Associated Press

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 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.

 The University of Montevallo received the largest gift in the school's history going toward a new building for it business school.

A $3.6 million gift was donated to the University of Montevallo's Stephens College of Business, Al.com reports. The school made the announcement Thursday. 

The college is named after Michael E. Stephens, who died last year. The college of business was named in his honor in 1997.

Stephens bequeathed the money to the school of business for the facility.

Newly elected U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama addressed Mississippi Democrats at their annual dinner in Brandon.  

The dinner had traditionally been called the Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer dinner, but Democrats are now calling it the Hamer-Winter dinner, named for civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and former Democratic Gov. William Winter.

Vernon Madison
EJI

Alabama inmate Vernon Madison was scheduled to be put to death last night at 6 p.m., but he is still alive this morning.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last night in order to consider arguments from the 67-year-old inmate’s attorneys. Madison had been sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte. In the three decades since, Madison’s lawyers say he’s suffered multiple strokes and now has vascular dementia. That has left him unable to remember the crime he committed or understand his looming execution.

A gay Alabama businessman and former police officer says GOP leaders refused to let him run for sheriff after a review including questions about his sexual orientation.

Jason White tells the News-Courier of Athens that members of the Limestone County Republican Executive Committee voted to deny his bid for sheriff earlier this week. He says that decision is almost certainly linked to the fact that he’s gay and is married to another man.

White is a former Athens police officer and did run for sheriff as a Republican in 2002. He was married to a woman at that time.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

In the wake of the first Democratic U.S. Senate victory in Alabama in a quarter-century, state lawmakers are working to get rid of special elections for Senate.

House members voted 67 to 31 yesterday in favor of a bill that would change how Senate vacancies are filled in Alabama. Instead of a special election, the governor would appoint an interim senator who would serve until the next statewide general election – up to two years.

Alabama death row
EJI

The Supreme Court has paved the way for a death row inmate to be put to death on Thursday, despite his lawyers pleading he doesn’t currently remember his crime or even understand his looming execution.

Attorneys for Vernon Madison petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday asking them to review his case and whether executing him would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Justices rejected that request this morning without issuing a written explanation.

Gov. Kay Ivey says U.S. Congress' inability to fund the federal government will not have an impact on delivering state services.

Ivey joined Alabama's Congressional Republicans to criticize Senate Democrats for the government shutdown, which took effect after the Senate rejected a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating last Friday.

Agencies shut down for the first time in more than four years after senators rejected a temporary spending patch. Bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Alabama's unemployment rate is holding steady at a record low level.

Gov. Kay Ivey's office says the state's jobless rate was 3.5 percent last month. That's the same as November, when the state matched its all-time low for unemployment.

Ivey's office says the December rate means nearly 2.1 million people were employed overall in the state. That's the most ever, surpassing the December number by about 45,000 residents.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is clashing with some state lawmakers over a proposal to significantly alter the position of lieutenant governor.

Republican Sen. Gerald Dial is proposing legislation that would strip the lieutenant governor of any legislative duties, so that they would no longer preside over the Alabama Senate. The sole function of the post would be to succeed the governor in the event of his or her death, removal or resignation.

Rather than the lieutenant governor, the Senate would elect a sitting senator as presiding officer.

Harley Barber
via Instagram

A University of Alabama student who repeatedly used a racial slur in videos on social media received immediate condemnation from her sorority and her school.

UA President Stuart Bell called the videos “highly offensive and deeply hurtful” and says the student, Harley Barber, is no longer enrolled at the university.

The videos, in which Barber repeatedly uses a racial slur for African-Americans, were first posted on a private Instagram account. However, recordings of the videos were widely shared on social media and eventually caught the attention of school administrators.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would take the state out of the marriage business. 

The measure Senators approved yesterday would do away with marriage licenses issued by county officials as well as the state requirement for married couples to have a wedding ceremony. Couples would instead sign and submit a form.

The bill comes as a few probate judges in Alabama still refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so that they don’t have to issue them to same-sex couples.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s state law requiring people to show government issued photo ID at the polls.

The lawsuit was one of the latest battles between voting rights advocates who say these measures are aimed at suppressing voter turnout and conservative states that argue they’re needed to prevent voter fraud.

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