News

The Alabama House is debating on proposed legislation that would prevent cities from setting local minimum wages.

The Republican-backed bill is on the legislative fast track as the city of Birmingham seeks to expedite a minimum wage increase approved last year for all workers within the city limits.

Birmingham leaders sought to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and planned to begin with an $8.25 minimum wage March 1.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has its own wish list for the current legislative session.

The SPLC’s 2016 Legislative Guide focuses on issues like education, economics and equal rights. The guide doesn't just outline problems; it also offers possible solutions.

Rhonda Brownstein is the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She says more state money needs to be allocated to education, not jails.

Seventy six schools in Alabama are wondering what’s next after they were a list of failing schools. The state education department used different criteria for determining failing schools. The current list ranked schools as passing or failing based on last year’s ACT test reading and math scores. That led to ten more schools than last year being included on the list. Dr. Clarence Sutton is the principal of Tuscaloosa’s Central High School, which made the list this year. He takes issue with referring to the schools as “failing”.

Alabama State Capitol
Wikimedia

State lawmakers may vote today on a measure that would block cities from setting local minimum wages.

Last week, the Birmingham City Council voted to expedite the effective date of a planned minimum wage increase to March 1. Republican state Rep. David Faulkner of Mountain Brook filed a bill that would mandate uniform minimum wages in Alabama and void any local wage ordinances.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal wage floor of $7.25.

Advocates for low-income workers say local governments are better suited to handle local wage regulations.

grwepr [Flickr]

If you're single and looking for romance your best friend might just be of assistance in that area, both in meeting people and in helping to determine who may be a good match - for both of you!

**********************

Ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft are getting the green light to operate in the City of Huntsville.

The Huntsville City Council approved two ordinances last night to allow the companies to begin service in the Rocket City.  The first requires the businesses to seek council approval for a license.  The other sets the fees for the licenses.

Birmingham recently approved the use of ride-sharing companies.  Mobile and Montgomery also have Uber.   

Alabama voters are facing a deadline if they want to take part in the March primary elections. Today is the last day to hand in your registration form in person. APR student reporter Tori Martinez breaks down the deadlines.

Monday is the last day for Alabamians to register online for the so-called SEC Primaries. Registration forms sent in the mail have to be postmarked by Saturday, and Friday is the last day to hand-deliver your forms.

Advocacy groups representing three states, including Alabama want changes to a national form regarding proof of Citizenship to register to vote.

The 30 groups want a federal elections official to throw out the rule in Alabama, Georgia and Kansas

The groups sent a letter to the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, arguing the impact would be particularly significant because 2016 is a presidential election year when people typically register in greater numbers.

Advanced Band
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Say “the blues,” and Mississippi might come to mind. But Alabama has just as much heritage when it comes to this musical form, and for the past 20 years, the Tuscaloosa-based Alabama Blues Project has been working to preserve that heritage for future generations. Tomorrow, the nonprofit will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert in Tuscaloosa. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports some of the musicians are only as big as their guitars.

Talks are underway to bring a state lottery to Alabama. APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp has more on day one of the debate in the state legislature.

The Senate and Tourism Marketing Committee considered a bill by Senator Jim McClendon to create a state lottery.

The hearing was split between two sides. Opponents believe a lottery would take advantage of poor families. Supporters believe it would help generate income for local businesses that currently lose those dollars to lottery players who drive across state lines to purchase their tickets.

The first case of the Zika virus in Alabama has been reported. APR student reporter Parker Branton has more on how this case fits into to the overall outbreak…

The Alabama Department of Public Health says a travel related case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Morgan County in north Alabama.

The Tuscaloosa Police Department has announced how officers will be disciplined after a violent arrest last fall that went viral.

Police Chief Steven Anderson says Officer James Kent is still on administrative leave with pay pending disciplinary action. Officer Justin Sams received a written reprimand along with remedial training to improve his communication skills.

The Birmingham City Council is increasing in the local minimum wage a little earlier than expected.  The council voted today to move the implementation date of the wage increase to March 1.

The council had the idea in August to establish an hourly minimum wage of $8.50 by July 2016; and $10.10 by July 2017, with increases afterward tied to inflation.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

This is a list of school closures due to wintry weather as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. For the most up-to-date information on your child's school, call that school's front office. Pat Duggins

Arab City Schools: Closing at 11:30 a.m.

Cullman County Schools closing at noon

DeKalb County Schools: Closed.

Fayetteville City Schools: Closed all day Tuesday

Fort Payne Schools: Closed.

Franklin County Schools: All schools closed Tuesday.

Jackson County Schools: Closed.

Lawrence County, AL Schools: Dismissing at noon.

Tuscaloosa tornado damage
NWS Birmingham / Wikimedia

The federal government says it wants its money back after auditors claim Tuscaloosa improperly received more than $1 million in aid following the 2011 tornadoes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has determined the Federal Emergency Management Agency should reclaim about $1.2 million in storm assistance funding.

A judge has rescheduled a hearing on indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard's request to dismiss ethics charges against him.  Circuit Judge Jacob Walker delayed the hearing until Feb. 16 because of a scheduling conflict.

Hubbard is alleging prosecutorial misconduct after a political consultant says he communicated often with the lead prosecutor and used the information to try to damage Hubbard politically.

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Wikimedia

More than 800 Alabamians could face eviction from public housing under a new proposal that would cut off assistance for higher-earning individuals.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a proposal aimed at reducing the number of "over-income" tenants who live in government-assisted homes. Currently, federal law requires people to meet income requirements when they move in to government-assisted housing. But they are not forced to leave if their income grows past the threshold.

Black residents in the city of Dothan have filed a civil rights complaint over a landfill. The Dothan Eagle reports the nine plaintiffs are being represented by Florida environmental attorney David Ludder. The residents claim the plan to expand the dump discriminates against black residents because African Americans comprise almost ninety percent of the population within a mile of the proposed expansion. That claim includes eighty percent of the population within a mile and a half.

Governor Robert Bentley is scheduled to visit rural west Alabama to discuss the state's response to storms that caused significant damage in several areas. Dr. Bentley will tour Pickens County Saturday and discuss the importance of storm shelters. The National Weather Service confirms two tornadoes touched down in Pickens County Tuesday night and two others also hit Lamar and Fayette counties. The Pickens County twister had peak wind speeds of up to 135mph, while Lamar County had a wind speed of 105mph, and the Fayette County storm was clocked at 90mph.

Governor Robert Bentley is authorized more than $200,000 in emergency funding to help public health officials continue responding to a tuberculosis outbreak in west central Alabama. Health officials say an outbreak of the airborne bacterial infection has killed three people since 2011, prompting aggressive screening efforts in Marion. That includes bribing local residents to get screened and follow up with necessary treatment. Two thousand people had been tested for tuberculosis in Marion as of Tuesday.

APR

Mardi Gras may not officially take place until next Tuesday—but that’s not keeping the doubloons and beads from flying over the weekend. Twelve parades are scheduled in Mobile and around the Gulf coast. Mobile prides itself as the originator of “Fat Tuesday” celebrations in the United States, in 1703, long before the revels on the day before the beginning of Lent was popularized in New Orleans. A taste of Mardi Gras comes to Tuscaloosa tonight. The Mystic Krewe of Druids is hosting its annual Bal Masque event at the Bama theater.

American Humane Association - Facebook

Being a responsible pet owner means making good choices for both you and your furry friend.    Animals need more than just a roof over their heads.  They need proper care and attention from us to make them happy, healthy companions!

**************************

     

     Troy University will observe Black History Month with its 2016 Leadership Conference starting tonight. Actor, dancer and director Jasmine Guy will deliver a keynote speech during the event. Attendees will also hear from Juanita Jones Abernathy. She’s the widow of the Reverend Ralph Abernathy. City of Troy spokesman Isaiah Scott says the conference continues to improve each year with more speakers and activities.

APR's MacKenzie Bates updated NPR's mid-day news magazine "Here & Now" on the Tuberculosis outbreak in west central Alabama. The rate is 100X the normal case load, putting Alabama in a worse position than Kenya or Bangladesh. To hear MacKenzie's story, click below on the link marked "read more at..."

A tuberculosis outbreak is continuing in the small Alabama town of Marion.

Alabama Department of Public Health officials say two more people have tested positive for TB in Perry County. Division of tuberculosis control director Pam Barrett says one case of the infection was diagnosed in a child less than 15 years old.

Officials say the tuberculosis outbreak has killed three people since 2011, prompting more aggressive screening efforts in Marion. Those efforts included paying residents to get tested, attend follow-up appointments and complete necessary treatment.

A Muslim advocacy group is asking to meet with  Governor Robert Bentley about statements he made on a refugee resettlement program that they call insensitive.

During his State of the State address Tuesday, Bentley criticized the federal refugee resettlement program for not disclosing refugees' background information to officials in states they settle in.

Bentley mentioned terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, and said one of the killers and some refugees in Alabama came from "terrorist nations."

Tornado Damage
NWS Birmingham

After completing their damage assessments yesterday, the National Weather Service says at least four tornadoes struck western Alabama earlier this week.

NWS officials say an EF2 tornado struck the McMullen community in Pickens County Tuesday evening, destroying 13 homes. 10 of the structures were mobile homes. EF2 tornadoes can have winds speeds between 113 and 157 mph and are known to cause considerable damage.

Stan Ingold

       

The National Weather Service is confirming that two tornadoes hit west central Alabama last night. An EF-2 storm struck parts of Pickens County, destroying thirteen homes. A second tornado was confirmed as an EF-1. That twister tore through Fayette County. No deaths are reported from either storm. Today’s damage report was made after assessment teams surveyed the area. Forecaster Jason Holmes says even the trees in this rural area can provide clues as to what happened…

Tornado
Scott Peake / Basehunters

The threat of flooding in parts of Alabama follows up a pair of tornadoes that hit west central Alabama last night.

Dozens of homes near Aliceville were reportedly damaged, but police report only minor injuries and no deaths. Damage assessment teams from National Weather Service will spend the morning examining the aftermath of two tornadoes that marched single file just west of Tuscaloosa.

Forecaster Jason Holmes says the clues those teams find today will establish what kind of storm hit specific areas.

Twitter

It will likely be Wednesday morning before complete damage reports can be made from rough weather that hit parts of west central Alabama. A pair of tornadoes and straight line winds reportedly damaged homes, tore down trees and power lines, and caused injuries.

Pages