News

recycling
Lloyd Gallman / Montgomery Advertiser

Municipal officials can lose sleep over the volume of trash that residents produce, but those in Montgomery have the opposite problem. They say the city isn’t producing enough trash to sustain a citywide recycling program.

Montgomery has a similar population size to three other major Alabama cities, Huntsville , Birmingham and Mobile. But the Montgomery Advertiser reports that the capital city is the only one without a recycling program and the only one with any doubts about its ability to maintain one.

There will be a delay in the reckless murder trial of a former NASA Astronaut. The judge in the Tuscaloosa case against James Halsell says the trial will be delayed until June while both sides work on a possible plea agreement. The defense requested a delay due to negotiations for a possible settlement involving Halsell. A motion says the two sides also are still exchanging evidence. The sixty year-old former astronaut was arrested after a June traffic crash that killed led eleven year old Niomi James and thirteen year-old Jayla Parler.

A Tuscaloosa County grand jury voted to indict a former NASA astronaut for murder. The panel charged James Halsell in an early morning traffic accident that killed two little girls on Highway eighty two back in June. APR Pat Duggins has more on the indictment and what’s next for the veteran Space Shuttle commander…

One of Alabama's largest and wealthiest churches is trying to create its own police department in what experts say would be an unprecedented move.

State legislators are considering a bill that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police force. Similar bills failed the past two years. This year's version is set for debate in the House before this year’s legislative session ends in May.

Construction is still ongoing in Tuscaloosa for a new$16 million 911 dispatch center serving all county emergency agencies and the Emergency Management Agency.

The Tuscaloosa News reports work on the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations and Communications Center is expected to finish by the end of the year, with staff occupying the building next spring. Work on the building began last August.

Dave Hogg [Flickr]

Keeping your pets happy and maybe even entertained while you're away is something a pet sitter may  be able to do, with or without a bird video!

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An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a formal complaint with the Alabama State Bar against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

ACLU attorney Christopher Anders argues Jeff Sessions made false statements during his confirmation hearing to become Attorney General.

Some high school students in Tuscaloosa are meeting with their state representative later today to ask him to sponsor and introduce a new bill regarding pets in hot cars.

Lawmakers are attempting to define what criminal convictions should disqualify a person from voting.    The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday for the bill.  

 The Alabama Constitution says people convicted of felonies involving "moral turpitude" are no longer able to vote, although politicians have disagreed through the years on what crimes should be on that list.

A state general fund budget has passed committee, and it looks like state employees won’t be getting a raise after all.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a lean general fund budget yesterday. It gives level funding to most state agencies and removes a proposed pay raise for state employees. Lawmakers say the state can’t afford it.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley had proposed a 4 percent pay raise for state workers.

lynching memorial
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Community members gathered alongside the Equal Justice Initiative in Tuscaloosa earlier this week to shine a light on one of the darkest periods in Alabama’s history. The EJI’s Community Remembrance Project unveiled a marker commemorating the eight documented lynching victims in Tuscaloosa County.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon prepared this look at the unveiling and program.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would stop requiring probate judges to sign marriage licenses.

The bill comes as a few probate judges in the state continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so they do not have to issue them to same-sex couples.

Senators voted 22-6 for the bill yesterday. The measure now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Instead of a license signed by the probate judge, Republican Senator Greg Albritton's bill would require couples to file a form and affidavit with the probate judge to record their marriages.

Being Blue in a Red State...

Mar 7, 2017
Allison Mollenkamp

This Tuesday Tuscaloosa is holding municipal elections and the job of Mayor is on the ballot. Voters will choose between incumbent Walt Maddox and newcomer Stepfon Lewis. In August Birmingham will make a similar choice between William Bell and Randall Woodfin. Three of the candidates share one thing in common. They’re democrats in a deeply Republican state.

These are the two names Tuscaloosa voters will see on the ballot for Mayor. Walt Maddox is the incumbent and Stepfon Lewis is the challenger. Forty minutes away, a similar race is underway.

Some Alabama Voters Heading to Polls Today

Mar 7, 2017

Voters in Tuscaloosa as well as a House district in the Birmingham area are heading to the polls today to decide the future of their community representation.

District 58 needs a new representative in the Alabama House after Oliver Robinson retired last fall. Today the district is holding its primary election. If there is no need for a run-off, the general election will be held May 23.

After a several-month hiatus, the House Judiciary Committee is once again meeting to discuss the possible impeachment of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee is scheduled to meet later this morning to discuss a procedural question related to the probe. It is the first meeting since the investigation was put on hold by outgoing Attorney General Luther Strange in November.

The committee is tasked with making a recommendation to the full House of Representatives on whether there are grounds to impeach Governor Bentley.

Alabama's state auditor is suing Governor Robert Bentley over his appointment of Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Jim Zeigler filed suit in Montgomery County on Sunday claiming Bentley is wrong in waiting until 2018 to hold an election for the position.

John Grisham
Katie Willem / APR

The University of Alabama’s School of Law was visited by perhaps the most recognizable writer of legal fiction last week.

Author John Grisham was the keynote speaker at a symposium late last week celebrating Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird and examining its impact on society and the legal system. Grisham says To Kill a Mockingbird is one of a long line of novels that were both massively commercially successful and managed to shift public opinion about an issue or injustice through that success.

NASA

Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison addressed female students studying mathematics and engineering at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. The Decatur native was the first African American woman to fly in space. Jemison later had a guest appearance as a crew member of the U.S.S. Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The veteran Space Shuttle astronaut will also be immortalized with her own LEGO figure in a collection of space pioneers. Jemison's only mission in space was STS-47, or Spacelab-J for Japan in 1992.

More and more U.S. States are following Alabama's lead, and re-instituting cursive writing instruction for school kids. The skill is looping back into style in schools across the country after a generation of students raised on keyboarding, texting and printing out letters longhand. Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states to require cursive. And last fall, the 1.1 million-student New York City school system encouraged teaching cursive to students in the third grade.

If Pets Had Thumbs

Mar 4, 2017
Mindy Norton

There are holidays for a lot of important occasions, but there are a few light-hearted days on the calendar, as well.  At the beginning of every March, we can celebrate our imagination with "If Pets Had Thumbs" Day!

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Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sent home from the NFL combine, according to sources including the Associated Press. The Dick Butkus Award winner reportedly had an heated argument with a doctor before interviews with the teams were to begin. Foster suffered injuries toward the end of his career with the Alabama Crimson Tide, including surgery on his rotator cuff. That operation was to have kept him out of on-field drills at the combine. Foster is widely considered the best inside linebacker coming out of college, with five sacks and over one hundred tackles.

State contracts for the high-profile lawyers on both sides of an impeachment investigation are being extended amid the possibility of the probe resuming.   

 The Legislative Contract Review Committee approved the contracts this week.

"Can we talk?"

Mar 3, 2017

Workers at the Federal Courthouse in Tuscaloosa are expected to see a familiar sight today. Protesters carried signs up and down the sidewalk along University Boulevard. They have one message and one man to whom they want that message delivered. APR’s Pat Duggins hit the streets…

Even after organizing two protest marches, the megaphone still takes getting used to…

APR News Director Pat Duggins shot this video as demonstrators marched up and down the sidewalk past Tuscaloosa's Federal Courthouse. They want a town hall meeting with Senator Richard Shelby on questions ranging from Donald Trump to the Affordable Care Act.

Fast food workers and civil rights groups are appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging an Alabama state law blocking the city of Birmingham's plans to raise the minimum wage.

The plaintiffs appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday.

Birmingham was poised to raise the minimum hourly wage in the city to $10.10 last year. But before the wage hike was implemented, the Alabama Legislature swiftly passed a law requiring a uniform state minimum wage.

 House representatives have passed a bill requiring cell phone companies in the state to hand over location data to law enforcement agencies when asked. 

The measure says communication providers would need to share a person's location in a situation involving a risk of death or serious bodily harm. It passed without opposition Thursday.

Republican Rep. Tommy Hanes of Scottsboro sponsored the bill and says it will save lives.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

The lawmaker sponsoring Gov. Robert Bentley's $800 million prison construction plan says the bill will most likely be scaled down before heading to a committee vote next week.

Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster says the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next Tuesday on a smaller version. He says senators are currently working out the bill's specifics.

Bentley was seeking to build four new prisons. Ward says the new proposal will still be substantial.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Republicans in the state House of Representatives have elected Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter of Rainsville, Alabama as their new majority leader.

The Republican Caucus announced that decision yesterday.

Ledbetter, formerly the mayor of Rainsville, was elected to the Alabama House in 2014. Ledbetter released a statement saying he was grateful for the confidence placed in him by the caucus. He is the first freshman representative to hold the position in Alabama’s history.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. 

 The committee voted 6-3 for the bill Wednesday after a fiery public hearing in which some state sheriffs spoke both against and in favor of the bill.  The bill by Republican Senator Gerald Allen now moves to the Senate floor.

Draper inmates
Albert Cesare / Montgomery Advertiser

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a plan to build four new, massive prisons in Alabama this afternoon.

The bill would authorize Alabama’s Department of Corrections to build three massive new men’s prisons and a new women’s prison, and would close over a dozen of the state’s existing prison facilities.

It would be financed by an $800 million bond issue that would leave the state paying $50 million a year for thirty years. Supporters including Governor Robert Bentley say the new prisons would save about that much money in operating costs.

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