Michelle Wirth

Reporter

Michelle comes to WABE after working at KMOX, the CBS radio affiliate in St. Louis, as a county government and general assignment reporter. Before joining KMOX, Michelle served as a medical and general assignment reporter at WSAV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Savannah, GA and as a state government and general assignment reporter at KOMU-TV in Columbia, MO. Michelle has a Master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Denver. She lives in Midtown with her husband, Bryan, and her dog, Chewy.

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Local
5:56 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Educators Pleased About Potential Changes to the State Health Benefit Plan

Credit Ga. Dept. of Community Health

Several education organizations are pleased the state plans to increase the number of providers and health plan options for state employees next year. The announcement by the state comes after state employees raised concerns about Georgia selecting Blue Cross Blue Shield as its only insurer this year for the State Health Benefit Plan.

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Local
10:17 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Georgia State Hires Chief Innovation Officer

Credit Georgia State University

Georgia State University has hired its first chief innovation officer.

The university hired Phil Ventimiglia, former NCR Corporation vice president for innovation and new product development. Ventimiglia started the position week and will head the university’s Information Systems and Technology Department. He also plans to explore new technology solutions both in and out of the classroom.

“My position on this that it’s that it’s not to go and remove the classroom from the equation but really to augment the classroom with other modalities of learning.”

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Health & Science
10:01 am
Fri April 18, 2014

220,000 Georgians Sign up for Health Insurance Exchange

Fulton County residents listen to a presentation on the Affordable Care Act given by Enroll America last October.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

The state says more than 220,000 Georgians have signed up for insurance coverage under a federal health exchange that’s part of the Affordable Care Act.

The numbers were gathered from insurance companies participating in the exchange. State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens says of the more than 220,000 Georgians who applied a little less than half have paid for policies and most are receiving a federal subsidy. Hudgens is an opponent of the law. He says Georgia’s numbers lead him to believe national enrollment numbers are inflated.

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Local
4:14 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Federal Government Warns Georgia Food Stamp Program, Also Notes Progress

Credit USDA

Georgia continues to remain at risk for losing millions of dollars in federal funding due to an application backlog and other issues with its food stamp program. The federal government issued a formal warning letter to the state yesterday but is also recognizing the state’s progress.

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Local
5:52 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Local Synagogues Heighten Security After Kansas Shootings

Credit joshbousel/Flickr / http://bit.ly/1kqhHmZ

Passover begins at sundown Monday night and some local Jewish institutions and synagogues are being extra vigilant. A man suspected of being a white supremacist killed three people outside a Jewish Community Center and a nearby assisted living facility in Kansas this past weekend.

Laurence Rosenthal is a Rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta. He says his congregation is moving forward with Passover events as scheduled, but the shootings have prompted extra security precautions.

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Medical Marijuana
4:46 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

State Lawmaker Says Medical Marijuana Legislation Still Needed

Credit Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon)

A state lawmaker is pleased Gov. Nathan Deal is taking steps to help children with seizure disorders potentially obtain an oil based form of medical marijuana. However, State Representative Allen Peake says there is still a need to make the oil legal in Georgia.

On Thursday, Gov. Deal said an FDA clinical trial being done by a private company could potentially be expanded along with the help of Georgia Regents University. It would allow some Georgia children with seizure disorders to receive a pure form of cannabis oil.

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Local
6:53 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Gov. Deal Announces Medical Marijuana and Foster Care Privatization Pathways

On Thursday, Gov. Deal announced two potential pathways Georgia can take to help those with seizure disorders obtain an oil based form of medical marijuana without legislative approval.  Deal also announced the establishment of a pilot project for some privatization of the state's child welfare system.

Gov. Deal says the state has been in talks with the FDA to help as many Georgia children as possible with seizure disorders receive cannabis oil in a safe and legal manner.

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Local
6:20 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Gun Group Argues "Stand Your Ground" Lawsuit Invalid Due To Improper Procedure

Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, speaks during a press conference to announce it planned to file a lawsuit challenging Georgia's "stand your ground" law.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Will a lawsuit filed by the Rainbow Push Coalition and others challenging Georgia’s so called “Stand Your Ground” law be dismissed over a technicality?

Last month, a group hoping to intervene in the case asked a federal judge to dismiss it because it claimed Georgia’s Attorney General and Governor Nathan Deal were never served with the lawsuit. But attorneys filing the lawsuit responded this week and said they attempted to serve both state officials.

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Local
6:05 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Gubernatorial Candidates Report Finances as Primary Nears

Georgia’s incumbent governor continues to have the most cash on hand in the upcoming gubernatorial contest, but Democratic candidate and state Senator Jason Carter has raised a significant amount of money.

On Monday, Governor Deal reported having $3.9 million dollars on hand for his reelection campaign. Since the legislative session ended, Deal has raised more than $84,000. Jen Talaber is a spokesperson for Governor Deal’s campaign.

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Local
6:01 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Judge Delays Dr. Beverly Hall's Trial

Dr. Laura Weakland, Dr. Hall's oncologist, testified Monday in Fulton County Superior Court.
Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Fulton County Superior Court judge Monday granted a 4 month delay in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial against former superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall. That means the trial will start in August instead of this month. Attorneys for Hall called for a delay due to Hall’s medical condition. She has Stage IV breast cancer.

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Developing
4:23 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Judge Postpones Beverly Hall's Trial Until August Due To Health Concerns

Dr. Beverly Hall
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

TWEETS FROM THE COURTROOM: After a hearing where he heard competing views of Dr. Beverly Hall's health, Judge Jerry Baxter ruled that he will delay the trial of Dr. Hall until August because of her health.

Dr. Hall's oncologist, Dr. Laura Weakland of Georgia Cancer Specialists, testified about Dr. Hall's health at the request of Judge Baxter.  Dr. Hall has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and her lawyers had requested a delay of her trial.

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Local
5:23 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

State Falls Short of Federal Food Stamp Deadline

SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Credit USDA

  Georgia officials say they fell just short of a federal deadline to complete thousands of backlogged food stamp cases. Missing the number of food stamp applications it needed to finish by April 1 could put the state closer to losing millions of dollars from the federal government.

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Health & Science
8:34 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Autism Advocates Continue Push for Treatment Coverage

Anna Bullard speaks alongside lawmakers who advocated for autism coverage legislation. (L to R: Sen. Fran Millar, Sen. Josh McKoon and Sen Renee Unterman)
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

On Autism Awareness Day, a group of state lawmakers and advocates spoke about the rising prevalence of autism. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimates 1 in 64 Georgia children has autism spectrum disorder. Advocates say that’s why private insurance companies need to cover autism treatment for young children. However, efforts to provide the coverage failed this year in the state legislature.

Anna Bullard says her daughter Ava was 2 and a half years old when she was first diagnosed with autism.

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Local
9:49 am
Wed April 2, 2014

State Silent on Food Stamp Report

SNAP: Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program
Credit USDA

  With millions of federal dollars potentially on the line, Georgia has submitted its latest progress report to federal officials on the administration of its food stamp system. However, state officials are not saying whether they were able to resolve more than 20,000 backlogged cases they were ordered to complete by yesterday.

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Local
6:10 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

National Right to Life Cuts Ties With Georgia Pro-Life Group

Pro-life supporters hold a sign during a rally sponsored by Georgia Right to Life at the state Capitol earlier this year.
Credit Katie King/WABE

After more than 40 years, National Right to Life is cutting ties with its Georgia pro-life affiliate. Over the weekend, National Right to Life announced the organization is dropping Georgia Right to Life. Instead, the national organization will back the Georgia Life Alliance, which is based out of Rome, Georgia.

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Health & Science
5:35 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

CDC Report: Autism Rates on the Rise

Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is on the rise both in Georgia and nationally. A new report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 30% increase from a study released two years ago.

The report looked at records in 11 states and found that 1 in 68 of the eight year olds studied in 2010 were diagnosed with autism. In Georgia, that number is 1 in 64, which experts say closely resembles the national estimates.  Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp is chief of the developmental disabilities branch at the CDC.

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Medical Marijuana
5:00 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Legal Expert Weighs in on Possible Medical Marijuana Fix

Credit The National Legal Aid & Defender Association

After a medical marijuana bill failed to reach his desk, Governor Deal said he would explore whether anything can be done before the next legislative session to allow Georgians with seizure disorders to legally use an oil based form of marijuana.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears says she thinks it would be difficult for the governor to accomplish that through an executive order. But she says there might be something that can be done administratively.

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Politics
10:52 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Associations Raise Concerns About Gun Bill on Gov. Deal's Desk

The Georgia Municipal Association says a gun bill passed by state lawmakers could be costly for a number of Georgia cities. The Association is also worried the bill could leave cities open to lawsuits. The bill is also drawing some concern from law enforcement officials.

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Local
4:59 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Common Cause Board Member: Cobb Should Have Been More Straightforward About Stadium Costs

Terry Taylor serves on the board for Common Cause Georgia.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Common Cause Georgia board member says Cobb County officials were not as straightforward as they should have been about the total public cost of a new Atlanta Braves Stadium.

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Local
6:22 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Gov. Deal Could Use Executive Powers for Child Welfare Privatization Pilot

Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Now that the 2014 legislative session is over, Governor Deal has numerous bills to consider signing including one that would expand gun rights in churches, bars and some government buildings. Deal did not definitively say whether he would sign that bill, but he alluded to the possibility by making positive comments about final language contained in the legislation. Deal also said he could use his executive powers on at least one issue that failed to gain passage.

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Politics
6:13 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Bill Easing Gun Restrictions Heads to Governor Deal

Lawmakers celebrate the end of the 2014 legislative session. The gun bill was one of the bills to gain final passage on day 40.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Unlike last year, House and Senate lawmakers this year reached a deal on legislation to expand gun rights in places like bars, churches, and some government buildings.  The bill now goes to Governor Deal’s desk.

The Georgia House agreed with the Senate Version of the bill during the last hour of legislative session. That led to this announcement by Senator Bill Heath:

“Mr. President I believe that the House has finally come along in representing Georgia’s gun owners and protecting themselves.”

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Local
5:50 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

The Georgia Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill 54-0 that would allow for those with seizure disorders to legally use an oil based form of medical marijuana in Georgia. But because of language attached for autism treatment coverage, the bill is expected to have an uphill climb in the House.

Under the Senate version of the bill, it would be legal for those with seizure disorders and their families to obtain an oil based form of marijuana called cannabidiol from states where marijuana is legal like Colorado.

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Local
10:05 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Senate Makes Changes to Controversial Gun Bill

Picture of a gun that was confiscated at a security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2012.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Senators made changes to a House bill that would expand gun rights. 

Under the Senate version, churches would be allowed to opt in rather than opt out of the law.

Senator Tommie Williams spoke in favor of the change.

“One of the things that has concerned me is the faith community and their position.”

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Local
9:47 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Despite Protests, Bill Moving Medicaid Expansion Decisions Heads to Gov. Deal

A tweet from Michelle Wirth showing some of the Moral Monday protesters being escorted from the Senate gallery. They were protesting the lack of Medicaid expansion in Georgia.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A controversial bill that would take any future decisions about Medicaid expansion out of the hands of the governor and into those of the state legislature is on its way to Governor Deal. The Georgia Senate passed the bill 35 to 19, mainly along party lines.

 

Republicans like Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Renee Unterman said since the legislature is in charge of passing the budget, it should also make decisions about Medicaid expansion.

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Local
9:24 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Georgia Legislature Passes Insurance Coverage Ban for Abortions

Senator Judson Hill (R-Marietta) sponsored the bill.
Credit Georgia Senate

A controversial bill is on its way to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. It would prohibit abortion coverage in the State Health Benefit Plan and under a federal healthcare exchange that Georgians can participate in under the Affordable Care Act.  On Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill after the House changed the measure. 

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Politics
5:41 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Bill Aimed at Blocking Affordable Care Act Exchanges Hits Major Roadblock

Rep. Jason Spencer appears in front of the Senate Rules Committee on Monday.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

It appears House bill 707 will not pass this legislative session. But the bill's sponsor is vowing to continue to fight and says language contained in the bill still has life.

House bill 707 would prohibit state departments or local governments from operating health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The measure would also bar state employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion.

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Local
4:24 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Autism Coverage Supporters Fight to Keep Bill Alive

Sen. Renee Unterman
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Senate bill stalled in the Georgia House would require private insurance companies to provide autism treatment coverage for those six and under. With only two legislative days left, bill sponsors have combined it with several other pieces of legislation.

On Thursday, Senator Renee Unterman combined Senate bill 397 with a House bill that would cap the amount insurers can charge per prescription for oral chemotherapy drugs.

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Local
10:07 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Senate Approves Ten Commandments Monument for Capitol

John Albers (R-Roswell) spoke in support of the bill authorizing a monument to include the Ten Commandments be placed on the Capitol grounds as long as the money for it came from private sources.
Credit Georgia Senate

 The Georgia Senate passed a House bill yesterday to place a historic granite monument depicting the Ten Commandments and two other documents inside the state Capitol or somewhere on Capitol grounds. Those who objected to the bill raised concerns over the separation of church and state.

 

Under the bill, in addition to the Ten Commandments the monument would also depict the preamble to Georgia’s constitution and part of the declaration of independence. Republican Senator John Albers supported the bill.

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Local
4:41 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Georgia Senate Approves MLK Statue

Sen. Gail Davenport speaks in support of the bill on the Senate floor.

Placing a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Georgia Capitol grounds is one step closer to reality. That’s after the Georgia Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday allowing for the statue to be put somewhere on the grounds or in another prominent place.

Senators approved a statue for the late civil rights icon with a vote of 49 to 1. Under the bill, the statue would be funded with private money and would go up as soon as is practical. Democratic State Senator Gail Davenport sponsored the bill in the Senate.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Ga. House Tries To Force Vote On Gun Bill

HB 875 co-sponsor and Public Safety Chair Alan Powell, R-Hartwell.

The state House is trying to force the hand of their Senate colleagues on sweeping gun legislation.

In a surprise move Tuesday, the House removed a provision that would have reduced the penalty for gun permit holders if caught carrying on a college campus. Then, it attached that bill to a separate piece of legislation and sent it to the Senate for an immediate floor vote.

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