Georgia Briefs - Dec. 19, 2013

Two million-dollar tickets sold

COLUMBUS (MCT) — Tuesday was a good night for Georgia lottery players, and some of that fortune spread to Columbus, where a $1 million winning ticket was sold, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

There were two winning tickets in the $648 Mega Millions multi-state jackpot — and one of those was sold in Atlanta at a Buckhead newsstand.

But a $1 million winning ticket was sold at the Winn-Dixie grocery store on Hunt Avenue in south Columbus, according to a Georgia Lottery spokesperson in Atlanta. As of mid-afternoon, the Columbus winner had not stepped forward to claim the prize.

There was a second $1 million winner in Georgia, with that ticket purchased in Winder. The $1 million winners matched the five main numbers drawn, but did not get the correct mega ball number.

There were three $20,000 winners and 26 $5,000 winners in Georgia.

Aflac duck makes it to NYC Macy's

COLUMBUS (MCT) — The Aflac duck has long been a darling of Wall Street. But the pop culture phenomenon has legs ... or shall we say, webbed feet ... that extend to the original Macy's department store in New York City.

The duck, in its philanthropic role for Columbus-based Aflac, can be seen in one of the retailer's windows leading up to Christmas. Macy's is selling the plush holiday ducks online and in stores around the U.S., with proceeds going toward research and treatment of childhood cancer, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

"According to Macy's, the window will garner 7 million impressions over a two-week period, which is pretty impressive for a duck from Georgia," Aflac spokesman Jon Sullivan said Wednesday. "As far as we are concerned, when Macy's showcases a brand in the window of its famous flagship store, you know that brand has entered an extremely exclusive circle."

Of course, the duck also is now a regular in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with its giant balloon image working its way through the Big Apple's streets, along with Snoopy, Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Sen. Balfour takes stand at trial

ATLANTA (MCT) — State Sen. Don Balfour attempted to turn the tables on his accusers Wednesday by claiming the state actually owes him money, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Balfour, R-Snellville, on trial in Fulton County Superior Court for submitting inaccurate claims for mileage and expenses to the Legislature, picked apart the 18-count indictment to show jurors the state's figures overestimated how much he took.

For example, on one count the state claimed he was overpaid $17.72 in mileage. Using both the state and his own records, Balfour said the amount really was $12.87.

The amounts are less important than the overall impression Balfour's defense team is trying to create that Balfour is being prosecuted for making inadvertent errors to reimbursement claims when the state's own math may be faulty.

Moreover, Balfour said there are 115 days over five years he was working for the state when he did not claim a legislative per diem. That's more than $23,000 Balfour said he didn't claim.

"I should've gotten paid per diems for those days but for the fact that I didn't turn them in," he said. "It wasn't important. I wasn't there for the money."

Balfour was on the stand for more than an hour answering questions from his attorney, Ken Hodges. He will face cross examination from Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin this afternoon when the court returns from a lunch recess.

Earlier testimony for the defense began Wednesday with former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Georgia PSC OKs power rate hike

SAVANNAH (MCT) — The Georgia Public Service Commission unanimously approved a settlement Tuesday that will increase Georgia Power's rates by about a $100 a year for the average residential customer by 2016, the Savannah Morning News reported.

An initial rate increase of about $2 a month goes into effect Jan. 1. New Year's Day in 2015 and 2016 will bring further increases. The company, which has 2.3 million customers in Georgia, requested a rate hike $573 million larger than what was eventually agreed to. Instead of an 11.5 percent return on equity, that mark was knocked back to 10.95 percent.

"The company's retail return on common equity (ROE) will be set at 10.95 percent with a retail ROE range of 10 to 12 percent, so the agreement reached as part of this rate case provides us with the financial flexibility needed to continue to invest in Georgia's energy future, better serve our customers and meet shareholder expectations," said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.

Commissioner Tim Echols noted the agreement provides Georgia Power with "some additional revenue for operations and required pollution controls while lowering their return on equity."

"No one wants rates to go up, and we did our best to keep it to a minimum," Echols said.

Georgia Power proposed its new customer rate plan in its June 28 filing, originally including a fee on property owners who install solar panels on their homes or businesses starting in 2014. The commission conducted three rounds of hearings in October and November at which ratepayers and solar advocates roundly criticized the so-called "solar tariff," and the company backed off the idea. This decision is "a good example of the compromise brought about by the settlement process," Kraft said.

CEO killed in Tuesday plane crash

ATLANTA (MCT) — The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office has identified one of the two people killed in Tuesday night's crash of a business jet in northwest Atlanta as Peter J. Mallen, 67, of Atlanta.

Mallen, a licensed pilot, was the CEO of Norcross-based Mallen Industries, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Mallen Industries produces "high performance textile products for the industrial, automotive, active wear and intimate apparel industries," according to the company's website.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Mallen Industries was the registered owner of the twin-engine Raytheon 390 Premier I jet.

The name of the second person killed was being withheld Wednesday until relatives could be notified.

Residents of the northwest Atlanta neighborhood watched in horror Tuesday night as the small plane crashed and ignited, killing two people aboard.

"Before it even hit, the house shook," Drew Hawkins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Then I heard the explosion and it shook the house even more."