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Alabama Confederate Monument
Wikimedia

State lawmakers are approaching a decision on whether to prevent changes to long-standing monuments in the state, including Confederate memorials.

The state House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill that would forbid any alterations or removal of markers that have stood for more than 20 years.

Gov. Kay Ivey could sign the legislation into law if the House passes it. A spokeswoman says Ivey’s office will review the bill if it is approved.

Alabama officials are forming a task force to address concerns about private information about crime victims inappropriately posted to a state website for court records.

The task force as well as other steps are reportedly being taken after a review of Alacourt.com by The Associated Press found the names, home addresses, telephone numbers and other information of rape victims and children who have been molested publicly available on the state-run website.

State officials say they're also adding a feature to the website designed to keep that sensitive information private.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

State lawmakers gave their final approval yesterday to a bill protecting faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children with gay parents, or in certain other households, due to their religious beliefs.

The bill would prohibit the state from refusing to license or do business with faith-based adoption groups that refuse placements on religious grounds. Supporters argue the measure is needed to make sure the groups can reasonably operate. Critics, such as the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, Rep. Patricia Todd, say it’s blatant discrimination.

Alabama education officials are investigating a series of mistakes after publicly releasing incorrect information about state graduation rates.

Some local superintendents complained that graduation rates posted to the state's website late last week were too low. The Alabama Department of Education acknowledged the error in a statement released yesterday.

Representatives approved the bill Tuesday with an 84-11 vote. It now moves to the Alabama Senate.

The United States Supreme Court will not reconsider the appeal of an Alabama death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month.

Yesterday, Supreme Court justices refused the rehearing request by Tommy Arthur, who has had seven execution dates postponed so far.

Another challenger has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by former Attorney General Luther Strange.

Dr. Randy Brinson, a Montgomery gastroenterologist and chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, announced Monday he is running to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat.

Brinson is the founder of Redeem The Vote, a group aimed at getting young evangelical Christians involved in politics. In his announcement, Brinson said voters are frustrated with "corruption, self-dealing and venality of politicians."

A new report says travelers spent more than $13 billion in the state of Alabama last year.

The study was conducted for the state tourism agency by an economist at Auburn University in Montgomery. It says more than 25 million travelers spent a total of $13.4 billion in the state in 2016 on hotels, shopping, transportation and restaurants.

That represents an increase of 5.4 percent from 2015. Tourism Director Lee Sentell says travel spending has doubled in the state over the last 14 years.

Alabama is expanding its Amber Alert guidelines for missing children.    Governor Kay Ivey says Alabama will no longer wait for a missing child to be reported "abducted" for an Amber Alert to be issued.

The decision comes after an incident in Bessemer on Wednesday where a vehicle with a child inside was stolen but did not immediately qualify for the alert.

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for autism therapy.

Representatives voted 100-0 in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama Senate. The bill mandates coverage of an autism treatment called applied behavioral analysis therapy. The Autism Society of Alabama says Alabama is one of only five states that does not require the coverage. Parents whose children have autism and have received the therapy have called it “life-changing”, but it’s also very expensive.

Alabama lawmakers are one step closer to allowing a Birmingham-area church to establish its own police force.

The House Public Safety Committee approved a measure that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church to set up its own police department. Church officials say they need their own police force to keep their school and their more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

Roy Moore
AP

The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld the suspension of Chief Justice Roy Moore due to his actions following a landmark legal decision allowing gay marriage in the state.

The specially-appointed court issued their ruling yesterday afternoon. Judges upheld the findings that Chief Justice Moore violated judicial ethics, and that his suspension for the remainder of his term on the court was justified.

Alabama lawmakers have voted to require high schoolers pass a civics exam before graduating.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill 68-31 Tuesday. 

 Decatur Republican Representative Terri Collins says her legislation is intended to ensure young people know how their government works.

The exams will be introduced during the next school year and are identical to the naturalization test given by the federal government. Students could take the 100 question quiz until they pass it.

The Alabama Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun in Alabama without a getting a permit. In the state House, debate has been postponed on a bill that would close a loophole currently exempting faith-based day cares from state regulation.

Senators are scheduled to debate the concealed weapon proposal submitted by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa this evening.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Alabama lawmakers are expected to debate a proposal that would require all day care facilities to be regulated by the state, and would end a longstanding exemption for faith-based facilities.

The bill is currently scheduled at the end of tomorrow’s debate agenda in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, the bill's sponsor, says the faith-based loophole leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. VOICES for Alabama's Children says Alabama is one of only seven states broadly exempting faith-based day care facilities from regulation.

Alabama lawmakers delayed a vote on a proposed gas tax increase to pay for road and bridge construction after the bill ran into heavy opposition.  

 House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says the bill is likely dead for the session.

The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force.    Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.  

The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

 Veteran Affairs health benefits have been extended to more than 142,000 veterans living in rural Alabama. 

Al.com reports that the extension of federal program was approved by Congress to allow vets living more than a certain distance from a VA facility to seek private medical care outside of the Department of Veteran Affairs. The program was voted to allow the program to last until the $1 billion within the program is used up.

Congress voted on the program's extension on Wednesday.

wikipedia

Israel's advanced missile defense system is being designed in northern Alabama.   

Al.com reports that the system named David's Sling was partially designed in Huntsville to help Israel's defense against regional enemies such as Iran, Palestine, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East. The defense system is designed to intercept enemy drones, planes, medium- to long-range rockets, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The system is named after the David and Goliath Bible story.

red flags
John David Mercer / AP / Press-Register

Dangerous surf conditions are causing lots of problems on the Alabama coast during spring break season.

Red flags are flying to warn people about hazardous rip currents that can quickly and easily pull swimmers out to sea. But in Gulf Shores, Ala., lifeguards have still had to rescue at least five people since Saturday. Beach safety director Scott Smothers tells WALA-TV one man had to be resuscitated but is now doing OK.

Lifeguard Jordan Russell says he had to help a 6-year-old boy and the boy's sister after both got pulled away from the beach on Tuesday.

An Alabama committee has passed a bill allowing death row inmates to be executed with nitrogen gas.    The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 6-3 Wednesday.  

 Montrose Republican Senator Trip Pittman says his bill would make Alabama the second state in country behind Oklahoma to allow a person to be put to death with nitrogen.

      State lawmakers return from spring break Tuesday to a full plate of issues. State budgets, prison construction and action on the proposed impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley are among the matters set to be decided before the session ends in late May.   

   The State House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to end Alabama's practice that allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama is the last state to still allow a judge to override a jury's sentencing recommendation in capital murder cases. 

A bill in the Alabama Legislature would require women seeking abortions to get a sonogram two days ahead of the procedure and hear a detailed description of the embryo or fetus. 

The Senate Health Committee has scheduled a Wednesday public hearing on the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. A federal appeals court in 2014 blocked a similar North Carolina ultrasound law.

A vote on whether lawmakers will impeach Alabama Governor Robert Bentley could come sooner than you think.

The top lawyer in a legislative investigation of Gov. Bentley has indicated that lawmakers are speeding to a decision on whether to impeach him over a sex scandal involving a former aide.

Special counsel Jack Sharman issued a memo to the governor's lawyers describing a tentative schedule that would decide Bentley's fate quickly. Sharman provided that memo to The Associated Press yesterday.

A new judge has been named to a high-profile Montgomery murder trial.

Montgomery police officer Aaron Cody Smith's murder trial will now be overseen by Circuit Judge Roman Shaul.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports Circuit Judge James Anderson recused himself from Smith’s trial last week because the judge’s son works for a law firm defending Smith in a federal civil lawsuit brought by the victim’s family.

The president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama has been charged with possession of child pornography.

The Tuscaloosa News reports 52-year-old Anthony Dellon Bush was arrested yesterday.

Authorities say pornographic images were found on the Tuscaloosa man's phone and work computer, but they were not of children who were involved in the Boys' & Girls' Club. Police found the images during an investigation of an incident earlier this month in which Bush was arrested and charged with assault.

dry river bed
weather.com

Those in central Alabama hurt by last year’s drought are running out of time to apply for help from the federal government.

The Small Business Administration says April 25 is the deadline for residents of seven Alabama counties to apply for disaster loans related to the drought. Assistance is available for those in Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, St. Clair, Shelby and Talladega Counties, which saw some of the worst conditions during Alabama’s dry spell.

Police in Alabama's two largest beach towns say they've made more than 450 spring break-related arrests so far this year, and that's a big improvement from last year.

Police in both Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are implementing some new tough policies this year to keep young vacationers under control. They say the change has resulted in far fewer problems.

Orange Beach police tell WALA-TV they made 287 arrests so far this spring, which is significantly fewer than last year when more than 750 were arrested.

youtube.com

 A board is seeking an investigation into the election of a new University of Alabama student government president who won with the open backing of a secretive campus society.  

The student government's election board asked for the Office of Student Conduct to review Jared Hunter's election earlier this month.

Hunter won after publicly acknowledging he was backed by a campus group called The Machine which is controlled by historically white fraternities and sororities. Hunter was the first black candidate to gain the group's support.

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.

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