News

A Houston County judge says the killer of three people at a Dothan County should die by lethal injection. Judge Brad Mendheim sentenced Ryan Clark Petersen to death. His decision follows last week’s jury recommendation in favor of death. Prosecutors say Petersen opened fired after being told to leave a nightclub following a fight with an employee. Jurors rejected Petersen’s defense that he was drunk and mentally impaired. His defense team says there will be an appeal and a request for a new trial.

Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just one week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.

Alabama’s state veterinarian recently announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County, near the Mississippi state line.

Dr. Tony Frazier's statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

Infrastructure Report Gives Alabama a C+

Mar 21, 2017

The Trump administration has pledged to focus heavily on rebuilding U.S. infrastructure.

Here in Alabama, a new report shows there are plenty of areas of concern. The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a national infrastructure report once every four years. The most recent study gave America a grade of D+. Society members in Alabama issued a similar state report that gave Alabama a grade of C+.

Greg DiLoreto is the chairman of the society’s Committee for America’s Infrastructure. He says Alabama’s real problem is in its dams.

A hearing has been set for a lawsuit challenging Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's decision on an election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions. Dr. Bentley wants to wait until 2018 to hold the vote. State Auditor Jim Zeigler says a hearing for his suit against Bentley is set for April twelfth in Montgomery County. The injunction hearing will give lawyers a chance to update the county judge on their positions. Zeigler argues that Bentley violated state law by postponing the election date for Jeff Session's former U.S. Senate seat until 2018.

University trustees are set to vote on a new president of Auburn University today. Some say that selection process should be more transparent.

The trustees will hold a special meeting later today to name a new president.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports no candidates have been announced in the search to replace Auburn President Jay Gogue. That means there's been no chance for any prospective new administrators to meet with the university community.

Alabama lawmakers will vote next month on the state's "judicial override" law. That statute current allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama Public Radio covered this policy as part of its multi part series titled "...and justice for all." Alabama is the only state that allows a judge to do this.

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to legislation removing the holiday honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The "Natural State" observed the Lee holiday on the same day as slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The state House approved the proposal by a sixty six to eleven vote on Friday and sent it to Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. He urged lawmakers to end the dual holiday. Once the bill is signed into law, Mississippi and Alabama will be the only states that honor Lee and King on the same day.

Routines

Mar 18, 2017
Army Medicine [Flickr]

Pets (and many people) are happier when they have a regular routine.  Sometimes, though, things happen that disrupt or adjust our routines, and it may take a little time to adapt to the change.

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The state of Alabama is seeking to enforce a state law against a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure. The state has appealed a federal judge's ruling that blocked enforcement of the state's 2016 law banning abortion through dilation and evacuation. State lawyers wrote a brief filed last week for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, say the procedure is described as "particularly brutal." U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that ban would cause Alabama women to lose access to abortion in the state after fifteen weeks of pregnancy.

An investigation is underway at Alabama’s Elmore State prison after two inmates and a guard were stabbed. The corrections officer was injured trying to break up a fight. Elmore is on lockdown as a result. The DOC says a third inmate is suspected in the stabbings. Tyrone Dunn is serving twenty five years for assault. All of the men who were stabbed were released after treatment at a hospital. Investigators don't yet know what started the fight. Critics say a prison building plan approved by the Alabama Senate won’t address this type of violence.

Police across central Alabama say three mosques in the state have been burglarized in recent days, and one Islamic leader hopes the cases aren't part of a conspiracy of hatred.

Tuscaloosa police say two safes containing cash and a handwritten Quran were stolen from the Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa earlier this week. Police have released a photo of a car believed to be involved in the robbery that was captured on surveillance video.

The Alabama Senate has approved a pared down prison construction plan. The bill authorizes the state to lease up to three prisons built by local communities. The bill would also authorize a three hundred and twenty five million dollars state bond issue to build one new prison and renovate others. The Southern Poverty Law Center is criticizing plan as inadequate and that it will not address problems like prison violence and understaffing. Go to apr.org to hear Alabama Public Radio’s multi part series on prison reform titled “…and justice for all.”

Today is Pro-Life Day in Alabama.

At least, that’s according to Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and other leaders in the state legislature.

State agriculture officials are banning poultry sales in Alabama over concerns about avian influenza.

The Cullman Times reports Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan issued an order Wednesday prohibiting bird sales, poultry exhibitions and the transportation of birds.

State veterinarian Tony Frazier says the order is the most effective way to prevent the possible spread of the illness.

The ban follows confirmation of avian flu in Tennessee, plus possible cases in the north Alabama counties of Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison counties.

A bill to regulate daycare centers in Alabama could spark a serious political fight. Lawmakers will debate a proposal to require all day cares to be regulated by the state. That idea would end a longstanding exemption for faith-based facilities. The bill is expected to face pushback from lawmakers who want to keep the exemption open for churches. Supporters of the bill say the loophole leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The group VOICES for Alabama's Children says the state is one of seven that broadly exempt faith-based day cares from regulation.

Students in Alabama and across the country are speaking out against tobacco.

Today marks the 21st annual Kick Butts Day, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Each year, students along with teachers, health advocates and other activists encourage children to avoid tobacco use, and urge lawmakers to work harder to keep tobacco products away from children.

After hours of debate over the lack of a raise for state employees, the Alabama House of Representatives finally approved a General Fund Budget.

Representatives voted 72-28 in favor of the $1.8 billion budget late last night. The funding bill now moves to the state Senate.

Montgomery lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to add some sort of raise or bonus for state employees, who haven't had a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard says lawmakers wouldn't expect to work 10 years without a raise.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says it’s reached a settlement over what critics say is a modern day debtors’ prison. Alexander City and its police chief were accused of unjustly jailing residents who were too poor to pay fines or court fees. One hundred and ninety people were imprisoned for non-payment over a two year period. The alleged practice resulted in a federal class action lawsuit. The U.S. District Court in Montgomery approved the settlement which will pay each plaintiff five hundred dollars for each day of unlawful imprisonment.

The remaining two U.S. attorneys in Alabama appointed by former President Barack Obama have both stepped down.

U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown of Mobile has resigned and is being replaced on an interim basis by his top assistant, Steve Butler. Brown had served as U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District since 2009.

George Beck has resigned after six years as the top prosecutor in Montgomery.

His top assistant, A. Clark Morris, becomes the acting U.S. attorney.

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.

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