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
6:19 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Local Leaders Concerned About House Transportation Bill

Under the current proposal, the state would raise the excise tax on gas and eliminate state and local sales taxes.
Credit futureatlas.com / Flickr.com

Some local leaders are raising concerns about a Georgia House plan put forward this week that would raise more than $1 billion for transportation.

Under the current proposal, the state would raise the excise tax on gas and eliminate state and local sales taxes. If the bill is approved in its current form, local governments could lose up to a 3 percent sales tax on gas. They could instead add a 3-cents-per-gallon excise tax on gas, and an additional 3-cents-per-gallon by referendum.

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Politics
7:08 am
Fri January 30, 2015

House Speaker Open To Vote On Autism Therapy Coverage Bill

Georgia’s House Speaker David Ralston says he’s open to a vote on the autism treatment coverage bill.
Credit Jonathan Shapiro / WABE

A proposal to provide autism treatment coverage for young children was overwhelmingly approved by the Georgia Senate Thursday. Lawmakers voted 54 to zero for a bill that would require private insurers to give coverage to children with Autism who are six and younger. The legislation could face a tougher road in the House. But Georgia’s House Speaker David Ralston says he’s open to a vote on the bill.

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Politics
4:35 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Georgia Senate Greenlights Autism Treatment Coverage Bill

The Georgia Senate approved a bill requiring private insurers to cover autism treatment coverage for children six and under.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Thousands of Georgia children with autism are one step closer to getting treatment. On Thursday, the Georgia Senate approved a bill 54 to zero requiring private insurers to cover autism treatment coverage for children six and under.

This is the second year in a row senators have gotten behind autism treatment coverage.  They say it’s needed as the prevalence of the disorder increases. Senator Charlie Bethel says in Georgia one in every 64 children has been diagnosed with autism.

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Politics
5:16 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

'Religious Freedom' Bill Debate Heats Up At Georgia Capitol

A rolling billboard in opposition to "religious freedom" legislation circles the Georgia Capitol.
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

Baptists are divided on “religious freedom” legislation that’s been proposed in Georgia’s statehouse. On Wednesday, dueling groups of Baptist preachers showed up at the Capitol to speak for and against the bill.

On one side of the Capitol, a large group of Southern Baptists gathered in support along with bill sponsor Rep. Sam Teasley. Sen. Josh McKoon, who plans to propose a similar bill in the Georgia Senate was also there.

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Politics
6:00 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Beer Sales Bill On Tap In Georgia Senate

Under current Georgia law, only distributors can buy beer from breweries.
Credit Flickr/Jan Zeschky

A state lawmaker is expected to file legislation today that would allow breweries to be able to sell beer directly to their customers. Under current Georgia law, only distributors can buy beer from breweries.

Right now, the only way to get a beer at a local brewery is to buy a souvenir mug and get free tastings. Sen. Hunter Hill wants to change that.  His bill would allow beer lovers to buy and drink up to six beers while at a brewery. Hill says brewers would also be able to sell the equivalent of a 12-pack per person to take home.

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Local
6:29 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Medicaid Expansion Supporters Lobby At Georgia's Capitol

Members of Cover Georgia talk about the "coverage gap" at the Georgia Capitol.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE News

A coalition that’s been pushing for Georgia to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act lobbied at the state Capitol Tuesday. The groups say too many Georgians are falling into a coverage gap for health insurance.

30-year-old Jessica O’Quinn doesn’t qualify for Medicaid and is too poor to get tax credits under the federal exchange. She recently got sick and had to go to the hospital.

“They asked me if I was on any kind of insurance, and I said no, and know I’m going to billed for a lot of money I can’t pay.”

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Local
6:00 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Autism Treatment Coverage Bill Advances To Senate

Judith Ursitti from Autism Speaks testifies before the Georgia Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

A controversial state Senate bill cleared its first hurdle Monday. The legislation would require private insurers to provide autism treatment coverage for children who are six and younger.

Judith Ursitti has two children with autism.  She’s also an advocate with Autism Speaks. Ursitti told the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee it’s heartbreaking to hear a pediatrician prescribe things like speech and behavioral therapy for your toddler only to find out they’re not covered by your insurance.

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Local
6:36 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Fulton County To Restore Library Hours

Judith Laroue checks on the books she placed on hold at the county's East Atlanta library branch.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE Radio

If you live in Fulton County, you’ll soon be able to go to the library more often. That’s because the County Commission voted to restore hours that were cut from the Atlanta-Fulton Library System last year. It’s a move that many Fulton residents are happy about.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

DeKalb CEO Wants To Move Government Center Out Of Decatur

DeKalb CEO Lee May announces a proposal to move the DeKalb Government Center out of Decatur during his Thursday State of the County address.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

DeKalb County’s Government Center could move from downtown Decatur to Memorial Drive. DeKalb CEO Lee May announced the relocation proposal today during his state of the county address.

CEO May says the move is needed because it would spur redevelopment along the Memorial Drive corridor. He believes that’s essential for DeKalb’s future.

“This vision is about giving attention to a part of the county that has been neglected for decades.”

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Local
6:00 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Georgia Trails Most Southern States In Professor Salaries

University System of Georgia chancellor Henry "Hank" Huckaby, left, sits next to Gov. Nathan Deal during an installation ceremony at the Capitol in Atlanta on Nov. 9, 2011.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press

When it comes to paying its professors, Georgia continues to lag behind many other southern states. That’s what the chancellor of Georgia’s University System told state lawmakers yesterday.

During a budget presentation at the Capitol, Chancellor Hank Huckaby said, according to the most recent data available, Georgia ranks ninth for average faculty salary. That’s out of 15 states that are members of the Southern Regional Education Board.

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Local
5:31 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Huckaby Gives More Details On GSU And Georgia Perimeter College Merger

Chancellor Hank Huckaby, seen here in 2011, says one of the reasons he wants to combine the schools is to improve graduation rates at Georgia Perimeter College.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

The Chancellor for the University System of Georgia gave a few more details this week on plans to combine Georgia State University with Georgia Perimeter College.

Chancellor Hank Huckaby says one of the reasons he wants to combine the schools is to improve graduation rates at Georgia Perimeter College.

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Local
6:49 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Residents Weigh In On Proposed Trolley For Braves Stadium, Marietta Square

Marietta Square would be one of the places the proposed trolley would stop.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

By the time a new Atlanta Braves stadium opens in Cobb County, Marietta residents might be able to go there by trolley. Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin has proposed a trolley on wheels that would roll through the heart of the city’s square and possibly all the way to the baseball stadium.

Keyboard music fills Marietta Square around lunchtime. Most enjoying the city’s downtown or listening nearby say they would welcome a trolley to the area. Marietta resident Derek Engram says it would mean more customers and money for local businesses.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Capitol MLK Statue To Overlook Liberty Plaza

The statue of King will go on the Capitol’s east side — close to the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Capitol Avenue.
Credit atlexplorer / flickr.com/atlexplorer

Gov. Nathan Deal gave more details Friday about exactly where a statue to honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be placed at the Georgia Capitol. The comments come after Deal signed a bill to erect the statue last spring. 

During a ceremony to honor the late civil rights leader, Gov. Nathan Deal said the statue of King will go on the Capitol’s east side — close to the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Capitol Avenue.  

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Local
6:38 am
Fri January 16, 2015

Liberty Plaza Dedication Today

The newly constructed Liberty Plaza, which sits across the street from Georgia’s Capitol, will be dedicated today at 12:30 p.m. following an annual ceremony to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Credit Georgia Building Authority

The newly constructed Liberty Plaza, which sits across the street from Georgia’s Capitol, will be dedicated today at 12:30 p.m. following an annual ceremony to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

The more than $4 million plaza was supposed to be dedicated during governor Deal’s inauguration Monday. But rain forced the ceremony inside and the Liberty Plaza unveiling was postponed.

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Politics
6:43 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Minimum Wage And Education On House Democrats Agenda

Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Democrats in Georgia’s House are vastly outnumbered, but they’re hoping to make inroads in several key areas. On Thursday, they unveiled their legislative agenda.

House Democrats put their support behind 26 bills they say will increase educational opportunity and improve economic security for all Georgians.  They want to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams says, “As the state which is the 8th largest in the union, we certainly owe it to our families to offer them not only a good wage, but a livable wage.” 

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Politics
8:50 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Democrats Have Mixed Reactions To Deal's State of The State Address

Georgia’s top Democrats had mixed reactions to Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State address.
Credit Branden Camp / AP Photo

Georgia’s top Democrats had mixed reactions to Gov. Nathan Deal’s speech.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D─Tucker, was disappointed. He says Deal should have been more specific about how to increase transportation funding.

“I would have liked to have seen leadership today on how that formula and how that funding will come.”

Henson also says the governor didn’t mention a way to save Georgia hospitals that could shut down.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Georgia Lawmaker Would Risk Prison To Get Medical Marijuana To Families

State Rep. Allen Peake speaks on behalf of his bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Georgia for patients with certain illnesses.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

A state lawmaker says if other options fail, he’s willing to risk going to prison to help Georgia families get medical cannabis oil.

This year, state lawmakers will consider a bill to decriminalize cannabis oil for those with seizure disorders and other medical conditions.  But Georgians would still have to get the oil from other states, and that’s illegal under federal law. So to keep families from being arrested, bill sponsor Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, says he’s willing to bring the cannabis oil to Georgia himself.

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Politics
6:49 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Autism Treatment Insurance Coverage Bill Returns To Ga. Senate

Credit WABE 90.1 FM

A controversial bill that would require private insurers to provide autism treatment coverage for young children is back before state lawmakers.

The autism bill was one of the most hotly debated topics of last year’s session. This year’s proposal is nearly identical and would require insurers to cover children with autism who are six and under. Sen. Charlie Bethel is sponsoring the bill. He’s hopeful things will be different this time around.

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Politics
6:10 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Gov. Deal To Make Case For Transportation Funding Increase

Governor Nathan Deal During the State of the State Address Jan 15, 2014
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

On Wednesday morning, Governor Nathan Deal will highlight his priorities during the State of the State address at Georgia’s Capitol. The governor says he will provide direction on how the state can close an at least $1 billion dollar funding gap in transportation.

Governor Deal says the state has to find more money to unclog and improve Georgia’s roads and bridges. He made his position clear on Tuesday:

“I recognize its going to require additional funding to do the things we need."

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Politics
6:00 am
Tue January 13, 2015

Medical Marijuana Back On The Table

A bill proposed by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, was supposed to include a way to grow and distribute medical marijuana in Georgia, but that's no longer the case.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Medical marijuana is expected to be one of the major issues before the Georgia Legislature again this year. Originally, a bill proposed by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, was supposed to include a way to grow and distribute the medical marijuana here in Georgia. But that’s no longer the case.

The new bill would legalize the use of cannabis oil for those with seizure disorders and several other medical conditions. But it would have to come from other states and that violates federal law. To get around that, the bill says Georgia won’t prosecute those who need the oil.

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Local
6:00 am
Tue January 13, 2015

Moral Monday Returns: Group Protests Outside Deal Inauguration

Moral Monday members participate in a "die in" outside Gov. Nathan Deal's inauguration.
Michelle Wirth WABE News

Monday was inauguration day at the Georgia Capitol. But as Gov. Nathan Deal was being sworn in, several groups staged a protest nearby.

At least 50 protesters with a coalition known as “Moral Monday” marched as close as they could to the House Chambers where the inauguration was underway. But they were stopped by Capitol police once they reached the third floor. Then, they laid down and pretended to die. At that point, speakers like Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson voiced the group’s concerns.

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Local
5:49 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance Starts In Atlanta

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses an airport press conference on in 1965. This year's Martin Luther King Day celebrations marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Credit Larry Stoddard / Associated Press

A series of events begins today to commemorate the annual observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. 

The King Center will hold a reception tonight at 5:30 p.m.

The celebration will culminate Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the annual commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church at 10 a.m.

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Business
5:56 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Georgia Workers, Union Leaders Call For Minimum Wage Increase

Workers gathered together today to support raising the minimum wage to above Georgia's current $7.25 an hour.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

A coalition of union leaders, workers and workers' rights advocates rallied to raise the state’s minimum wage Wednesday. They support a proposal that calls for Georgia workers to earn a minimum of $15 per hour.

Right now, employers have to pay Georgia employees at least $7.25 an hour. At a union hall in downtown Atlanta, dozens of people called for more than twice that amount for workers like Rhonda Levitt. She currently works four part-time jobs to help support her grandchildren and her mother. But Levitt says still has trouble paying her bills.

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Local
7:01 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Georgia Medicaid Recipients Will Have A Harder Time Finding Doctors

Poor Georgians will have a more difficult time finding doctors this year, because fewer physicians will take Medicaid patients. They say the federal government is not paying enough for the care they provide to low-income residents.

 

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Local
5:12 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

State Wants Army To Do More Near Fort Gillem

Credit Evan Jang / WABE

The Army recently said it plans to install air ventilation systems in 22 homes near Fort Gillem. The action come after the houses tested positive for toxic vapor. But state environmental officials aren’t satisfied.

The Army announced last week it planned to install the ventilation systems. They’re supposed to reduce hazardous chemicals in the air, which the Army says may be linked to chemicals and pesticides that were buried at Fort Gillem.

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Business
4:42 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

Publix To Offer Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE News

Starting this year, Publix will offer same-sex marriage benefits to its employees. The southern grocery chain, which has a major presence here in Atlanta, will give full spousal benefits to couples who wed in states where gay marriage is legal. WABE’s Michelle Wirth got reaction from local residents.

Most local residents say they’re pleased Publix will offer the benefits. Terrence Cox is a Brookhaven resident.

“I think it’s fantastic.”

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Local
6:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Some Gas Stations Fear A Possible Fuel Tax Increase

Credit Rori-Tai Williams / WABE

A state study committee says Georgia needs to find at least $1 billion dollars a year to overcome a gap in transportation funding. This week, the committee came up with several ways state lawmakers could raise that money, including increasing the state gas tax. But that worries some gas stations.

Gas stations that would be concerned about any increase in the tax are those located along Georgia’s borders. Jim Tudor is with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. He says that’s because gas is already cheaper in states like Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

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Local
5:10 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Medical Marijuana Trial Gets Underway In Georgia

In April, Gov. Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) announced the state of Georgia, Georgia Regents University and GW Pharmaceuticals planned to establish clinical medical marijuana trials for epilepsy.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE News

The state’s first clinical trial for medical marijuana began this week.

The trial started Tuesday at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta. The subjects are two children who have type of epilepsy that doesn’t respond to conventional medication. The trial has the okay of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.

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Business
5:00 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Georgia Department Of Corrections Asks Google To Remove Video

Google didn’t give any specifics about who was in the video or where it was shot. But the Georgia Department of Corrections wanted to remove a video due to its “violent nature.”
Credit Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Google released its latest report on transparency this month. It says the Georgia Department of Corrections wanted to censor a YouTube video depicting the alleged abuse of inmates.

Google didn’t give any specifics about who was in the video or where it was shot. But the Georgia Department of Corrections wanted to remove it due to its “violent nature.” Ultimately, Google decided the content of the video didn’t violate YouTube’s community guidelines. Attorney Sarah Geraghty with the Southern Center for Human Rights says Google made the right call.

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Politics
6:00 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Campaigning Near The Holidays

Credit Chris Ferguson/WABE News

Imagine you’re running for office this time of year. What can you do to get your message out to voters in this season of presents and holiday cards? A few local candidates who are in that situation right now.

In the John’s Creek area, five candidates are competing in a special election for a state House seat. The District 50 contest is to replace Representative Lynne Riley. The problem is, the vote takes place just a few days after the New Year. Paul Troop is running as an independent. He says right now, he’s not even trying to break through all of the holiday clutter.

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