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Deep South News Digest

February 18, 2020 - 6:54 pm

Good afternoon! Here’s a look at how AP’s news coverage is shaping up today in the Deep South. Questions about today's coverage plans are welcome and should be directed to:

The Atlanta AP Bureau at 404-522-8971 or apatlanta@ap.org

The Columbia AP Bureau at 803-799-5510 or apcolumbia@ap.org

The Montgomery AP Bureau at 334-262-5947 or apalabama@ap.org

The New Orleans AP Bureau at 504-523-3931 or nrle@ap.org

The Jackson AP Bureau at 601-948-5897 or jkme@ap.org

For up-to-the minute information on AP's coverage, visit Coverage Plan at newsroom.ap.org.

Deep South Editor Jim Van Anglen can be reached at 1-800-821-3737 or jvananglen@ap.org. Administrative Correspondent Rebecca Santana can be reached at 504-523-3931 or rsantana@ap.org. A reminder: this information is not for publication or broadcast, and these coverage plans are subject to change. Expected stories may not develop, or late-breaking and more newsworthy events may take precedence. Advisories and digests will keep you up to date.

Some TV and radio stations will receive broadcast versions of the stories below, along with all updates.

GEORGIA (All times Eastern)

TOP STORIES:

XGR-GEORGIA BUDGET

ATLANTA — Budget writers in Georgia's House want to preserve money for mental health, substance abuse, public defenders, agricultural research and diverting people away from prison. While overall spending won't rise above the cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, the House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to shift tens of millions to protect programs lawmakers have been trying to build up. By Jeff Amy. SENT: 560 words.

XGR-TEACHER PENSION CHANGES-GEORGIA

ATLANTA —- A bill that would cut some retirement benefits for Georgia public school teachers is still alive, but just barely. House Retirement Committee Chairman Tommy Benton said he's not sure what will happen next with House Bill 109 after he asked committee members not to vote on it Tuesday. The Republican from Jefferson said he's getting pressure from people “higher up” not to bring the bill forward, after it provoked sharp opposition in an election year.By Jeff Amy. SENT: 440 words.

XGR-SPECIAL ELECTION-PRIMARIES

ATLANTA — A proposed change to Georgia election law to require party primaries before certain special elections has been amended so it wouldn’t take effect until 2021, assuring a special U.S. Senate election this year won't be affected if it passes. That’s good news for recently appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is running to defend her seat in a free-for-all special election on Nov. 3. House Bill 757 was approved by the state House Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday. It could soon go to the full House for a vote. By Ben Nadler. SENT: 280 words.

SEVERE WEATHER-SOUTH

RIDGELAND, Miss — Forecasters expected more heavy rains in parts of the flood-ravaged South on Tuesday, prolonging the misery for worried people who still can't get back into homes surrounded by water. The national Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, projected the greatest likelihood of heavy rains in a band from eastern Louisiana across central parts of Mississippi and Alabama extending into far west Georgia. By Rogelio V. Solis. SENT: 770 words, photos, video.

RUSSIA HACKING-ACCUSED LEAKER

SAVANNAH, Ga — A former government contractor serving time in federal prison for leaking a classified document to a news organization is making an appeal for early release to President Donald Trump, who once tweeted that he considered her crime to be “small potatoes.” Reality Winner, 28, is serving a sentence of five years and three months at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, after she pleaded guilty in 2018 to a single count of transmitting national security information when she worked at a National Security Agency office in Georgia. Prosecutors called it the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media. By Russ Bynum. SENT: 700 words. With photo.

WHITE SUPREMACISTS ARRESTED

GREENBELT, Md. — Three men accused of being members of a violent white supremacist group called The Base pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges in a federal indictment in Maryland. Former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Mathews, 27; and Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Maryland; entered their pleas during separate arraignments on charges including transporting a firearm and ammunition with the intent to commit a felony. William Garfield Bilbrough IV, a 19-year-old pizza delivery driver who lived with his grandmother in Denton, Maryland, before his arrest, pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to “transport and harbor certain aliens.” SENT: 350 words.

IN BRIEF:

SKYDIVING DEATH-FLORIDA — An experienced skydiver from Georgia died in Florida while attempting to avoid another jumper during a landing, authorities said.

MISSING STUDENT-BODY FOUND — The body of a 23-year-old university student who had been missing since Feb. 14 was found Tuesday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said,

MISSING HIKER-APPALACHIAN TRAIL — Authorities in Georgia have been searching for a hiker who went missing at least four days ago along a feeder route to the Appalachian Trail.

COFFEE SHOP EXPLOSION — A natural gas utility would pay $347,000 under a proposed settlement with Georgia regulators who found safety violations linked to a 2018 explosion that destroyed a coffee shop in a rural city.

SPORTS:

BRAVES-MARAKIS-ASTROS

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Before taking batting practice, Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis teed off on the scam-ridden Houston Astros. "I feel every single guy over there deserves a beating," he said Tuesday. Markakis wasn't happy with commissioner Rob Manfred, either. As the Braves began their first full-squad workout, Markakis became the latest major leaguer to take aim at the Astros in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal. SENT: 480 words, photos.

FBC—GEORGIA-CLEMSON 2021 OPENER — Longtime rivals Georgia and Clemson will open the 2021 football season by playing at a neutral site in Charlotte, North Carolina.

FALCONS-MOVES — Punter Ryan Allen and kicker Younghoe Koo, who joined the Atlanta Falcons midway through the 2019 season, have signed one-year contract extensions.

_

SOUTH CAROLINA (All times Eastern)

AP is moving election test reports for the February 29 South Carolina Democratic presidential primary beginning Thursday, February 6. These tests are NOT for publication, broadcast or use online. Additional information is available in the election testing advisory sent Mondays and Thursdays, found in advisory queues: SC—South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary Election Testing Advisory.

TOP STORIES:

MISSING GIRL-SOUTH CAROLINA

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A 6-year-old girl who disappeared from her front yard after school was killed by a neighbor who then killed himself, authorities said Tuesday. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher told reporters Tuesday that Faye Marie Swetlik died of asphyxiation just a few hours after she was abducted. She refused to say whether the girl was strangled or suffocated. SENT: 700 words, photos.

SHERIFF INDICTED-SOUTH CAROLINA

COLUMBIA, S.C — A suspended South Carolina sheriff already indicted on domestic violence charges now faces 13 additional criminal charges including giving alcohol to someone under 21 and using his power to continue a sexual relationship with an employee, authorities said. The new indictments against Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland were unsealed Tuesday. By Jeffrey Collins. SENT: 410 words, photos.

PUBLIC UTILITY SALE

COLUMBIA, S.C — The first of more than a dozen hearings by the General Assembly on whether South Carolina should sell its state-owned utility had senators on Tuesday questioning the officials who reviewed the proposals. The Department of Administration released a 111-page report Tuesday detailing NextEra Energy of Florida's bid to buy Santee Cooper, Dominion Energy of Virginia's offer to manage it and one deal to let Santee Cooper reform itself. The agency then briefed lawmakers from both the House and Senate on Friday, but no questions were allowed. The Senate Finance Committee got the first crack at getting more information and spent nearly six hours discussing the plans at their initial meeting. By Jeffrey Collins. SENT: 420 words, photo.

ELECTION 2020-TRUMP-SOUTH CAROLINA

COLUMBIA, S.C. — He’s not competing in a primary in the state, but President Donald Trump is planning to make an appearance in South Carolina just before Democrats hold their primary election there. Trump told reporters on Tuesday on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews that he would hold an event in the state next week, “probably the day before” the state's Feb. 29 primary, and that details were still being worked out. By Meg Kinnard. SENT: 320 words, photos.

ELECTION 2020-BUTTIGIEG

So far, Pete Buttigieg has made it look easy. The once little-known former mayor of a midsize Midwestern city vaulted over a former vice president and several U.S. senators in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire presidential primary. The 38-year-old's fresh face, intellect and turn-the-page message won votes across many demographic groups in the kickoff states. Now the promise of his candidacy is colliding with the reality of the central question about his viability: Can he win among minority voters who form the critical foundation of the party’s base? By Thomas Beaumont. SENT: 1140 words, photos.

PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY CHANGE-TENNESSEE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee would be the first state in the nation to hold a presidential primary, freeing it from having to compete for attention on Super Tuesday, under a new bill. Democratic state lawmakers touted the need for the change on Tuesday, arguing that the Volunteer State has a more diverse voter base than Iowa and New Hampshire — the first two states to kick off the presidential primaries every four years. By Kimberlee Kruesi. SENT: 492 words.

IN BRIEF:

—GRAFFITI-HATE CRIME — Racist graffiti tagged on all four sides of a black-owned business in South Carolina is being investigated as a hate crime.

SPORTS:

FBC—GEORGIA-CLEMSON 2021 OPENER — Longtime rivals Georgia and Clemson will open the 2021 football season by playing at a neutral site in Charlotte, North Carolina.

ALABAMA (All times Central)

AP is moving election test reports for the March 3 Alabama presidential preference/state primary beginning Monday, February 10. These tests are NOT for publication, broadcast or use online. Additional information is available in the election testing advisory sent Mondays and Thursdays, found in advisory queues: AL—Alabama Presidential/State Primary Election Testing Advisory.

TOP STORIES:

TEACHERS' RETIREMENT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As the state faces a teacher shortage, the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday approved changes to retirement benefits to try to lure people to stay in the classroom. Representatives voted unanimously for the bill called the Education Workforce Investment Act, which would alter the retirement structure for public education employees hired after 2013. The changes includes allowing employees to retire with benefits after 30 years even if they haven't reached age 62. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate. By Kim Chandler. SENT: 390 words.

LOCAL CONTROL-OCCUPATIONAL TAX

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers moved forward Tuesday with an attempt to block Montgomery's possible occupational tax, the latest clash between the Alabama Legislature and cities over local control. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted 8-2 to advance the House-passed bill that would prevent cities from implementing occupational taxes without the approval of the Alabama Legislature. The measure comes as the city of Montgomery weighs the creation of an occupational tax, a tax paid by those who work in the city, even if they live outside the city. By Kim Chandler. UPCOMING: About 450 words.

SEVERE WEATHER-SOUTH

RIDGELAND, Miss — Forecasters expected more heavy rains in parts of the flood-ravaged South on Tuesday, prolonging the misery for worried people who still can't get back into homes surrounded by water. The national Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, projected the greatest likelihood of heavy rains in a band from eastern Louisiana across central parts of Mississippi and Alabama extending into far west Georgia. By Rogelio V. Solis. SENT: 770 words, photos, video.

SCHOOL OFFICIAL'S LAWSUIT

ATHENS, Ala. — The director of human resources of an Alabama school system sued the school board president and interim superintendent Tuesday, charging that they retaliated against him for taking part in a federal investigation. The Decatur Daily reports that the suit filed by Samuel Mark Isley comes after Isley was placed on administrative leave last month as human resources director for Limestone County schools. SENT: 220 words.

IN BRIEF:

—TAX EVASION — An Alabama man has pleaded guilty to hiding more than $435,000 from the Internal Revenue Service after acknowledging that he already owed about $780,000 in back taxes.

—MISSING HIKER-APPALACHIAN TRAIIL — Authorities in Georgia have been searching for a hiker who went missing at least four days ago along a feeder route to the Appalachian Trail.

—TOWN COUNCIL-RAISES — Pay raises are in the future for an Alabama town's council and mayor as long as they attend the council's monthly meetings.

—PROFESSOR SLAIN-ARREST — A third person has been arrested in the killing of a college economics professor who was found shot to death in his home in Alabama, authorities said.

LOUISIANA (All times Central)

TOP STORIES:

TRUMP-PARDON

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal who built one of the most successful NFL teams in the game's history. DeBartolo, who owned the San Francisco 49ers during their 1980s-1990s dynasty, was involved in one of the biggest owners' scandals in the sport's history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. The White House announced the surprise decision to reporters on Tuesday, with NFL greats Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley in attendance. By Aamer Madhani, Kevin Freking and Jill Colvin. SENT: 910 words, photos.

SEVERE WEATHER-SOUTH

RIDGELAND, Miss — Forecasters expected more heavy rains in parts of the flood-ravaged South on Tuesday, prolonging the misery for worried people who still can't get back into homes surrounded by water. The national Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, projected the greatest likelihood of heavy rains in a band from eastern Louisiana across central parts of Mississippi and Alabama extending into far west Georgia. By Rogelio V. Solis. SENT: 770 words, photos, video.

PLANE CRASH-LOUISIANA

LAFAYETTE, La. — The only person to survive a December plane crash in south Louisiana that killed the other five people on board has gone home after nearly two months months in the hospital. News outlets reported that Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center said in a news release that Wade Berzas was discharged Monday after 52 days at the center's burn unit. SENT: 280 words, photo.

SUPPORT DOG-RAPE TRIAL

BATON ROUGE, La. — An emotional support dog with a Louisiana District Attorney's Office will accompany a 8-year-old girl while she testifies at the trial of her accused rapist. Judge Beau Higginbotham ruled Thursday that Diesel, a 4-year-old Labrador and golden retriever mix, will be allowed to sit with the girl during a jury trial in the 19th Judicial District next month, The Advocate reported. SENT: 250 words, photos.

IN BRIEF:

ROAD RAGE SHOOTING-PASTOR — A Louisiana pastor has been accused of shooting at truck driver during a road rage incident, authorities said.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR-SUPPPORT GROUP — Gov. John Bel Edwards' allies Tuesday announced the formation of an outside organization to promote the Louisiana leader's agenda as he readies for the first legislative session of his new term.

—UBER DRIVER-SHOTS FIRED — An Uber driver accused of firing shots at passengers who told him he was driving the wrong direction has been arrested in Louisiana.

—FOOTBALL COACH-DWI — The head football coach of a Louisiana university was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

SPORTS:

SAINTS-BREES

NEW ORLEANS — Quarterback Drew Brees' record-setting NFL career is on track for a 20th season — and a 15th with the New Orleans Saints. The 41-year-old Brees announced his intention to return for what would be his 20th NFL season in a social media post on Tuesday. “My feelings about the 2020 season! I look forward to the grind and the journey, for the reward at the end will be worth it," Brees wrote in his announcement. "Love you #WhoDatNation. Let’s make another run at it!”. By Brett Martel. SENT: 570 words, photos.

MISSISSIPPI (All times Central)

TOP STORIES:

MISSISSIPPI SHOOTINGS

MAGNOLIA, Miss. — A witness testified Tuesday that a Mississippi man on trial in the shooting deaths of eight people showed up at her house the night of the killings and that he was carrying two rifles, told her he killed a deputy and asked her for a car ride. LaPeatra Stafford testified that she drove Willie Cory Godbolt from Bogue Chitto to Magnolia and back on the night of May 27, 2017. She said she begged Godbolt to turn himself in to authorities. UPCOMING: About 500 words.

SEVERE WEATHER-SOUTH

RIDGELAND, Miss — Forecasters expected more heavy rains in parts of the flood-ravaged South on Tuesday, prolonging the misery for worried people who still can't get back into homes surrounded by water. The national Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, projected the greatest likelihood of heavy rains in a band from eastern Louisiana across central parts of Mississippi and Alabama extending into far west Georgia. By Rogelio V. Solis. SENT: 770 words, photos, video. Will be updated.

MISSISSIPPI SOLAR PROJECT

COLUMBUS, Miss. — A renewable energy company will build a 200-megawatt solar facility in northeast Mississippi, under a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA awarded the contract to Florida-based Origis Energy, the Commercial Dispatch reported. SENT: 430 words.

IN BRIEF:

— STUDENTS KILLED — Mississippi authorities say two Alcorn State University students were killed and two others were wounded in an off-campus shooting late Monday.

___

If you have stories of regional or statewide interest, please email them them to:

The Atlanta AP Bureau: apatlanta@ap.org

The Columbia AP Bureau: apcolumbia@ap.org

The Montgomery AP Bureau: apalabama@ap.org

The New Orleans AP Bureau: nrle@ap.org

The Jackson AP Bureau: jkme@ap.org

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