News

The head of Alabama's two-year college system is retiring.  

Mark Heinrich will step down as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System on April first.

   System trustees accepted his notice at a meeting in Montgomery on Wednesday. Heinrich has been on medical leave since August, with Jimmy Baker serving as acting chancellor.

   The Opelika-Auburn News reports that a statement from the system says Baker will continue in the position.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has appointed the state’s Attorney General Luther Strange to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate.

Sessions was confirmed yesterday as the 84th Attorney General of the United States, leaving a vacancy for Alabama’s representation in the Senate. Strange will begin serving in the Senate immediately and will hold the position until a special election is held during next year’s general elections. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Sessions’ term, which ends in 2020.

Sessions
AP

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is expected to face his peers in the U.S. Senate this evening in his bid to become the next Attorney General.

Sessions is widely expected to win confirmation as Attorney General. Reports indicate he has unanimous partisan support, and at least one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has pledged his support for Sessions.

 Governor Robert Bentley is using the first day of the legislative session to propose a 4-percent pay raise for state employees, a figure that immediately drew skepticism from some lawmakers over whether the state could afford it.   

Finance Director Clinton Carter announced the proposed raise during budget presentations Tuesday. The raise would cost the state general fund a projected $19 million.

Alabama lawmakers are back in Montgomery today to begin the 2017 legislative session.

One major priority will be redrawing legislative districts, after federal courts ruled the boundaries of 12 Alabama voting districts relied too heavily on race. Federal judges say they want new lines in place for next year’s elections, so lawmakers will need to work quickly to get a new legislative map in place.

 A longtime aide says former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is to be released from prison this week, nearing the end of a 6 and 1/2 sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.  

Friend and former aide Chip Hill says the ex-governor was told he'll be released to house arrest Wednesday. The 70-year-old Democrat is in a federal prison in Louisiana.

Siegelman was convicted of selling an appointment to a state health board in exchange for donations to his 1999 lottery campaign. Siegelman's supporters unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon for the former governor.

There's going to be more than a little clowning around in the Huntsville area starting tomorrow.

The Rocket City Clown Alley is starting its latest workshop on the fine art of clowning. The eight-week course starts tomorrow. The class covers all the bases of clowning, from face painting, to juggling, to character development.

Organizer Paul Carlton goes by the clown name Dr. Curley. He says having fun is the first step to clowning.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell has officially announced his bid for re-election.

Bell is seeking his second full four-year term as mayor of Birmingham.

Al.com reports Bell won his first bid for mayor in a special election in late 2009 to replace former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, following his federal conviction on bribery charges. Bell then won re-election to a two-year term in 2011. That term was abbreviated to synchronize the mayoral and city council elections.

The Alabama Oyster Social has raised $35,000 for a shellfish lab in Auburn.

 

The Opelika-Auburn News reports the donation was given to the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory in Dauphin Island during a recent event. The social brought out more than 600 attendees as many made their way through the line at a 32-foot bar, which included around five thousand raw oysters.

Chef David Bancroft says the response was the greatest "by far."

A lawyer for Governor Robert Bentley is denying that his campaign fund violated the law by paying legal fees for a former aide with whom Bentley was accused of having an affair.  

Bentley attorney William Athanas says the roughly $9,000 payment for legal fees of Rebekah Mason was consistent with state law. He says that's because it involved work she performed as Bentley's senior political adviser.

Super Bowl Pets

Feb 4, 2017
Petful.com [Flickr]

Most pet owners know not to let their furry friends have chocolate, grapes, raisins, anything with onion or garlic, and anything that contains the artificial sweetner Xylitol.  But some of our favorite game day snacks can harm our pets in unexpected ways.  Keeping our four-footed family members safe will make for a better day for everyone!

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The fight over the legality of same-sex marriage in Alabama is finally, officially over. And as the cases wrap up, state taxpayers will be on the hook for the legal fees.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade has ordered that the state of Alabama will pay over $300,000 in legal fees to several organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. They provided representation for litigants challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Governor Robert Bentley is naming six finalists for the U.S. Senate seat now held by attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.  

Bentley's list includes U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt of Haleyville and the pro tem of the State Senate, Del Marsh of Anniston.

Others include State Attorney General Luther Strange; Bentley appointee Jim Byard; state Representative Connie Rowe of Jasper; and former state legislator Perry Hooper Jr. of Montgomery.

wrestlingclassics.com

Former Alabama House Speaker Tom Drake of Cullman has died. 

The law office of Drake's son says Drake died Thursday morning. He was 86.

    A one-time professional wrestler known as the "Cullman Comet," Drake served nine terms in the Alabama House, including two stints as speaker. He was a floor leader for former governors including George C. Wallace.    Drake practiced law in Cullman after leaving politics in 1998. He is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. 

Alabama's main port in Mobile has signed an agreement meant to increase trade with Cuba.

The Alabama State Port Authority says the five-year understanding signed Thursday aims to create and improve relationships between Cuban ports, the state port in Mobile and the maritime community.

Dr. Richard Streiffer
UA

The Affordable Care Act is seen as one of the defining pieces of President Obama’s legacy – and the new Republican majority has targeted it for repeal.

Leading lawmakers in both houses of Congress have begun work dismantling Obamacare – despite not having any plan in place for a replacement, and despite polling that suggests an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose its repeal without a replacement ready.

Dr. Richard Streiffer is the dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama. He joins us to explain the current state of the health insurance marketplace in Alabama, what the Affordable Care Act has done for Alabama's citizens, and what it might mean for the state if the act is repealed.

A group of environmental advocates in north Alabama have announced their intent to sue utilities boards in Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia over violations of the Clean Water Act.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper issued a press release yesterday announcing their intent to sue the Muscle Shoals Utilities Board and the City of Tuscumbia’s Department of Utilities. The Riverkeeper says the two utilities boards are responsible for over 35 sewer overflow incidents since 2012, illegally pouring over 25,000 gallons of sewage into public waterways including the Tennessee River.

"What's Next?" For Birmingham's Women's Marchers

Feb 2, 2017

Opposition to President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States is clear. An estimated five hundred students at the University of Alabama staged a silent march at the Tuscaloosa campus with one day's planning. Protests at U.S. airports also sprang up spontaneously after Mr. Trump signed the order preventing people from a list of countries from entering the U.S. These demonstrations are in sharp contrast to the carefully planned marches that took place the day after the Inauguration.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a state law that blocked a plan to raise the minimum wage in Birmingham.    U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Alabama Chapter of the NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries on behalf of minimum wage workers.

The Birmingham City Council voted to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10. The Alabama Legislature, before the increase took effect, last year swiftly passed legislation requiring a uniform state minimum wage.

Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been forced to empty his leftover campaign funds to pay legal bills as he fights an impeachment push and fallout from a scandal.

Bentley filed his campaign finance report yesterday. The report shows the governor's campaign paid more than $320,000 in legal bills last year.

Spencer Collier
ALEA

Former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier now has a new job title: Police Chief of Selma.

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton announced the appointment yesterday. He released a statement saying Collier's "expertise in law enforcement will benefit our city and help move us forward."

Collier and Melton served together in the House of Representatives. Collier is also a former state homeland security director and a former Alabama state trooper.

Sessions protest
NAACP

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will face a Senate confirmation vote to become the country’s next Attorney General later today, and protestors in Alabama are once again making their voices heard in opposition.

More than 100 people reportedly took part in a second sit-in at Senator Sessions’ office in Mobile. The office was closed, but demonstrators reportedly packed the building outside his office and in a second-floor lobby.

Some lawmakers want high school seniors to pass the U.S. citizenship test before graduating.

Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Terri Collins said Monday that they are introducing the bill in the 2017 legislative session that begins next week. 

Orr said everyone should have a "working knowledge of our government."

The legislation would require students pass the test, with at least a 60 percent grade, in order to get a diploma. Students would be able to take the test multiple times.

Huntsville BoE Talking Superintendents Tonight

Jan 30, 2017

The Huntsville Board of Education is meeting tonight to narrow down their list of candidates for superintendent.

The board has five candidates remaining for the position. Those finalists have gone through extensive, individual interviews in the past week.

Keith Ward is the spokesman for Huntsville City Schools. He says each remaining candidate has a vast array of experience.

Auburn University

Auburn University is planning to build to a brand-new $28 million facility at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

According to Al.com, the Auburn University's board of trustees meeting agenda states the project for the 44,000-square foot facility will begin May and end in July 2018 if approved at a meeting this Friday.

Saraland Officer Shot in Head Now Out of Hospital

Jan 29, 2017

A police officer in south Alabama who was shot in the head while on duty has been moved out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation center.

The Saraland Police Department says officer Jackie Tucker's condition has improved greatly since she was shot in mid-December. Tucker had been hospitalized at the University of South Alabama Medical Center since the shooting, but is now being moved to an out-of-state rehabilitation center.

Cat Show

Jan 28, 2017
Trish Hamme [Flickr]

If you think all cats are alike, one visit to a cat show will suprise you.  These feline friends come in many different colors, shapes, sizes and personalities, but each one has the potential to be a great pet if it just has the chance.

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Some of the best athletes in college football are in Mobile this week, gearing up for the annual Reese’s Senior Bowl.

The game is a chance for standout athletes to practice and play before a host of NFL scouts, before NFL teams draft their next class of players in April. A few of this year’s top prospects, including University of Alabama defenders Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster, have opted to sit out this year’s Senior Bowl. But the roster still includes four Crimson Tide players, two players from Auburn, and one athlete from the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

weather.com

A new report shows that widespread rain is gradually relieving the Deep South's ongoing drought, leaving only a handful of counties in Alabama and Georgia with extreme drought conditions.

A national report on the drought released Thursday found that rain drenched a large part of an area that has been abnormally dry, from northern Louisiana to the Carolinas and Virginia.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that about a half-dozen counties in the northeastern Georgia mountains and patches of another half-dozen counties in central Alabama are still dealing with extreme drought.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as the next U.S. Attorney General earlier this week. But that vote has been delayed until next Tuesday.

Senator Sessions has faced intense criticism from the left for his conservative voting record, and civil rights advocates including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have pointed to allegations of racist behavior.

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