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Alabama’s lawmakers are back in Montgomery for a special session to work on the budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He also wants to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut.  The governor has also suggested ending the ability of taxpayers to claim a state income tax deduction when they pay their federal Social Security taxes.

The Climb

Aug 3, 2015
Josh Hollis

If you’ve driven past Tuscaloosa’s Snow Hinton Park recently, you’ve no doubt noticed the strange red pyramid-like structure and towering spiral slide. The pyramid is called a space net, and despite its futuristic name, it’s actually a playground – and it’s been grabbing the attention of children and adults alike.

Ten-year-old CJ is certainly a fan: “I’ve been on it more than twenty-five times today.”

This unique play unit is the brainchild of Tuscaloosa’s Parks and Recreation Authority. It’s part of a five-point-six million dollar renovation to the city’s various parks.

Alabama Lawmakers are back in Montgomery for Special Sessions to hammer out a general fund budget.  I spoke with Tuscaloosa County representative Bill Poole to get his thoughts about going back to the Capitol to help fill a $200 million shortfall in the State’s Coffers…

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Alabama’s lawmakers are back in Montgomery for a special session to work on the budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He also wants to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut. The governor has also suggested ending the ability of taxpayers to claim a state income tax deduction when they pay their federal Social Security taxes.

Tuscaloosa Representative Bill Poole says he is not optimistic the legislature will draft a budget in this special session.

Alabama's rural hospitals in critical condition

Aug 2, 2015

Eight rural hospitals have closed in Alabama over the last 15 years and more closures are possible as rural hospitals struggle to stay open.

Voters in Randolph County will go to the polls Tuesday on a proposed one-cent sales tax to try to keep the doors of Wedowee Hospital open. The money will be used to support a bond issue to build a new facility that administrators hope will attract more patients.

A historic marker has been placed at the Alabama house where singer Nat "King" Cole was born.

Local media report the marker was unveiled Friday at the Montgomery home where Cole was born in 1919. It was placed by Alabama State University officials and the Nat King Cole Society.

The home has been moved from its original location and is now located on the Alabama State campus.

Legislators to return to Montgomery for Special Session

Aug 2, 2015

Alabama legislators return to Montgomery on Monday looking for something that eluded them for the last five months: agreement.

Legislators are resuming a special session called by Gov. Robert Bentley over a projected shortfall in the general fund budget.

Bentley is asking lawmakers to approve $302 million in taxes, including a tobacco tax increase.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Senate Republicans have developed their own plan.

Protest marchers in Alabama on Sunday embarked on the second day of their planned 860-mile trek to Washington, D.C., as part of "America's Journey for Justice."

Sponsored by the NAACP, "America's Journey for Justice" is scheduled to cross through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia before reaching Washington, D.C., in mid-September.

The marchers are expected to cross into Georgia around Friday.

American Humane Association

The 2015 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of eight categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement Dogs, Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Guide/Hearing Dogs.

The Service Dog category includes animals that assist people with disabilities other than sight and hearing. Most have received special training.

The Emerging Hero category honors the partnership that often develops between human and dog. Some of these animals are trained in such areas as detection of diseases such as cancer,  others are just pets who, without any special training, instinctively assist their human companions, and some are overcomers who have triumphed over adversity in an extraordinary way.

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Huntsville Police Chief Lewis Morris says he's retiring on September first.

Morris made the announcement during a news conference this morning. Huntsville city officials say west precinct commander Capt. Mark McMurray will serve as interim police chief.

Morris has served as police chief since April 2012. The announcement comes a day after 48-year-old officer Brett Russell was convicted of federal excessive force and obstruction of justice charges for assaulting a suspect and filing a false report.

NASA Auburn
Auburn University

Auburn University has entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA to explore and advance the applications of additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing.

The act was signed yesterday by Dr. John Mason, Auburn's vice president for research and economic development, along with Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The agreement will allow Auburn students to engage in NASA's missions and opportunities, investigate and develop technologies and share NASA facilities and technical expertise.

Lawyers for a death row inmate say Alabama should be forced to disclose more information about lethal injection procedures. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold reports, they’re concerned about the drugs used in the procedure.

Attorneys for inmate Tommy Arthur in a court filing say the state needs to disclose information including how the drugs are delivered, how inmate consciousness is monitored and the expiration dates of drugs in hand.

The Mobile County Commission is taking steps to protect the area’s primary source of drinking water. APR’s Pat Duggins reports it’s a land purchase around Big Creek Lake…

Mobile County wants to buy 200 acres around the Big Creek Lake watershed. The county has close to $400,000 in grants from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to pay for the property.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the County the go-ahead to make the purchase earlier this week. The goal is to protect the area around the lake, which is Mobile’s main source of water.

Governor Robert Bentley has released his tax and budget proposals ahead of next week's special session on a budget shortfall.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis says the state is at a critical point, and must either make cuts to state services or find new revenue.

The governor is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He is also seeking to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut.

Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell
Matt Teague / Los Angeles Times

Probate judges from across Alabama are meeting in Tuscaloosa today. Alabama Public Radio’s Stan Ingold reports they’ll be talking about updates to marriage laws.

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