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HEMP FARMING

Hemp production in Georgia on hold until funding secured

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s hemp farming program is effectively on hold until the state secures funding to oversee the crop. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will ask state lawmakers for $1.6 million over the next two years to fund a state hemp program. The oversight program is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before state hemp regulations can be approved. The money would fund two field inspectors, two administrators, an enforcement officer, four four-wheel drive vehicles, training and computers.

GEORGIA SENATE-ELECTION LAW

Georgia elections chief wants law changed for US Senate race

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's top elections official is seeking a last-minute change to state law to ensure he's authorized to set the deadline for candidates to sign up challenge newly appointed Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. A spokesman said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants to hold candidate qualifying for the special Senate election during the first week of March _ the same period candidates in other 2020 Georgia races must officially declare. Georgia law says only that candidates must qualify at least 60 days before the November election, a window that wouldn't close until early September. Loeffler was sworn in last week following the retirement of GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. She must win election this fall to fill the last two years of Isakson's term.

INNOVATION TASK FORCE

Ex-senator and Georgia Tech chief join innovation task force

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's lieutenant governor has recruited some top-drawer names in his quest to “make Georgia the technology capital of the East Coast." Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced a 10-member Georgia Innovates Task Force on Wednesday in a speech before the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Duncan says he hopes research, development and the roll-out of technology can benefit not only metro Atlanta but the rest of the state. Co-chairs will be recently retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and recently retired Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson. Other members will include Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostick and Georgia Power Co. CEO Paul Bowers.

AP-US-BABY-BELUGA-GEORGIA-AQUARIUM

'We're expecting!': Georgia Aquarium announces baby beluga

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Aquarium has announced that one of its beluga whales is a mother-to-be. The aquarium’s vice president of animal health confirmed in a statement Tuesday that a 20-year-old beluga named Whisper is expected to give birth to a calf in April. The gender of the baby won't be revealed until birth. News outlets report Whisper arrived in Georgia from Seaworld Orlando nearly a year ago. Previously, three newborn belugas have died at the aquarium since 2012. Still, officials say they're hopeful Whisper will safely deliver a healthy calf this spring.

DUAL ENROLLMENT CAPS

Georgia considers limits on college course payments

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are considering limits on how much the state will pay for high school students to take college courses. Gov. Brian Kemp and a number of legislators have been raising concerns about the growing cost of Georgia's dual enrollment program. On Wednesday, state Rep. Bert Reeves unveiled a Kemp-backed bill that would limit most students to 30 hours of dual enrollment credit. House Bill 444 would also ban freshmen from dual enrollment courses.

BC-US-SCI-HOTTEST-DECADE

Fever chart: Earth had its hottest decade on record in 2010s

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two U.S. agencies say the decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record. And scientists say there is no doubt at all this is man-made climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the 2010s averaged 58.4 degrees Fahrenehit (14.7 degrees Celsius) worldwide, or 1.4 degrees (0.8 C) higher than the 20th century average and more than one-third of a degree warmer than the previous decade, which had been the hottest on record.

BOARD OF EDUCATION APPOINTMENTS

Kemp names talk radio host, 2 others to state school board

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp is appointing three new members to seven-year terms on Georgia's state Board of Education, The board makes policy for 1.8 million public school students. Kemp on Tuesday named former aide and talk radio host Martha Zoller of Gainesville to a seat representing northeast Georgia's 9th Congressional district. Zoller ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, losing a Republican primary to eventual victor Doug Collins. Phenna Rene Petty will represent the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia. Kemp named Sally Lynn Nabors to a seat representing the 13th Congressional District in the southern and western suburbs of Atlanta. Two others were reappointed.

FATAL ROBBERY-TEEN

Police: Teen fatally shot during robbery, shooter arrested

LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — Authorities have charged a man with murder after he was accused of killing a 14-year-old boy whose friend had just stolen the man's phone. DeKalb County police say Ricarrio Hale was killed Sunday and a 16-year-old friend of his was also hospitalized after being shot. Twenty-eight-year-old Paul Marsilas Wilson was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. Police say Hale, the wounded friend and two other teens met Wilson and a woman in Lithonia to purchase a phone. Authorities say one of the teens took the phone and ran away without paying, prompting Wilson to fire his weapon.