News

Wildfire
Brynn Anderson / AP

Weather conditions across the state have led to hundreds of fast-spreading wildfires, and the Governor has had enough.

Yesterday, Governor Bentley signed an emergency order banning all outside fires across 46 of Alabama’s counties due to the drought conditions. The declaration prohibits all campfires, bonfires, trash or debris fires or any other open burning in any of the specified counties.

Those in violation of the order can be fined up to $500 and sentenced to up to six months in jail, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville is focusing on the needs of the disabled community this month.

The campus is hosting weekly brown bag meetings for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The gatherings focus on including the disabled in the workplace. The topics covered range from return on investment for companies, on-the-job coaching for those with disabilities, etiquette and a disability simulation.

Two hundred and seventy-eight new lawyers will join the Alabama Bar Association tomorrow morning. The new attorneys will be sworn in at the Bar’s fall admission ceremony. The Young Lawyer’s Section of the Bar will host the event. The ceremony will be a ceremonial session of the State Supreme Court. Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stewart will administer the oath to the new members. Justin Aday is the Director of Admissions for the Alabama State Bar. He says the ceremony is more sentimental than official.

Moody's Investor Services has raised its outlook on Mobile from negative to stable. It's a move that Mayor Sandy Stimpson says will help ongoing efforts to put the city on a more solid financial footing. Mobile remains at an Aa2 credit rating, but Stimpson says the change in outlook will have real benefits. The Mayor says the city is getting ready to go back into the market to refinance some existing debt and the timing of the Moody report was perfect.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Wikimedia

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is fighting back as the legislative committee trying to impeach him is attempting to subpoena lots of documents from the governor’s administration.

On Monday, Bentley’s lawyer Ross Garber filed an objection with the House Judiciary Committee to subpoenas they had issued for various documents. Garber says the legislative committee does not have subpoena power and is seeking a large amount of documents that “go far beyond any legitimate inquiry”.

Fans of William Shakespeare will be celebrating his 400th birthday in Montgomery this month.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Art is hosting a Shakespeare exhibit called “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.” The book contains original printings of the famous playwright’s work. It was published in the 1600s, just a few years after Shakespeare’s death.

Margaret Lynne Aufeld is the curator of art at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art. She says this is a rare chance to see this prized publication.

Ambrosia Starling
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Roy Moore is no longer serving as the Chief Justice of Alabama.

On September 30, a majority of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary decided to suspend Moore for the remainder of his six-year term as punishment for ethics violations. The charges relate to Moore’s role in the controversy over same-sex marriage in Alabama.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon has been following the Chief Justice’s case. He has this report on reactions to the trial and what may be coming next.

Federal prosecutors are recommending a lengthy prison term for a former nonprofit official convicted in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance has recommended a 27 year prison sentence for 53-year-old former nonprofit healthcare CEO Jonathan Dunning.

Dunning was convicted in June on 98 counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Forest fires have been chewing through acres of land throughout Alabama. APR student reporter Parker Branton has more.

On Sunday alone, there were 65 active forest fires burning through the state.

The Alabama Forestry Commission is working around the clock to control the fires by bulldozing containment lines and backfiring until the fires are no longer a threat.

Coleen Vansant is the spokeswoman for the Alabama Forestry Commission. She says the weather conditions have made this fall fire season unlike any other.

apr

Wildfires are burning across Alabama as drought conditions worsen. Forecasters say there isn't enough rain in the forecast to lessen the threat anytime soon. The Alabama Forestry Commission reported that about 70 blazes burned around 730 acres of land on Sunday alone. The situation is worse in north Alabama, where drought conditions are most severe. The state issued a fire danger warning for 46 of Alabama's 67 counties last week, and officials said it will continue until rain returns to the state.

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Inmate riots, allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and a failed prison building plan in the state legislature have pointed out plenty of problems. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out. This week, I examine what the State of Alabama does when people are convicted of crimes they didn’t do. Critics say, not much…

Thousands of Alabama children are attending private schools thanks to Accountability Act scholarships, but very few of those students transferred out of a failing public school.

The state program provides private school scholarships to help low-income students attend private schools. When lawmakers started the program in 2013, it was touted as a way to help students escape schools with chronically low test scores.

The Decatur Daily reports that, according to state data over the past three years, only 39 students withdrew from failing schools to attend private schools.

The Alabama Ethics Commission says gifts to school teachers and other public employees might be able to cost more than $25.

Earlier this week, the state ethics panel gave preliminary approval to an advisory opinion saying gifts for public employees are not always subject to the $25 limit. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton says the commission wanted to clear up confusion about gifts, including customary holiday gifts to teachers.

Gov. Bentley
Albert Cesare / Associated Press

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says he can no longer vote for Donald Trump in the wake of the Republican presidential nominee's comments about women.

Bentley joined Alabama U.S. Representatives Martha Roby and Bradley Byrne yesterday calling for Trump to step aside from the presidential race. Trump is under fire for a leaked audio recording from 2005 in which he brags about groping and trying to seduce married women.

Ragsby's Story

Oct 8, 2016
Eric Walker

October is Adopt-a-Dog Month, and Ragsby's story is a perfect illustration of the great dogs who just need the opportunity to show somebody what great pets and companions they can become, if only they are given the chance.  

If you're looking for a canine companion, visit your local shelter or rescue group.  You won't change the world by adopting a pet but you will change the world for your new furry friend - and you just might find your world is better, too.

********************* 

Stuart takes helm of Alabama Supreme Court

Oct 7, 2016

The Alabama Supreme Court has its acting chief justice.

Lyn Stuart is being elevated to the position after former Chief Justice Roy Moore was permanently suspended from the court.  Moore is appealing the ruling.

Stuart is the senior member of the Supreme Court.  She has led the state’s highest court since May after Moore was initially suspended for ethics violations.  She has served on the Alabama Supreme Court since 2000.

Alabama is answering a call for help from its neighbor to the Southeast.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit the Florida coast very soon. In anticipation of the damage, Florida made a request for state assistance from Alabama.

Governor Robert Bentley says Alabama will send an Emergency Operations Augmentation team to help the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Department of Justice
Wikimedia

The U.S. Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the conditions at Alabama’s state prisons.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley released a statement yesterday sharing the Justice Department’s letter, and saying he welcomes a federal investigation into the state’s prisons. Bentley says both he and the DoJ share a common goal of wanting to improve the safety of officers and inmates in Alabama’s prisons. He also says past meetings with DoJ officials resulted in major improvements at the state’s Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Druid City Garden Project
University of Alabama

It’s time once again for Tuscaloosa's annual Garden Party.

The food fest is this Sunday evening at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Ten area farmers will be pairing with chefs from ten local restaurants to create a menu of dishes that won’t be available anywhere else.

The event benefits the Druid City Garden Project, a nonprofit educational organization in Tuscaloosa. Lindsay Turner is the Executive Director of the project.

Alex AuBuchon: Lindsay, your group puts gardens in local elementary schools—what benefits do the students get from the gardens? 

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is appealing the ethics conviction that removed him from office.

Hubbard's lawyers filed the notice of appeal yesterday with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

The appeal comes after the trial judge denied Hubbard's request for a new trial.

A jury in June convicted Hubbard of using his public office to obtain work and investments in his companies. A judge sentenced Hubbard to four years in prison. He is free on bond while he appeals his conviction.

Report criticizes Collier for absenteeism, spending

Oct 6, 2016

An internal investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is criticizing its former chief's attendance and management.

Gov. Robert Bentley included the report in his filing with an impeachment committee last week. It was former agency head Spencer Collier's accusations that helped launched the impeachment probe against Bentley.

The Native American Festival at the Moundville Archeological Park is underway.

The event is in its 28th year and will run through Saturday. Previous years have attracted up to 15,000 visitors as well as dozens of Native American performers and vendors.

Dr. Alexander Benitez is the director at Moundville Archeological Park. He says this festival is the best way to experience and celebrate Native American culture.

The executive director of Alabama’s Commission on Higher Education plans to retire at the end of this year.

The commission announced yesterday that Gregory Fitch will end his 45-year career in education this year. He has led Alabama’s coordinating board for higher education since July 2006.

Fitch says he notified the commission of his retirement plans in June. Vice Chairman Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores has been tapped to lead the search committee to find a replacement director.

Fire Danger Warning Issued for North Alabama

Oct 5, 2016

Drought conditions in the state is putting 46 of Alabama’s 67 counties under a Fire Danger Warning.

Officials say 142 wildfires in the last seven days throughout the state that has burned 1,500 acres of land.

Coleen Vansant is the spokeswoman for the Alabama Forestry Commission. She explains what factors determine which counties are under a warning…

The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has a new Executive Director as of this week.

Kathryn Strickland is taking over after previously serving at the head of North Alabama’s food bank. During her time in Huntsville, that community’s food bank collected eight million pounds of provisions for the needy each year.

Strickland explains that they have a lot of plans for the Central Alabama food bank such as promoting healthy food choices and working with area farmers.

State Representative Darrio Melton has a new title this morning -- Mayor of Selma.

Last night, Melton defeated former Mayor James Perkins, Jr. in a municipal runoff election. He will take office next month.

Melton has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2010.

He recently released a statement saying he was honored by the support he had received during his mayoral campaign. He says Selma, the site of a violent 1965 clash during African Americans' fight for voting rights, has been a symbol of hope and hard work for the past 50 years.

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Inmate riots, allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and a failed prison building plan in the state legislature have pointed out plenty of problems. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out.  I looked into the on-going complaints over how Alabama judges sentence people to death.  

Polls open until 7 p.m. for municipal runoff elections

Oct 4, 2016

Municipal runoff elections are underway throughout the state of Alabama.

Six weeks following the primary elections on August 23rd voters return to the polls to elect some local officials.

John Merrill is the Alabama Secretary of State. He says some of the larger municipalities are in an off year.

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