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Alabama wildlife officials say the federal government is still overestimating the amount of red snapper caught in the Gulf of Mexico.  

A new report from the Alabama Marine Resources Division says a mandatory state reporting program estimates the state's charter boats and private recreational anglers caught about 1.5 million pounds of snapper last year.

That number compares to a federal survey program that estimates more than 2.7 million pounds of red snapper were landed in Alabama.

 Alabama's wildlife agency says more hunters are reporting the number of deer they kill in the state under a new, mandatory system. 

A statement from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says hunters had reported killing about 81,000 deer in the state as of Feb. 9.

That compares to fewer than 20,000 kills that were reported during each of the last three years.

The difference is at least in part because of a new law that requires hunters to report deer harvests. Such reporting was previously voluntary.

The state is providing volunteer fire departments with more than $68,000 in grants to help cover the cost of fighting wildfires that raged across Alabama last fall. 

Governor Robert Bentley's office says grants of as much as $2,500 each will go to a total of 40 departments in 21 counties.

The money will reimburse costs related to equipment, tools, and supplies. It will also pay for the costs of starting and stopping firefighting operations.

New State Attorney General Steve Marshall will recuse himself from an investigation of Governor Robert Bentley, the man who appointed him to the job last week.  

The announcement Wednesday is confirmation that the attorney general's office is conducting an investigation related to Bentley.

Marshall, after being sworn in Monday, said he would recuse from any direct investigation involving Bentley. Marshall appointed former Montgomery County district attorney Ellen Brooks to oversee the probe.

 A legislative committee has approved a bill that would prevent judges from imposing a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. 

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill Wednesday afternoon that would give the final decision to a jury instead of a judge. Currently in Alabama, a jury recommends a sentence of death or life imprisonment in capital murder cases, but the judge hands down the final decision.

 Auburn University is once again replacing its landmark oak trees at Toomer's Corner.

A university statement says workers will plant new trees on Saturday because of damage caused by a fire in September.  

The current trees were planted there after a University of Alabama fan poisoned the original Toomer's oaks.

Toomer's Corner is a traditional gathering for Auburn fans to celebrate football victories by rolling the trees with toilet paper. A German man pleaded guilty last month to setting fire to paper on one of the trees after a game.

In a unanimous court decision, U.S. heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder has won his latest fight.

A Manhattan federal jury found in his favor Monday as the World Boxing Council champion seeks $5 million for a fight that never happened against a Russian heavyweight challenger. 

The 31-year-old Tuscaloosa native was not in court when the nine-person jury returned its verdict after brief deliberations. Neither was the Russian boxer — Alexander Povetkin.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler is asking for an attorney general's opinion on when the election to fill Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat should be held.  

 Zeigler said Monday that he sent the request to the attorney general's office. Zeigler argues the election should be held this year and that Governor Robert Bentley is incorrect to let it wait until the 2018 statewide elections.

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore who was portrayed by actor Mel Gibson in the motion picture "We Were Soldiers" has died. Moore became a war hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies. Joseph Galloway co-authored Moore's book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." He confirmed Moore's death to The Associated Press. The General died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama. Moore was just two days shy of his 95th birthday.

The state is taking control of the troubled public school system in Alabama's capital.    The state school board voted unanimously Thursday to clear the way for a state takeover of Montgomery's public school system.    The move means the Alabama Department of Education will intervene is as many as roughly two dozen failing schools. Local officials will continue overseeing schools that are doing better.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that State Superintendent Michael Sentance addressed the gap in financial terms.

The head of Alabama's two-year college system is retiring.  

Mark Heinrich will step down as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System on April first.

   System trustees accepted his notice at a meeting in Montgomery on Wednesday. Heinrich has been on medical leave since August, with Jimmy Baker serving as acting chancellor.

   The Opelika-Auburn News reports that a statement from the system says Baker will continue in the position.

 Governor Robert Bentley is using the first day of the legislative session to propose a 4-percent pay raise for state employees, a figure that immediately drew skepticism from some lawmakers over whether the state could afford it.   

Finance Director Clinton Carter announced the proposed raise during budget presentations Tuesday. The raise would cost the state general fund a projected $19 million.

 A longtime aide says former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is to be released from prison this week, nearing the end of a 6 and 1/2 sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.  

Friend and former aide Chip Hill says the ex-governor was told he'll be released to house arrest Wednesday. The 70-year-old Democrat is in a federal prison in Louisiana.

Siegelman was convicted of selling an appointment to a state health board in exchange for donations to his 1999 lottery campaign. Siegelman's supporters unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon for the former governor.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell has officially announced his bid for re-election.

Bell is seeking his second full four-year term as mayor of Birmingham.

Al.com reports Bell won his first bid for mayor in a special election in late 2009 to replace former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, following his federal conviction on bribery charges. Bell then won re-election to a two-year term in 2011. That term was abbreviated to synchronize the mayoral and city council elections.

The Alabama Oyster Social has raised $35,000 for a shellfish lab in Auburn.

 

The Opelika-Auburn News reports the donation was given to the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory in Dauphin Island during a recent event. The social brought out more than 600 attendees as many made their way through the line at a 32-foot bar, which included around five thousand raw oysters.

Chef David Bancroft says the response was the greatest "by far."

A lawyer for Governor Robert Bentley is denying that his campaign fund violated the law by paying legal fees for a former aide with whom Bentley was accused of having an affair.  

Bentley attorney William Athanas says the roughly $9,000 payment for legal fees of Rebekah Mason was consistent with state law. He says that's because it involved work she performed as Bentley's senior political adviser.

Alabama's main port in Mobile has signed an agreement meant to increase trade with Cuba.

The Alabama State Port Authority says the five-year understanding signed Thursday aims to create and improve relationships between Cuban ports, the state port in Mobile and the maritime community.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a state law that blocked a plan to raise the minimum wage in Birmingham.    U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Alabama Chapter of the NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries on behalf of minimum wage workers.

The Birmingham City Council voted to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10. The Alabama Legislature, before the increase took effect, last year swiftly passed legislation requiring a uniform state minimum wage.

Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been forced to empty his leftover campaign funds to pay legal bills as he fights an impeachment push and fallout from a scandal.

Bentley filed his campaign finance report yesterday. The report shows the governor's campaign paid more than $320,000 in legal bills last year.

Spencer Collier
ALEA

Former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier now has a new job title: Police Chief of Selma.

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton announced the appointment yesterday. He released a statement saying Collier's "expertise in law enforcement will benefit our city and help move us forward."

Collier and Melton served together in the House of Representatives. Collier is also a former state homeland security director and a former Alabama state trooper.

Some lawmakers want high school seniors to pass the U.S. citizenship test before graduating.

Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Terri Collins said Monday that they are introducing the bill in the 2017 legislative session that begins next week. 

Orr said everyone should have a "working knowledge of our government."

The legislation would require students pass the test, with at least a 60 percent grade, in order to get a diploma. Students would be able to take the test multiple times.

dry river bed
weather.com

A new report shows that widespread rain is gradually relieving the Deep South's ongoing drought, leaving only a handful of counties in Alabama and Georgia with extreme drought conditions.

A national report on the drought released Thursday found that rain drenched a large part of an area that has been abnormally dry, from northern Louisiana to the Carolinas and Virginia.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that about a half-dozen counties in the northeastern Georgia mountains and patches of another half-dozen counties in central Alabama are still dealing with extreme drought.

An organization created to advance Governor Robert Bentley's political agenda is asking to be dismissed from a lawsuit filed by the governor's former security officer.

A lawyer for the Alabama Council for Excellent Government filed the dismissal motion Wednesday, saying the bodyguard has no grounds to sue the organization.

Ray Lewis last month sued Bentley, Bentley's former political adviser Rebekah Mason and the organization which paid Mason. Lewis claims his career and reputation were damaged as Bentley and Mason tried to hide a relationship.

Tom Surtees, who served both as Alabama's Revenue and Labor commissioner, has died.

The governor's office says Surtees died Friday after fighting cancer. He was 66.   

Surtees was appointed head of the Revenue Department in 2004 by then-Gov. Bob Riley. He later became commissioner of the Department of Industrial Relations, which became the Department of Labor in 2012.

Surtees retired from the state in 2014. Governor Robert Bentley is calling him a leader and a dedicated public servant.

Governor Robert Bentley's office says he has interviewed suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and 10 other people for the U.S. Senate seat now held by attorney general-designee Jeff Sessions.

Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August says Moore was interviewed at the recommendation of the Alabama Republican Party. Moore is fighting what amounts to a permanent ouster after being convicted of violating judicial ethics rules over his opposition to gay-marriage.

A failed voting-fraud prosecution from more than 30 years ago is likely to re-emerge as a contentious issue during Senator Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing for attorney general.    He was dogged by his handling of the case as U.S. attorney during his 1986 confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship.  

                                                                                                                                                             

Alabama members of the Electoral College are gathering to cast their votes for Donald Trump.

Electoral College members will meet at state capitals across the country to cast their votes for president. Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan said the state's electors are "rock solid 100 percent" behind Trump.             

Trump won Alabama with more than 62 percent of the vote. All of Alabama's nine electors told The Associated Press that they intend to stick with Trump. 

Alabama state troopers are increasing patrols during the busy holiday traveling season.

Secretary of Law Enforcement Stan Stabler urged motorists to be cautious and "to help us make our roadways safer for everyone."

The holiday travel season typically brings an increase in traffic fatalities. Stabler said troopers investigated 14 traffic fatalities during the five-day Thanksgiving travel period. Last year, troopers investigated 26 traffic deaths during travel period around Christmas and New Year's Day.     

President-elect Donald Trump is coming to Alabama this weekend as part of his post-election victory tour. Trump will hold a rally in Mobile at 3 p.m. Saturday.  

The event will be held at the 40,000-seat Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The stadium was the site of one of Trump's first large rallies of the presidential campaign. The Trump campaign says the visit is a way to say thank you to voters. Alabama overwhelmingly supported Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election.

Statistics show about 16 percent of low-income Alabama preschoolers are obese, and the problem is getting worse.

A report based on 2014 statistics from the Women, Infants and Children feeding program shows that 16.3 percent of children ages 2 to 4 in the program were obese.   

That's an increase from about 14 percent of children in 2000, when Alabama was ranked 18th nationally in the obesity statistics.

The state is now ranked 10th nationally, and statistics show the problem is getting worse. Nationally, the obesity rate about 2- to 4-year-olds is on the decline.

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