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GEORGIA BUDGET

Georgia tax revenues perk up as lawmakers grapple with cuts

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's tax collections are improving even as lawmakers grapple with budget cuts brought on by previous shortfalls. Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Monday that tax collections rose 4.5% in January compared to the same month in 2019. Overall tax collections for the budget year are now up $133 million. That still leaves the state on pace to be far short of the $800 million in new revenue that Kemp and lawmakers projected for this year. But it's a little good news as House members ratify cuts that Kemp earlier imposed on state agencies. It could also brighten the picture for next year's budget.

AP-US-DRIVER'S-LICENSE-LAWSUIT

Georgia tweaks policies for Puerto Rico driver's licenses

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Department of Driver Services has reached a settlement agreement in a lawsuit that alleged Georgia treated Puerto Ricans differently from other U.S. citizen applicants when they sought to exchange a license. The settlement agreement signed Jan. 31 says applicants from U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, don't have to complete a driving or written test to transfer a valid license if they are at least 18 and meet Georgia residency and proof of identity requirements. The lawsuit was filed by Kenneth Caban Gonzalez, who was accused of providing false documents and arrested when he applied for a license in 2017.

AP-US-BURIED-CHILDREN-BODIES

Death penalty sought in Georgia case of 2 buried children

SPRINGFIELD, Ga. (AP) — Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for four people charged with murder after two teenagers were found buried behind their Georgia home. Effingham County prosecutors filed notices in court that they will pursue death sentences for the father of Mary Frances Crocker and Elwyn Crocker Jr., whose bodies were discovered in December 2018. Also facing the death penalty are the children's stepmother, step grandmother and another extended family member. Indictments last year said both teens had been beaten, starved and kept in a dog crate by family members before they died. The siblings were home schooled and were never reported missing. Each of the accused family members pleaded not guilty after they were charged last year.

OKEFENOKEE-MINING PLAN

Company withdraws application to mine near Okefenokee refuge

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A mining company has withdrawn its plan to dig up minerals in Georgia near the vast wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp. The president of Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals said the company plans to submit a revised permit application to the federal government. The Army Corps of Engineers had been weighing whether to grant Twin Pines a permit to mine titanium dioxide less than 4 miles from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Federal wildlife officials told the Army Corps in October they fear the mining project could cause substantial and irreversible environmental damage. The company's own study concluded impacts would be negligible.

SOUTHERN STORMS-FLOODING

Downpours cause flooding across Deep South

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Roads are covered by flash floods and some schools are closing early after hours of heavy rains across the Deep South. Dozens of roads were under water in low-lying areas across the Tennessee Valley on Monday, and cars crept along flooded streets in downtown Birmingham. The heaviest rains fell across Mississippi and Alabama. But flash flood watches and warnings stretched from eastern Texas into the western Carolinas. The weather service says more than 2 inches of rain has fallen in some areas, and another 4 inches is possible by Tuesday afternoon. Parts of the region are still soggy from heavy rains last week.

DRUG PRICE LAWSUIT

Georgia city sues alleging 'unconscionable' drug cost

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia city is suing a pharmaceutical company over a medication it says went from $40 to over $39,000.  Marietta says in its lawsuit against Mallinckrodt ARD LLC that it has spent more than $2 million on the drug Acthar for one patient covered by its self-funded health plan. It filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Atlanta. In a statement, the company said it has invested more than $600 million in the drug and offers significant discounts to many customers. The drug is used to treat a seizure disorder in babies and acute relapses of multiple sclerosis in adults, among other conditions.

PORT EXPANSION

Trump wants $93.6M to keep Savannah harbor expansion going

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — President Donald Trump wants $93.6 million in the next fiscal year to keep the expansion of Savannah's busy shipping channel on track. The figure was included in the release Monday of Trump's proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Congress will have the final say. Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler said in a statement with Rep. Buddy Carter that Trump's request would fund another full year of the dredging project. The Army Corps of Engineers in overseeing a $973 million deepening of the river channel connecting the Port of Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean. Completion is scheduled for the end of the 2021 calendar year.

ISRAEL OATH-SPEAKER CANCELLED

Filmmaker who wouldn't sign Georgia's Israel oath sues state

ATLANTA (AP) — A documentary filmmaker who refused to sign Georgia's required oath involving Israel is suing the state, saying the law violates free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. A Georgia law passed in 2016 requires some people to sign an oath pledging not to boycott the Israeli government in order to do business in the state. In her federal lawsuit, Abby Martin says she refused to sign the oath, and that she was prevented from speaking at a Georgia Southern University media conference since the entire event was cancelled. A school spokesman says the school hasn't seen the lawsuit.