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NASCAR moves up start of Atlanta race due to threat of rain

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) - The start of Sunday's Monster Energy Cup race has been moved up one hour because of the threat of rain.

The race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will now start at 1:06 p.m. EST.

According to weather.com, there is an 80 percent chance of rain Sunday, with the probability increasing during the day. There is a 100 percent chance of rain Monday, causing additional complications for NASCAR crews that must move equipment to Las Vegas for next week's event.

Kyle Busch won the pole Friday, edging Ryan Newman. Brad Keselowski won last year's race.

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For more AP racing coverage: http://racing.ap.org

NASCAR moves up start of Atlanta race due to threat of rain

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) - The start of Sunday's Monster Energy Cup race has been moved up one hour because of the threat of rain.

The race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will now start at 1:06 p.m. EST.

According to weather.com, there is an 80 percent chance of rain Sunday, with the probability increasing during the day. There is a 100 percent chance of rain Monday, causing additional complications for NASCAR crews that must move equipment to Las Vegas for next week's event.

Kyle Busch won the pole Friday, edging Ryan Newman. Brad Keselowski won last year's race.

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For more AP racing coverage: http://racing.ap.org

Conservation group offers ride from coast to Georgia Capitol

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) - A Georgia conservation group is offering coastal residents a free bus trip to the state Capitol to meet with lawmakers on environmental issues.

The Brunswick News reports the nonprofit group One Hundred Miles plans to take a bus from Savannah to the statehouse in Atlanta on Thursday. Kelly Patton, the group's coastal education coordinator, says the trip will give coastal residents a chance to share their concerns face-to-face with legislators.

Megan Desrosiers, executive director of One Hundred Miles, said the group's top issues this year include stricter regulations on toxic coal ash and opposing efforts to open waters off the Georgia coast to oil drilling. She said it's often hard for coastal Georgians to make their voices heard at the Capitol because the trip takes more than five hours.

GOP tax law leads to a tax hike, more revenue in some states

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Republican tax overhaul is giving most Americans a break on their federal income taxes. But fallout from the same law means many people could actually see their state income taxes rise.

For some state governments, the prospect of getting more revenue without actively raising taxes is almost too good to be true, but it also forces Republican governors and lawmakers into a corner. Do they stay true to the party's long-standing tax-cut philosophy or keep the extra money rolling in to address their states' budget gaps and other spending priorities?

The answer so far in this year's still-young legislative sessions: It depends.

Pushes to reduce taxes have arisen in Republican-leaning states including Iowa, Michigan, Utah and Georgia, where the GOP governor has proposed cuts after initially insisting the state should wait.

But in Louisiana, where the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature are grappling with a financial morass, there has been no proposal to return to taxpayers the expected revenue increase of $300 million in the budget year that starts July 1.

That's because the state is expecting a $1 billion shortfall and state legislatures, unlike Congress, are required to have balanced budgets.

"It was a like a gift from God," Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee said of the extra tax revenue. "If we weren't in a billion-dollar shortfall, maybe we would have had those discussions. But when the money came in, everybody was like, 'Wow, the timing could not be better for the state.'"

Workers in the state saw more in their paychecks in January when employers changed federal withholding, but noticed another change in February: Withholding was up a bit to reflect higher state taxes. Lawmakers said they have been getting questions from constituents about that.

"They're still coming out ahead. They're still getting a benefit overall," said Rep. Nancy Landry, a Republican. "I think they realize that. They know that we're having a budget deficit. Nobody's asking that the money be returned to them."

States are still sorting out what the GOP tax overhaul adopted by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in December will mean for them, and the answers depend largely on how each state's tax policy is linked to federal law. In some states, the changes could be immediate; in others, they're likely to take time.

"In most states, if legislators fail to act, there will be an unlegislated tax increase in effect," said Jared Wolczak, a senior analyst at the conservative Tax Foundation.

One of the big changes under the new tax law is the elimination of personal exemptions. A bigger standard deduction, higher child tax credits and lower tax rate will mean lower federal taxes for most. But the loss of the exemptions in states means more of residents' income is taxed.

In a handful of states, including Louisiana, the ability to deduct federal taxes paid on state income tax returns is a major factor. Anyone paying less in federal taxes can see their state bill rise.

States' own estimates of the impact run from around $100 million annually in Idaho and Iowa to $800 million in Minnesota. Oregon expects revenue to be down.

Meg Wiehe, deputy director of the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, recommended against states making tax cuts now because the effects of the federal changes remain uncertain and many of them are technically temporary.

Since the GOP tax law took effect, Georgia has raised its forecast for how much new money it could bring the state. Officials now expect that if the state took no action, it would have an additional $5.2 billion over five years - from higher state taxes on Georgia residents.

A driving force there is a state law that requires people who use the standard deduction on federal returns to also use it when they file their state taxes. The higher federal standard deduction means itemizing isn't advantageous for as many people when they file federal taxes.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican in his final year in office, initially called for waiting until the impact was clearer - and he was out of office - to address the state tax situation. That didn't sit well with three Republicans running to replace Deal who said any extra revenue should be returned to taxpayers.

"Windfall is a very pleasant word, but we are debating whether to take more in taxes or not," said one of them, state Sen. Michael Williams. "We can afford to adjust our budget to ensure Georgians are paying less in taxes."

The pressure worked. This month, Deal changed course and announced a plan that doubles the state standard deduction and cuts rates. A state projection found that with those measures in place, state revenue would be down by about $500 million over five years.

Kansas has had deep budget problems for years, after the income tax cuts championed by former Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, failed to provide the economic stimulus he had promised. Last year, lawmakers agreed to raise taxes, and the state's top court ordered lawmakers to pump more money into public schools.

Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the state's largest teachers union, said that's why the $505 million expected to come to the state over three years because of the federal tax changes is so welcome.

"It seems to me the wise thing to do would be to take advantage of this so that you don't have to raise taxes to deal with all of those things, or you can raise them less if you find you need to and see where it goes," he said.

But that might not be the course followed by the Republicans who control the Legislature.

House Taxation Committee Chairman Steven Johnson said he is working on a bill that would allow people to itemize on their state taxes even if they don't on their federal returns.

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Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Bed Nadler in Atlanta also contributed to this article.

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Follow Deslatte at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte and Mulvihill at http://twitter.com/geoffmulvihill

Transit overhaul a top issue as lawmakers approach deadline

ATLANTA (AP) - Wednesday marks a key deadline for Georgia lawmakers, since bills need pass at least one chamber by then to remain alive for the session, which ends in late March.

There are ways around the looming deadline, but legislators try to pass as many bills as possible and are expected to work late into the night.

Here is a look at some of the top issues that could come up by Wednesday:

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METRO ATLANTA TRANSIT

The House and Senate Transportation Committees on Thursday both advanced similar proposals that would establish a regional transit authority, called the ATL, aimed at improving metro Atlanta's commuting infrastructure.

Each measure is expected to see a vote before their respective chambers early next week.

Under the House version, the ATL would be responsible for creating a plan to tackle the region's mounting transit concerns and would have the authority to approve access to new sources of funding.

The sponsor of the House bill, chairman of the House Transportation Committee Kevin Tanner, a Dawsonville Republican, said the House and Senate transit groups have been in consultation, but substantial differences remain between the two chambers' bills.

Under both plans, existing providers - including MARTA - would maintain some operational autonomy, but the entire system would be rebranded ATL by 2023.

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HIDDEN PREDATORS

Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, is trying to convince his colleagues to expand the number of years that childhood sexual assault victims can wait before suing those who had preyed on them.

Currently, the state's Hidden Predator Act gives victims until the age of 23 to file a lawsuit. Spencer's proposal, which is awaiting a hearing in front of a House committee, seeks to expand the civil statute of limitations by 15 years, giving victims the ability to sue for damages until they turn 38.

Proponents argue that it could take decades before a victim to be ready to confront his or her abuser.

Spencer's bill would also expand those who could be targeted in lawsuits to include organizations, businesses and churches accused of ignoring reports of abuse.

Spencer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that lobbyists for organizations including the Boy Scouts of America have been working behind the scenes to try to stifle the measure, fearful that they will be held liable for abuse that took place years ago.

In a statement, the Boy Scouts told the newspaper that they support parts of the proposal, but think some elements "would hinder the ability of youth-serving organizations to protect the children they serve."

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BAIL OVERHAUL

The clock is ticking for legislators to take up the final pieces of Gov. Nathan Deal's years-long initiative to overhaul the state's criminal justice system by keeping fewer nonviolent offenders behind bars.

Included among his latest criminal justice package is a proposal that would give judges more leeway in forgoing cash bail for low-income offenders held for nonviolent offenses and more opportunities to impose community service rather than fines.

That measure was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, despite the criticism it received from one sheriff, who, in an email, said Deal had done more for perpetrators of crime than "Lucifer and his demons combined." It is scheduled to receive a vote on the Senate floor on Monday.

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DISTRACTED DRIVING

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to have Georgia become the 16th state in the nation to outlaw drivers from holding their phones while driving.

Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, says drivers have become all too used to checking Instagram or texting friends while they are behind the wheel.

The proliferation of smartphones has led the state to experience a spike in both fatal crashes and auto insurance premiums, he said.

Georgia already has a law against distracted drivers, but authorities say enforcement is hindered by their inability to determine whether a driver is texting or dialing their phone, which is currently legal.

Carson's proposal passed a House committee Wednesday and is awaiting debate on the House floor.

#MeToo movement inspires mom to seek justice

ATLANTA (AP) - For the longest time, Empress Rellise accepted other people's impressions of her. She was, in their eyes, a promiscuous whore, a nymphomaniac.

The problem with that is she never had a choice in the matter. No 5-year-old girl, or boy for that matter, ever does.

Most 5-year-olds know their address and phone number. They can recognize most letters of the alphabet and they can count. But they don't just decide one day to have sex in the back seat of their father's car and with their father's friend.

If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it is this: Children are ill-equipped to process such a crime, let alone report it. Empress Rellise was no different and she has suffered every day since.

At least now at age 25, she's starting to try to work her way out of the darkness and seek justice.

It might not have been, had it not been for those two simple words, "Me too," that began appearing late last year on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.

The hashtag, by activist Tarana Burke and popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, spread like a fire as women across the country and around the world began to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault.

"If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me Too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem," Milano wrote in a tweet that went viral.

Rellise took notice.

"I saw all these women coming forward and thought if they could come forward after 20 years, maybe I could, too," she said. "I'm not a celebrity. I'm just a regular person. I went through it, too."

Her story began at age 5 in her father's car, but it would not end until well into her teens.

After that first encounter, she said, she found herself doing to other children her age what had been done to her.

"As a matter of fact, it seemed like all the kids were doing it with each other," the Marietta mother of three said. "When caught, they were punished, but no one cared to find out who taught that to them."

On Oct. 31, 2006, at the age of 13, she was drugged and then gang-raped. When she shared her truth with a man she trusted later that same day, he raped her, too.

"I don't know why you thought you were going to get a free ride home," he told her after.

A relative who happened to be the man's girlfriend tape-recorded Empress recounting the tale and then played it for her father.

"He thought I was just having sex with these guys," she said. "I was grounded and I left it at that. I never talked about it again. I still haven't fully grasped it as rape. I don't even know how to explain it or what to call it. I was 13 and I knew and trusted these people."

The next year, she and her father moved here from Antigua, where the abuse happened.

But nothing really changed, and by 15, she was pregnant. Family members believed she was just a rebellious teen.

Rellise began to see herself the way they did.

"They said I was a whore," she said. "I decided that I was a nymphomaniac."

One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18, and 80 to 90 percent of prostituted youths have a history of sexual or physical abuse, according to Marta Martinez Hasty, a licensed therapist and vice president of the board of directors at Kristi House, a Miami-based nonprofit dedicated to healing and eradicating childhood sexual abuse.

That abuse can and often does lead to a whole host of problems, including promiscuity, Hasty said, because the behaviors are considered normal and become a conditioned response, depending on the severity.

"A girl having been sexually abused at the age of 5 and engaging in overly sexualized behaviors in their adolescent and adult years is sadly something that often happens," she said. "Sexual abuse typically does not occur one time and is a manipulation of the child's or adolescent's trust and emotions.

"Most children and adolescents don't understand that they have been sexually abused, as most sexual abuse takes place by a person that they trust and that their family trusts," Hasty said. "Usually, it's when the child or adolescent becomes educated on abuse at school or by their parent that they realize they have actually been victims."

Children and adolescents, she said, are "groomed" by their abusers, meaning that they start with smaller, more innocent-type touching to allow the child to feel more comfortable with sexual touching and behaviors, then it leads to more advanced touching, exposure of sexual material and possible intercourse.

Sexual knowledge that seems too advanced for a child's age, consistently touching or rubbing their genital area in public or in private, imitating intercourse, or trying to engage children in sexualized play and taking clothes off are all signs of abuse.

In addition, Hasty said, adolescents may show signs of eating disorders as well as promiscuity beginning at a young age.

"Promiscuity could also be a way to manage anxiety and stress as a form of release," she said.

Some additional signs and behaviors are dramatic changes in sleep patterns, running away, cutting or causing pain to themselves, attempt or talk of suicide, loss of interest in activities the child once enjoyed, use of drugs or alcohol and more.

In 2014, after several suicide attempts, Rellise was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness her doctor said was triggered by years of abuse.

Nothing helped, not until she started writing it all down, putting it out there in a small memoir titled "Monsters in Paradise: A Short Story of Child Abuse, Victim Shaming and Mental Illness in the Americas."

Since publishing her story, Rellise said dozens of women have come forward about the shame they feel from the abuse they suffered.

"There are so many girls being promiscuous and being shamed for something that happened to them," she said. "But we're the real victims. What many people do not know is that these teen girls are being preyed on by adult men who groom them into trusting them."

Rellise is seeking legal assistance to finally bring charges against one of the men who abused her while growing up in Antigua. "It's already been 10 years, but even if they are not prosecuted, I just want everyone to know what they have done," she said. "I know that they are still doing it."

Since producer Harvey Weinstein became the tipping point for the MeToo movement, dozens of menfrom Charlie Rose to Matt Lauer to Mario Batali have toppled like bowling pins over sexual misconduct accounts sweeping them out corporate doors.

That's all fine and good, but what about other less famous men who are equally guilty?

To date, Rellise said the onus has been on women to share their stories, but she fears little will change until everyone starts to take victims like her seriously, and the perpetrators are brought to justice.

#MeToo.

AP Top Georgia Headlines at 9:29 a.m. EST

Transit overhaul a top issue as lawmakers approach deadline

Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges Hall: Ban assault weapons

New execution date set for Georgia's 'stocking strangler'

Ossoff not seeking rematch in Georgia race for US House seat

Police say CDC employee missing after calling in sick

Winning numbers drawn in 'Cash 3 Night' game

ATLANTA (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's "Cash 3 Night" game were:

8-2-9

(eight, two, nine)

Winning numbers drawn in 'Cash 4 Night' game

ATLANTA (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's "Cash 4 Night" game were:

8-6-2-5

(eight, six, two, five)

Winning numbers drawn in 'Fantasy 5' game

ATLANTA (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's "Fantasy 5" game were:

08-13-28-29-31

(eight, thirteen, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty-one)

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