Associated Press

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.

A northwest Alabama man is suing General Motors, claiming his daughter's death was caused by an ignition switch that is the subject of a large recall. Steve Smith filed the suit Monday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court on behalf of his daughter, Aubrey Wallace Williams. The suit says the ignition in her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt went out on Dec. 4, 2013, causing the vehicle to become uncontrollable. Her car crossed into the oncoming lane and hit an 18-wheeler log truck. She was killed instantly. GM spokesman Jim Cain says he can't comment on specific litigation.

Associated Press

The deadline is approaching in nine south Alabama counties for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most non-profit organizations to apply for federal disaster loans due to the frost and freezing temperatures on March 25-29, 2013. The Small Business Administration says the deadline is April 14 in Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties. The loans are for working capital and can be up to $2 million. The interest rates are 4 percent for eligible small businesses and 2.875 percent for non-profit organizations.

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The student Senate at the University of Alabama delayed considering a resolution that opposed racial segregation within the school's fraternities and sororities. Student government representatives voted Thursday to send the resolution to a committee rather than consider its merits. The student newspaper, the Crimson White, reports the move killed the resolution for this year.

Chief Justice Roy Moore says Alabama's secretary of state should have been required to determine whether President Obama was born in the United States and qualified to be on the state ballot in 2012. The all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower court's dismissal of a case that sought to require the secretary of state to demand a birth certificate from presidential candidates. Moore and Justice Tom Parker dissented. Moore writes the secretary of state is a gatekeeper and has a duty to determine if candidates are natural-born U.S. citizens.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill to allow people to carry loaded handguns in their vehicles without getting pistol permit. The bill by Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale cleared the Senate 20-7 Wednesday night and now goes to the House for consideration. Currently, people without a pistol permit can carry a handgun in their vehicles provided it is unloaded and out of reach. They need to buy a pistol permit from a county sheriff to carry a loaded gun in their vehicles. Beason said citizens shouldn't have to buy a permit to protect themselves.

Alabama State House
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The House of Representatives has approved a bill that would reorganize much of the legislative branch of state government. Representatives voted 64-30 for the bill Thursday. Republicans said the changes would streamline a hodgepodge of existing oversight. Democrats expressed concerns that it will give the majority party too much power over legislative functions. The bill consolidates operations under a reconfigured Legislative Council of lawmakers.

Associated Press

In the first federal oil lease sale since the government said BP PLC can again get federal contracts, BP has bids on 31 tracts in the central Gulf of Mexico. The sale is also the first since 2008 offering tracts in the eastern gulf, but nobody bid on any of those tracts. A total of 42 companies bid on 326 blocks in the central gulf, and one company — Exxon Mobil Corp. — bid on three blocks in the western gulf. The bids will be opened and read out starting at 9 a.m. CDT.

Laurie Avocado / Wikimedia Commons

A proposal to study the impact of using a marijuana derivative to treat seizures is one step closer to becoming state law. A House Committee on Tuesday voted to fund a $1 million University of Alabama At Birmingham study on the effectiveness of using cannabidiol to control seizures. Parents of children with seizure disorders are seeking the marijuana oil, which does not get users high, based on anecdotal evidence that it is effective. The study bill was a compromise. The original version would have protected families from a drug conviction if arrested for possession.

The Associated Press

The House of Representatives narrowly approved an education budget that divided lawmakers over the lack of a teacher pay raise. Representatives approved the $5.9 billion budget in a 51-47 vote Tuesday. Tuscaloosa Republican Rep. Bill Poole says the plan puts more money toward insurance. He says that should help avoid large premium increases for current and retired education employees. Poole argued that was the best use of limited funds. Democrats contended teachers deserve a raise after going several years without one.

legislature.state.al.us

Alabama Rep. Alvin Holmes approached the House floor microphones during a contentious debate on an abortion bill and landed in the national spotlight by saying 99 percent of white lawmakers would want their daughters to have an abortion if pregnant by a black man. Holmes, who was one of the first blacks elected to Alabama's Legislature, has become known for statements — sometimes outlandish and sometimes funny — during a political career that has spanned 40 years in a conservative Southern state with a long history of civil rights struggles.

The Alabama secretary of state's office is planning to have staff traveling the state starting Monday to provide photo IDs to voters who need them for the upcoming elections. Secretary of State Jim Bennett says the mobile site visits are in addition to the IDs being available in his Montgomery office and at county boards of registrars. The visits will take about two months. They begin Monday in Alberta and Waterloo. Tuesday's schedule includes Maplesville, Thorsby and Athens. The tour wraps up May 12 in Hoover.

The Associated Press

The Legislature's effort to rewrite the lengthy Alabama Constitution article by article has stalled A Senate committee delayed action Wednesday on four proposed constitutional amendments that would rewrite four articles of the Constitution. Committee members say the issue is over for now, with only seven meeting days remaining in the 2014 legislative session. The chairman of the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee, Republican Sen.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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