Associated Press

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University of North Alabama

The president of the University of North Alabama is retiring.

The school says William G. Cale Jr. is stepping down after more than nine years in the position.

Trustees will discuss the process for finding a replacement during a meeting set for March 17, and the university says Cale will be available to assist during a period of transition.

Cale came to North Alabama from Penn State University-Altoona, where he was the chief executive and dean. He also worked at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

Cale and his wife plan to remain in the Florence area.

The Associated Press

A summary of action in the Alabama Legislature on Wednesday, the 21st meeting day of the regular session:

HOUSE:

—Passed a bill to name the queen honey bee as the official state agriculture insect of Alabama. Goes to Senate.

—Passed a bill establishing a new process for grandparents to petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren. Goes to Senate.

SENATE:

—Stalled on a bill to restructure the Birmingham Water Works Board.

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—Approved a bill to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Goes to Senate. (see below for more) —Approved a bill to require women seeking an abortion because of lethal fetal anomalies to be advised about the availability of perinatal hospice services. Goes to Senate. — Approved a bill to extend the waiting period before abortions from 24 to 48 hours. Goes to Senate.

legislature.state.al.us

An Alabama lawmaker is looking to create a sales tax holiday for consumers buying guns and ammunition. Republican Rep. Becky Nordgren of Gadsden said Monday that she has filed legislation to create an annual state sales tax holiday for gun and ammunition purchases. The firearms tax holiday would occur every weekend prior to the Fourth of July. Alabama currently has tax holidays for back-to-school shopping and severe weather preparedness.

discoveringalabama.org

The Alabama Senate has approved an education budget that would fund a one-time bonus of 1 percent for public school employees and add 250 teachers in middle schools. The $5.9 billion budget cleared the Senate 21-10 Thursday and now goes to the House. Gov. Robert Bentley recommended a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for public school employees. Budget committee Chairman Trip Pittman says that's not affordable. Bentley says it is, and he's hopeful it will be restored before the budget reaches his desk.

The Associated Press

The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a $1.8 billion General Fund that offers no additional money for most state agencies. The House approved the bill by an 80-20 vote Wednesday night. It now moves to the Alabama Senate. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, called the budget the best the state could do in a lean year. Some Democrats took to the House microphones saying it was time for the state to consider new revenue sources, such as legalized gambling.

The Alabama Senate has approved six trustees for the University of Alabama System. The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday for two new trustees, Harris V. Morrissette of Mobile and John D. Johns of Birmingham. The Senate also voted unanimously to approve new terms for existing trustees Joe Espy of Montgomery, Marietta Urquhart of Mobile, Andria Scott Hurst of Birmingham, and Finis St. John IV of Cullman. Alabama's board of trustees selects its own members subject to approval by the state Senate. The trustees oversee campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville.

An Alabama legislator wants to change state law so that people can carry a loaded pistol in their vehicle without a concealed carry permit. Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale said Wednesday that people should not have to pay for their 2nd Amendment right to carry their weapons. Current law allows people to carry their pistol in their vehicle without a permit, but the weapon has to be unloaded, locked away and out of reach. Beason said an unloaded weapon is of no use to the driver. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing Wednesday and will vote next week.

The Associated Press

The Alabama Senate has approved drug testing for some welfare applicants. The Senate voted 24-4 Wednesday to require drug testing for any welfare applicant with a felony or misdemeanor conviction for drug possession or distribution in the last five years. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Daphne, says the legislation would give people using drugs an incentive to stop. His bill would cut off benefits to the head of a household after three failed drug tests, but others in the household would continue to get benefits. The bill is set to expire in 2017.

RNC

The son and daughter-in-law of former Democratic House Speaker Tom Drake have lost their bids to run for major Alabama offices as Republicans. The Alabama Republican Party's Candidate Committee did not grant ballot access to Cullman attorneys Tommy Drake and Kimberly Drake during a Saturday meeting in Montgomery. Tommy Drake had signed up to run against Republican incumbent Robert Aderholt in the 4th Congressional District. Kimberly Drake was running against Republican incumbent Beth Kellum for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

Rivers A. Langley / Wikimedia Commons

Alabama may be at risk of losing some of its federal prison funding if it doesn't respond to questions from the U.S. Department of Justice about sexual abuse. 

AL.com reports federal officials sent letters to every governor last week asking if their state is complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act — a federal law that was enacted in 2003 to crack down on sexual assault against prison inmates.

The Taliban has suspended talks over a possible exchange of Taliban and U.S. prisoners due to the "complexity" of the situation in Afghanistan, the militant group said on Sunday.

"Due to the political complexity of the current situation in the country, the leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the issue for some time," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an email to media organizations, using the name the Taliban gave their 1996-2001 government.

A 55-year-old restaurant manager died and more than two dozen others were taken to hospitals Saturday after being overcome by carbon monoxide at a New York mall, police said.

Suffolk County police identified the man who died as Steven Nelson, a manager at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station on Long Island.

Police said 28 others affected by carbon monoxide were taken to area hospitals.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service says at least four tornadoes touched down in Alabama during this week's storms, including an EF-2 tornado that flung a semitrailer onto the roof of an industrial plant in the Fort Payne area. The Fort Payne-area twister was brief but powerful, with estimated winds up to 125 mph. Survey crews from the weather service say it flipped three large semitrailers, vaulting one into the air and onto the factory's roof around 12:30 a.m. Friday.

blog.al.com

The Alabama House has approved a bill aimed at allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools and state buildings. Representatives voted 77-19 Thursday for the proposed constitutional amendment that goes to the Senate and would also have to be approved by voters. Valley Republican Rep. DuWayne Bridges says Alabama should celebrate the country's religious roots. He predicted that Alabamians would overwhelmingly approve the measure. The legislation specifies that the display would have to be intermingled with other historical documents.

att.com

The Alabama Legislature has agreed to end the ability of landline phone customers to call the state's utility regulatory board with service complaints. The Alabama Senate voted 33-0 Thursday to approve a bill that does away with the Public Service Commission's authority to handle landline phone complaints. The bill passed the House earlier and now goes to the governor for his approval. The state's largest phone company, AT&T, pushed the legislation.

tanaholicapp.blogspot.com

The Alabama Legislature is set to regulate the use of tanning salons by teens. The Alabama Senate voted 23-3 Thursday to give final approval to a tanning bed regulatory bill. It passed the House earlier this month 92-2. The bill prohibits children 14 and under from using tanning beds unless prescribed by a physician. 15-year-olds could get a tan if a parent is present and gives written permission. 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds could get a tan with written permission from a parent.

The National Weather Service has issued tornado watches covering most of the state. One watch set to expire at 1 a.m. Friday includes Bibb, Dallas, Tuscaloosa Counties and others. Another watch set to expire at 3 a.m. includes Cullman, Etowah, Jefferson, Limestone and Montgomery counties, among others. A storm system moving eastward out of Mississippi will mean a threat of strong storms beginning in central Alabama Thursday night. The National Weather Service says chances are greatest northwest of a line extending roughly from Selma to Anniston.

http://ghs.butlerco.k12.al.us/

A south Alabama school superintendent says one high school erred in its attempt to limit prom attendance to "traditional couples." Greenville High School has since rescinded the rules that stated only male/female couples would be allowed to dance at the 2014 Junior/Senior Prom. Butler County Superintendent Amy Bryan says the school made a mistake and that discrimination of any kind would not be tolerated in the district. Bryan says the school administrator who issued the prom rules was mistaken in trying to micro-manage the event.

lutherstrange.com

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says he is concerned about what lawmakers' proposed General Fund budget will mean for his office. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday approved a budget that zeroes out the office's current $7 million appropriation. The budget bill says the office should instead use $7 million from the national settlement with five big mortgage companies. Strange says it is troubling that lawmakers would not guarantee full funding for the office that prosecutes criminals and is trying the BP oil spill case. Gov.

opensecrets.org

Former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith kicked off his Democratic campaign for governor by calling for the creation of a state lottery to fund college scholarships and an expansion of the state Medicaid program under the federal health care law. Griffith says a healthier, better educated Alabama will lead to more jobs. Griffith outlined his campaign agenda of jobs, education and health care in a letter posted on his new campaign website Wednesday. In interviews, he called Republican incumbent Robert Bentley timid for not expanding Medicaid. Griffith was elected to Congress as a Democrat.

Legislative committees will be busy today with some high-profile bills set to be considered. 

The House Education Policy Committee will consider a bill that would allow teachers to read the opening prayers of Congress at the start of the school day and another bill to clarify that private schools are not subject to regulation by the State Department of Education. 

Also, the House Health Committee is considering multiple abortion bills - including one that would ban abortion after the fetal heartbeat is detected. 

The Associated Press

A summary of action in the Alabama Legislature on Tuesday, the 15th meeting day of the regular session:

HOUSE:

—Approved a bill creating a gap insurance program so schools destroyed by fire or a natural disaster can be rebuilt to current school standards. Goes to Senate.

—Approved a bill creating a board to govern the Local Government Health Insurance Program. Goes to Senate.

SENATE:

—Honored 2002 Olympic gold medalist Vonetta Flowers of Birmingham.

al.com

State and local officials are set to celebrate a milestone for a north Alabama auto engine plant. Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and others plan to commemorate the production of the 3-millionth engine at Toyota Motor Manufacturing's plant in Huntsville. The plant produced a record 540,000 engines last year and is the only Toyota plant globally to build four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. The celebration comes on the heels of an announcement Monday that firearms manufacturer Remington Outdoor Co. plans to expand to Huntsville.

APR

Nick Saban confirms he and a partner are working to open a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Birmingham area.  Al.com reports the Alabama football coach said a statement Monday he's "honored to join the Mercedes family" and "extremely excited" about the business venture planned for Irondale.

npr.org

Republicans fighting a yearslong unionization effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee painted a grim picture in the days leading up to last week's vote. Workers rejected the United Auto Workers in a close vote, so attention turns now to whether the GOP can fulfill its promises that keeping the union out means more jobs will come rolling in. Regardless of what political consequences, if any, Republicans would face if that fails to happen, the Volkswagen vote established a playbook for denying the UAW its goal of expanding into foreign-owned plants in the region.

valmontfirearms.co.uk

A plan by Remington Outdoor Co. to open a plant in Huntsville that could employ thousands of workers has won the support of Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions. In a statement Sunday, Sessions said his office warmly welcomes the firearms manufacturer, and looks forward to the company's long-term success in the area. The company also makes ammunition and accessories. Sessions says the company's decision to open a plant in Huntsville "is great news and a further testament to the world class workforce" in the city. Although Remington officials haven't officially announced the deal, Gov.

auburnalabama.org

For former state Rep. Pete Turnham of Auburn, "The Monuments Men" is not a Hollywood movie about World War II. It's part of his life. The 93-year-old businessman spent the summer and fall of 1945 guarding a Bavarian castle where the Nazis hid thousands of artworks seized during the war. Turnham was the company commander for 200 troops who guarded Neuschwanstein Castle to make sure none of the art was stolen or destroyed while experts worked on returning it to the rightful owners.

bobikesbama.com

Bo Jackson is beginning his third annual charity bike ride from a city he knows well: Auburn. Organizers say this year's "Bo Bikes Bama" trek will begin on the Auburn University campus on April 19, the same day as the Tigers' A-Day spring football game. Participants can ride for either 22 or 62 miles, and money from registration fees and other fundraising goes to support the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund. The Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn started the bicycle rides after the deadly tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011.

archives.alabama.gov

The Alabama Department of Archives and History is opening a major new exhibit in Montgomery. A ribbon cutting is being held Saturday on the lawn of the Archives building for a new centerpiece exhibition called "Alabama Voices." Gov. Robert Bentley and first lady Dianne Bentley will attend. The department says the exhibit is the result of a decade of research, planning and fundraising. It covers the sweep of Alabama history from the early 1700s until today. The exhibition includes more than 800 artifacts and hundreds of images.

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