Associated Press

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A spokesman for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey says Ivey is willing to debate her opponents ahead of the June primary.  

 Brent Buchanan told The Associated Press Wednesday that the governor is "happy to discuss her record" in a debate.

Alabama state employees would see their first cost-of-living raise in a decade under a bill that passed the state Senate yesterday.

Senators voted nearly unanimously to approve a 3 percent pay raise for state employees. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for debate.

Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss says “This is a long time coming. That being said, we’ve had some difficult waters economically between then and now.”

State employees haven’t had a cost-of-living pay increase since 2008, although there have been merit-based raises issued since then.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill aimed at allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in schools and government buildings despite criticisms that it was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.  

 Senators voted 23-3 for the proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Alabama State House
AP

Alabama’s ethics law for public employees and state officials could see some changes soon.

State Senate President Del Marsh filed a bill late last week including several measures aimed at clarifying or in some cases strengthening the ethics law. However, the bill would also allow state legislators to create legal defense funds and would provide a lobbying exemption for “economic development professionals”, provisions that give current ethics officials pause.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in the case of a man sentenced to death for killing a Mobile police officer but who lawyers say can’t remember the 1985 murder.

The court took up Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison’s case yesterday. Madison had been scheduled to be executed in January, but the court stayed the execution to consider whether to take the case.

Madison’s attorneys argue strokes and dementia have left him unable understand why he’s facing the death penalty, or to remember killing Mobile police officer Julius Schulte.

ci.tuscaloosa.al.us / City of Tuscaloosa

City leaders in Tuscaloosa are focusing on encouraging more development on the city’s west side and in other parts of the community.

The Tuscaloosa News reports plans involve luring new investors and development to west Tuscaloosa as well as eastern and southern areas of the city that have been neglected or fallen from favor.

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill aimed at getting more oversight for hundreds of faith-based day cares that currently go uninspected by the state.

Committee members voted unanimously yesterday in favor of the bill, described as a compromise between child welfare advocates and church centers. The measure has already passed the House and now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

Alabama Death Row
EJI

A federal judge has ruled that an Alabama inmate battling serious health issues does, in fact, have good enough veins to safely undergo a lethal injection.

U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre denied a request from Doyle Lee Hamm to block his execution, currently scheduled for tomorrow. Hamm and his attorney have argued that lethal injection would be unconstitutionally cruel in his case, as drug use along with lymphoma and hepatitis C have severely compromised Hamm's veins. His lawyer also argues it would be inhumane to execute someone already battling cancer.

The Alabama Senate has approved a state general fund budget that gives additional money to the state prison system.

That’s part of an effort to comply with a court order to overhaul the health and mental health care provided to inmates. Last summer, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the prison mental health system was “horrendously inadequate” and that changes had to be made.

Alabama officials say the state exported a record $21.7 billion in automobiles, chemicals and other goods last year.

The Tuscaloosa News reports the combined value of state goods and services shipped overseas last year jumped more than 6 percent over 2016. Alabama’s Department of Commerce says exports have increased by more than half over the last decade.

An agreement has been reached to move a minor league baseball team from the Alabama Gulf Coast to the Tennessee Valley.

BallCorps LLC announced that a lease, license and management agreement has been signed for the Mobile BayBears to move to Madison, Alabama. The team will continue to play at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile through the 2019 season, and will then move to a new $46 million, 7,000 seat ballpark in Madison for the 2020 season.

Dr. Trudier Harris
UA

An Alabama native and African-American author has won the University of Alabama’s annual non-fiction writing award for her work on women and black southern writers.

The university released a statement late last week naming Dr. Trudier Harris as this year’s winner of the Clarence E. Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Dr. Harris has written or edited more than two dozen books including the award-winning “The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South”.

 A federal judge has sentenced former Alabama House Majority Leader Representative Micky Hammon to three months in prison for felony mail fraud.  

 U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Thursday rebuffed a prosecution recommendation for Hammon to spend no time behind bars.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has closed shellfish growing waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties.  

Authorities say Areas I, II, III, IV, V and VI are closed and includes Cedar Point, Portersville Bay, Heron Bay and Dauphin Island Bay.

    The order by Acting State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris closed harvesting as of 3 p.m. Monday. It was issued as a result of possible bacteriological contamination of the oyster beds due to recent rainfall.    Officials said Wednesday that harvesting will resume as soon as the areas meet acceptable bacteriological criteria. 

A federal appeals court says a mostly white Alabama city won’t be allowed to break away from a mostly black county school system in order to form its own educational district.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a lower court was wrong to let the Birmingham suburb of Gardendale split from the Jefferson County school system. The city is more than 80 percent white, while the court decision says the county system is heavily black.

State Senator Slade Blackwell has dropped out of the race for Alabama governor, shortly after having announced his surprise candidacy.

Alabama Republican Party spokesperson Katie Lansford says Blackwell withdrew from the race yesterday. He had initially planned to run for another term in his Mountain Brook senate district, but signed up to run for governor just before the qualifying deadline on Friday instead.

Hank Sanders
via Twitter

Alabama's longest-serving state senator says he has decided to step aside in favor of his daughter.

Senator Hank Sanders announced Saturday that he will not be seeking a 10th term in office. He says his daughter, Malika Sanders-Fortier, will run in his place for the Senate District 23 seat, which covers the Selma area.

Alabama political parties closed out qualifying for the 2018 elections on Friday, and there were several notable last-minute entries.

On the Democratic side, Joseph Siegelman filed paperwork to run for attorney general as a Democrat. Siegelman is the son of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance announced a run for chief justice. Vance also ran for that post in 2012, but lost to Republican Roy Moore.

Frontier Airlines will begin offering direct flights out of Birmingham this spring – at a serious bargain.

At a news conference yesterday, the airline announced it will begin offering direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia on April 11. Introductory prices will start at $39 one-way, but tickets have to be purchased today.

A federal judge presiding in a lawsuit involving mental health treatment in Alabama prisons is giving officials until Friday to move mentally ill inmates who've been held too long in single-person cells. 

 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued the order Thursday following a hearing where inmate attorneys argued that mentally ill prisoners are being held too long in solitary.

Five school systems in north Alabama with about 25,000 students total are canceling classes because of high incidences of the flu.

The city school systems in Albertville, Boaz and Guntersville have joined the Cullman County and Marshall County systems in shutting down until next week.

State statistics show Marshall County is the largest system affected by the illness with 5,468 students enrolled in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Marshall County does not plan to resume classes until Tuesday; the other four systems plan to return to class on Monday.

A former federal prosecutor is raising concerns that Alabama’s proposed crackdown on the synthetic opioid fentanyl could end up putting low-level users behind bars for years.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown told the Alabama House Health Committee yesterday that under the proposed law, a person with a trace amount of fentanyl mixed with other drugs could potentially be prosecuted as a major drug trafficker.

A federal judge has stayed the upcoming execution of an Alabama man in order to have an independent medical expert review claims that he is too sick to be executed.

Chief U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre made that ruling yesterday. A lawyer representing Doyle Lee Hamm argues lethal injection would be unconstitutionally cruel in Hamm’s case because battles with lymphoma and hepatitis C have severely compromised his veins. The lawyer also argues it would be inhumane to execute someone suffering from terminal cancer.

Some state lawmakers have reportedly received subpoenas for their campaign finance records in what appears to be a review of campaign spending.

At least two Alabama lawmakers have confirmed with the Associated Press that they received subpoenas from the state attorney general’s office. They say they believe the focus of the subpoenas is on the use of credit cards in political campaigns, and making sure all card purchases are campaign-related.

The new mayor of Alabama’s largest city is asking the city council to approve $90 million toward the construction of a new stadium downtown.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin asked for the $90 million total to be allocated toward a new stadium on the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex-owned property downtown.

Last week, the mayor proposed that the city contribute $3 million per year for 30 years for the project, which would include a new stadium as well as additional expansion and renovation of the complex, including to the Legacy Arena.

The Alabama Department of Education released report cards yesterday assigning letter grades to every school and school system in the state for their performance.

A dozen of Alabama’s 137 school systems received an A. 52 received a B and 54 received a C. The remaining 19 got a D, and no school systems were deemed failing. The grades are based on the latest test scores as well as the rate of student improvement in reading and math from one year to the next.

A state Senate committee has delayed a vote as to whether a man who was freed after spending nearly three decades on death row is entitled to financial compensation.

State Senator Paul Bussman has proposed legislation that would grant Anthony Ray Hinton $1.5 million in compensation over three years. Hinton was freed in 2015 after spending 28 years on Alabama’s death row for two murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast food restaurants in Birmingham in 1985.

fentanyl dose
Kensington Police Service

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of tougher penalties for distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for debate.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said an influx of fentanyl, which is significantly more powerful than heroin, is causing a spike in overdose deaths. Ward says state penalties for fentanyl possession are disproportionately low, and the new bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

Alabama lawmakers are holding a public hearing later today on legislation that would allow state officials to inspect church-affiliated day cares.

The House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee will discuss the proposal to allow state inspections of church-affiliated day cares at least once per year. The centers would also have to submit proof of insurance as well as the names of all workers and their criminal histories to the state.

Spanish Fort High School
Wikimedia

Complaints are continuing over the curriculum in an advanced placement government class at a high school in south Alabama.

This past summer, the reading list for Gene Ponder’s AP Government class at Spanish Fort High School made news for its inclusion of titles like “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions” by conservative radio host Michael Savage and “Guilty: Liberal Victims and their Assault on America” by commentator Ann Coulter.

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