies could get a lift. Atlanta-based Kabbage, which gives cash advances to small businesses, has seen “very robust” growth in January, said Rob Rosenblatt, head of lending. He says it’s hard to tell how much of the new business is related to the shutdown, but he suspects some traffic from companies that would have gone to the SBA for loans. Still, Kabbage would prefer to grow its business “the old-fashioned way,” Rosenblatt said. “We’d rather not gain our business and be the beneficiary of a government shutdown. I don’t think that’s good for anybody.” Staff writer Jennifer Brett contributed to this report. -------------------------------------------- Federal agencies without funding: • Department of Agriculture, including Farm Service Agencies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program • Department of Commerce • Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and Federal Emergency Management Agency • Department of Housing and Urban Development • Department of Interior, including the National Park Service • Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation • Department of State • Department of Transportation • Department of Treasury, including the Internal Revenue Service • Environmental Protection Agency • Federal courts • NASA • National Science Foundation Federal agencies with funding: • Department of Defense, including military bases • Department of Education • Department of Energy • Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention • Department of Labor • Department of Veterans Affairs

News

  • Producers of the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show are looking for people to participate in the halftime show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3. About 450 people are needed to be part of the “Field Team” that will help move the halftime show stages and scenic elements on and off the field. Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott are headlining the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show. Our LIVE Team 2 Coverage of Super Bowl LIII continues on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m. We're getting a behind-the-scenes look at the Super Bowl Experience + talking with cyber security experts working to keep you and the city safe. “Field Team” members must be able to attend all scheduled rehearsals, be over the age of 18 and be in good physical health. No prior experience is required. Anyone interested in applying can view the rehearsal schedule HERE. If it fits your schedule, CLICK HERE to apply for a position. NOTE: “Field Team” members will not receive tickets or the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl. However, they will be an integral part of the halftime show.
  • A man identified by authorities Tuesday as the suspect in the fatal shooting of a teenager at a suburban Chicago mall was previously convicted of armed robbery and had been an acquaintance of the victim. Orland Park Police identified the suspect as 19-year-old parolee Jakharr Williams of University Park. The department said in a news release that Williams, who fled after the shooting and has not been arrested, should be considered armed and dangerous. Police said Williams and 18-year-old Javon Britten of Richton Park were arguing in a food court at Orland Square Mall Monday when Williams allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired several shots. Britten was struck and a bystander's leg was grazed by a bullet. Police said Britten staggered to a nearby clothing store, where he collapsed. He was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn a short time later. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections website and Orland Park Police, Williams was convicted of armed robbery in 2017, and that he served a little more than a year in prison before he was released in June last year. Orland Park is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.
  • In the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, two New Orleans Saints season ticket holders have asked a judge to reverse the result of the NFC championship game that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl — or order a do-over. Tuesday's state court filing says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should implement a league rule governing 'extraordinarily unfair acts.' Remedies include reversal of a game's result or the rescheduling of a game — in its entirety or from the point when the act occurred. At issue is the failure of officials to call interference or roughness penalties when a Rams player leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in Sunday's game. The NFL hasn't yet responded. A hearing is scheduled Monday.
  • A man is under arrest in Utah after police say he posted on Facebook about 'killing as many girls as I see' the same weekend that Women's Marches were held around the U.S. Christopher W. Cleary, 27, wrote he wanted to be 'the next mass shooter,' because he had never had a girlfriend and he was still a virgin, according to jail documents filed by police in the city of Provo. He wanted to 'make it right' with women who had turned him down and also said 'there's nothing more dangerous than a man ready to die,' the documents said. Cleary is from Denver and Colorado police on Saturday contacted officers in Provo, south of Salt Lake City, where Cleary had checked into an AirBnB rental a day earlier. With help from the FBI, officers tracked Cleary to a restaurant and arrested him on suspicion of a felony threat of terrorism charge. The posts did not mention the marches but investigators were concerned because they were happening that day in Provo and Salt Lake City, along with dozens of other cities, the documents said. Cleary acknowledged making the posts, but said he deleted them after receiving threats in response, police said. He told investigators he had an impulse-control disorder and was suicidal. Colorado authorities said Cleary is on probation after stalking and threatening women there, according to Utah police documents. He was being held without bail in Utah, and authorities were expected to seek his extradition to Colorado. No attorney or publicly listed phone number was immediately available for Cleary.
  • Country singer John Berry revealed he is battling tonsil cancer, Billboard reported Tuesday. Berry, 59, announced the cancer in a video he recorded with his wife, Robin Berry, and posted to his Facebook page.  “We started off this year with a hiccup, and we want to tell you a little bit about that,” John Berry said in the video.  It is not the first time Berry has experienced a medical scare. On the day his song “Your Love Amazes Me” hit No. 1 in 1994, Berry had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, Billboard reported. Berry said he became aware of his latest health issue in November before his latest tour, the magazine reported.“I had a little catch in my throat, it felt like, it felt exactly like, the skin of a Spanish peanut was stuck in my throat,” Berry said in the video.  After examining his tonsils Berry noticed they were swollen. Despite going to a doctor and receiving steroids and antibiotics, the problem persisted, Berry said. He completed his tour and then saw a doctor Jan. 4, Rolling Stone reported. A CT scan revealed two tumors in his tonsils, so he had surgery to remove them, the magazine reported. After receiving biopsy results, doctors told Berry he had tonsil cancer. Berry will begin a five-week chemotherapy and radiation treatment plan this week, Rolling Stone reported. “This particular cancer is one of the most highly treatable, and has an incredible cure rate,” Berry said in his video. According to his website, Berry had 20 singles on the country charts during the 1990s, six of which were Top 5 songs. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in “Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel, Vol. 1.”
  • Atlanta police are investigating a sexual assault at Opera nightclub after video of the incident was posted on Facebook.  >> Read more trending news Officer Jarius Daugherty said the Atlanta Police Department began receiving calls from people who had seen the assault on a Facebook Live video early Sunday morning. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident at the club on Crescent Avenue in Midtown. The video “appears to show a woman being sexually assaulted in a local nightclub,” Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Police have not released details on the alleged assault, but the woman filed a police report on the crime. It is the policy of the AJC to not name victims of sexual crimes. According to WSB-TV, the victim was celebrating her birthday Saturday at the popular Midtown nightclub when she was sexually assaulted. The woman told police someone put drugs in her drink and then sexually assaulted her on the dance floor, WSB-TV reported. The victim, who was already streaming her celebration on Facebook Live, captured the attack as it happened and continued to stream the video. According to media reports, the woman is heard in the video screaming for help. Video of the sexual assault has since been removed from Facebook. The woman later posted a video saying she is OK, WSB-TV reported.  In a statement posted to Facebook and Twitter, Opera nightclub managers said they are cooperating with the investigation.  “At this time we have met with the Atlanta Police Department and have provided them with everything they have requested,” read the statement posted Sunday. “We will continue to aid and support their investigation in any way we can.”