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CHASE-DEPUTY KILLED

Georgia deputy dies after crashing during highway chase

LUDOWICI, Ga. (AP) — Authorities in southeast Georgia say a sheriff's deputy is dead after his patrol car crashed during a pursuit. News outlets report Long County Deputy Sheldon Whiteman was killed early Thursday shortly after he joined a highway chase of a driver suspected of running stop signs. Capt. Thornell King of the Georgia State Patrol said the deputy apparently lost control of his cruiser, which veered off the road and crashed in a wooded area. Whiteman was taken to a hospital, where he died. Authorities were still searching Thursday afternoon for the driver the deputy had been pursuing. Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles said Whiteman joined his department about four months ago and had previously worked as a deputy in nearby Chatham County, which includes Savannah.

DEATH PENALTY-GEORGIA

Parole board sets clemency hearing for condemned Georgia man

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's parole board has scheduled a hearing to weigh arguments for and against clemency for a man convicted of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Donnie Cleveland Lance is scheduled to be put to death Jan. 29. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the November 1997 killings of Sabrina “Joy” Lance and Dwight “Butch” Wood Jr. in Jackson County, about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. The  State Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a closed-door clemency hearing for Lance on Jan. 28. The parole board is the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence.

GEORGIA BUDGET

Lawmakers question teacher raise as state cuts other budgets

ATLANTA (AP) — Lawmakers who write Georgia's budget question Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to grant a teacher pay raise while cutting other spending. Top House and Senate committee chairmen said Thursday that cuts are hard to swallow when Kemp wants to spend $376 million on teacher raises. Some agency directors tell lawmakers that they can maintain services while spending less by reorganizing or cutting underused programs. Others tell lawmakers that less money means they will do less. Some lawmakers ask whether a measure to increase online sales tax collections could provide extra money. But a Kemp administration official advises against relying on higher revenue projections.

OBAMA PORTRAITS

Portraits of Obamas to begin 5-city US tour in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) — The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama from the National Portrait Gallery will begin a five-city national tour in Chicago in June 2021. The gallery said Thursday the Art Institute of Chicago will host the portraits from June 18, 2021, to August 15, 2021. Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Barack Obama and Amy Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama were unveiled in February 2018. Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery, says that since the unveiling, the gallery has experienced a record number of visitors. After leaving Chicago, the portraits will travel to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston.

DEADLY SHOOTING-SIX SUSPECTS

Police: 6 arrested in fatal shooting during home invasion

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Six people have been arrested in the shooting death of a Georgia man during a home invasion. News outlets report the suspects announced Wednesday include four men and two girls. Authorities say 21-year-old Cross Henderson was fatally shot Saturday at a home in Columbus. Authorities say the shooting happened during a home break-in. Police say the department's SWAT team, sheriff's officers and firefighters helped catch the suspects while executing search and arrest warrants. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.

AP-US-PECANS-RECORD-PRODUCTION

New Mexico leads US in pecan production

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The numbers are in and U.S. agricultural officials say New Mexico marked a record year of pecan production in 2019 to lead the nation. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that production in the Southwest state topped out at more than 96 million pounds, up 6% from the previous year. Georgia followed with 69 million pounds, but many trees there are still recovering from the effects of a hurricane last year. Hot, dry weather from late August through October also had negative effects on Georgia's yield. Overall, the value of the nation's pecan crop totaled $469 million, up 14% from the previous season.

ELECTION-RULES

Georgia election board approves rules for new voting system

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s state election board has adopted a set of rule changes to account for new voting machines being rolled out across the state. Election officials acknowledged that some of the rules adopted may still need further tweaking. But they went ahead and adopted them because they're under a tight timeline. Changes include removing language referencing the old voting machines and inserting language referencing the new ones. Georgia’s presidential primaries are scheduled for March 24, but advance voting will begin three weeks earlier on March 2. Another change updates the procedure that county officials must follow when an absentee ballot is rejected.

GEORGIA BUDGET

In push for efficiency, Georgia agencies brace for cuts

ATLANTA (AP) — Proposed budget cuts in Georgia could mean fewer state troopers on the road, fewer lawyers defending poor people and fewer probation officers. That's what state agency heads told lawmakers Wednesday as budget hearings continued. Gov. Brian Kemp has proposed overall increases to the state budget. The Republican would spend more on teacher pay and funding for K-12 schools, colleges and universities. He'd also spend more on the Medicaid health insurance program. But Kemp has proposed more than $200 million in cuts to other agencies for the remainder of the current budget year, and more for next year. Kemp says the cuts will clear the way for his spending priorities and offset lagging state revenues.