News

A stabbing inside an Alabama state prison has left one inmate dead and a second injured.

Correctional officials say 34-year-old Jamie Marcus Witherspoon was fatally stabbed yesterday morning at the state prison in the Bibb County town of Brent. A second man was injured and is being treated in the prison infirmary.

Tomorrow marks 20 years since President Bill Clinton formally apologized on behalf of the U.S. government for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

The purpose of this study was to observe the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama. The study began in 1932 and lasted until 1972, after a whistleblower exposed information about the research to the press and prompted the government to shut down the program.

A conference committee will decide what to do with an Alabama bill that would prevent Confederate monuments from being taken down. 

The group of will try to resolve House and Senate differences in the bill that would prohibit the removal of any historic marker or monument.

The House of Representatives on Thursday appointed conference committee members so the panel can meet in the final week of the legislative session.

The bill comes as some Southern cities consider taking down Confederate monuments.

Finalists have been named for a literary award named for the late Alabama author Harper Lee. 

The University of Alabama law school and the American Bar Association Journal have named three books that are being considered for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

The annual award is given to a work of fiction that shows the role of attorneys in society and their power to bring about change.

The finalists are: "Gone Again" by James Grippando; "Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult; and "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore.

donjd2 (Don DeBold) [Flickr]

The great things about a dog park are the fenced areas where you can play off-leash with your pet.  Be a responsible owner by making sure your dog is up-to-date on all shots, and clean up after your pet.  Another responsible thing for every owner to do is to be prepared for unexpected emergencies!

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A prison construction plan is headed to a key vote in committee.    The House Judiciary Committee will vote Tuesday on the proposal to build, or lease, up to four prisons in the state.  

 Senator Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said the vote is "do or die" for the legislation as lawmakers head into the final week of the legislative session.

Water quality activists are weighing the benefits of a partial court settlement over water quality in the Decatur area this week. 

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon issued the verdict authorizing a $5 million payment from chemical manufacturer Daikin America. It’s related to ongoing litigation over perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, that were manufactured around Decatur for years before they were outlawed in the U.S.

The settlement is expected to be used to set up a temporary filtration system for drinking water from the Tennessee River.

The Alabama House of Representatives has finally approved new legislative districts for the state – after house Democrats delayed a vote by having the bill read aloud for sixteen hours.

Representatives approved the districts yesterday on a 70-30, strictly party-line vote.

Back in January, federal judges ordered the GOP-controlled Legislature to redraw lines before next year’s election after ruling some districts were gerrymandered by race.

A bill requiring insurance companies in the state to pay for autism therapy has passed the Senate budget committee. But the committee chairman is threatening not to advance the bill, as he continues negotiations.

The superintendent of Selma’s city school system has been placed on administrative leave for reportedly violating her contract.

The Selma Times-Journal reports Angela Mangum was suspended earlier this week after failing to notify Selma’s school board she was pursuing other employment opportunities.

Alabama House Democrats used a procedural maneuver last night to delay a vote on new legislative districts that they argue fail to correct race-based gerrymandering in the state.

Republicans hold a wide majority in both chambers of state Legislature and have the numbers to approve the new map. But Democrats delayed a vote until Thursday by asking for the 539-page redistricting bill to be read aloud, a process that is estimated to take 13 hours.

Alabama Coal: More Questions Than Answers

May 9, 2017
Allison Mollenkamp

Coal was once king here in Alabama. But federal regulations and rising prices have forced changes in Alabama’s energy economy. This impacts both the industries that need a source of energy and the coal workers who make a living supplying that need. This second part of a two part series looks at the future of energy and coal communities in Alabama. 

The Senate Leadership Fund is planning a $2.6 million television ad buy on behalf of Senator Luther Strange as the group seeks to ward off challengers for the Senate seat previously held by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The super political action committee, with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced the buy yesterday in a show of fiscal force leading up to the Aug. 15 Republican primary.

Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Chris Pack said the buy is just a fraction of what the group plans on spending to support Strange.

A circuit judge has ruled that parts of Alabama’s Workman’s Compensation Act are unconstitutional – meaning the whole act is unconstitutional, because of a non-severability statute.

The Gadsden Times reports Jefferson County Circuit Judge Pat Ballard found fault with statutes capping recovery for workers permanently but not totally disabled at $220 per week, and capping attorney’s fees at 15 percent.

Alabama Coal: Past and Present

May 8, 2017
Allison Mollenkamp / APR

There were a number of audiences being targeted during the race for the Presidency. One that hits home here in Alabama were coal workers. That energy source was once Alabama’s lifeblood. However, new regulations and new energy sources are changing the story and promises from the White House may not do much to breathe new life into what looks like a struggling industry.

Emergency managers in Alabama are gearing up for the beginning of hurricane season next month.

The state of Alabama will hold its annual hurricane drill today. State officials including Governor Kay Ivey will gather in Clanton for the procedure.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency holds the exercise each year to practice its procedures and to ensure coordination between various local, state and federal agencies.

Law officers and school officials will be meeting in Hoover today to try to make schools safer.

The non-profit National Association of School Resource Officers is holding its first-ever national leadership summit. The conference is meant to teach lawmen and educators how to pick the best police officers to work on school campuses. NASRO says veteran officers with no disciplinary problems tend to be the best candidates.

Rainer Stropek [Flickr]

Pets love to play among the tall grasses, but grass and weed pollen can provoke an adverse reaction in some pets.  Paying attention to where your pet has been spending its time will be helpful if you need to figure out the cause of an allergic reaction.

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Members of the Alabama House will resume work next week on a stalled prison construction bill. The measure would build four facilities, including a replacement for the state's troubled women's prison. The state would also lease new men's prisons built by local communities. The task in the House is to rework a plan drawn up by members of the State Senate. The state agreed to make changes at Tutwiler women’s prison after the Justice Department ruled inmates there faced an unconstitutional environment of sexual abuse and harassment.

Authorities say dozens of athletes and coaches from across the South have fallen ill at a college baseball tournament in Alabama, and the cause is -- as of now -- a mystery.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said people affected by the outbreak are from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

WSFA-TV reports the athletes and coaches were competing in the Southern States Athletic Conference championship tournament in Montgomery when they became ill.

State senators approved a general fund budget last night after a long and at times contentious debate.

The budget passed the Senate 23 to 4. The House of Representatives had previously approved the $1.8 billion spending plan, but the bill will now head back to the house to decide whether representatives will go along with mostly minor Senate changes.

The Alabama Senate has approved new legislative districts over the objections of black Democrats who said the plan was gerrymandered to maintain GOP control of the state's largest county. 

Senators on Thursday approved the new districts in a 25-7 party line vote after Democrats used procedural tactics to delay a vote for several hours.

Alabama’s education budget has passed the state House.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved the $6.4 billion budget proposal yesterday.

Tuscaloosa Rep. Bill Poole says the budget will keep state schools mostly funded at the same levels as last year but provides some increases for K-12 schools. It also sets aside money to hire more than 150 more teachers in fourth through sixth grades.

The proposal now heads back to the Senate, where it was previously stalled by a legislator who argued that more money should be spent on grade schools.

The nursing industry nationwide is booming, with lucrative careers, low unemployment and plenty of jobs available. But in Alabama, the outlook is a little less rosy.

The personal finance website WalletHub recently ranked the best and worst states in the country for nurses, and Alabama wound up in the bottom five. Some of the factors considered were nurses’ average salaries, the quality of public hospitals and the average number of hours worked per week.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Alabama’s legislature are debating changes to payday loans in the state.

Dueling bills in both the House and the Senate each aim to reform short-term lending in Alabama, but they go about it in different ways.

The race to more permanently fill the U.S. Senate Seat formerly held by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions is heating up. But one potential candidate is complaining that GOP officials are treating appointee Luther Strange as an incumbent, and discouraging challengers from running against him.

Senators are asking a budget committee to vote this week on an autism bill that would require insurers to pay for an intensive therapy.

Senator Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road said Tuesday that 26 of 35 senators signed a petition asked for a committee vote this week instead of waiting. Brewbaker says the bill deserves a vote because the legislative clock is rapidly winding down

APR Prison Documentary Wins National Award

May 2, 2017
APR

The Society of Professional Journalists named Alabama Public Radio winner of its national Sigma Delta Chi Award. This prestigious honor is for APR’s documentary on prison and justice reform titled “…and justice for all.” The half-hour program is the culmination of the newsroom’s six month effort investigating problems and issues in Alabama’s prison system.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
legislature.state.al.us

Alabama's secretary of state says nearly 100 political candidates and donation groups have broken state campaign finance rules.

Yesterday, Secretary John Merrill publicly released the names of all the candidates and political action committees that failed to disclose donations by this year's January cutoff date. He says the release is intended to compel the offending PACs and candidates to file financial records of campaign contributions they either received or spent in 2016.

Supporters of an Alabama death row inmate are waiting to see what the state legislature does on the subject of judicial overrides before the end of this year’s lawmaking session, as the fate of a Covington County man could hang in the balance.

Governor Kay Ivey recently signed a bill into law that stops judges from sentencing future defendants to death after the jury recommends life in prison. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma wants more. He wrote a bill that extends the ban retroactively to people already on death row due to a judicial override.

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