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Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Alabama lawmakers are expected to debate a proposal that would require all day care facilities to be regulated by the state, and would end a longstanding exemption for faith-based facilities.

The bill is currently scheduled at the end of tomorrow’s debate agenda in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, the bill's sponsor, says the faith-based loophole leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. VOICES for Alabama's Children says Alabama is one of only seven states broadly exempting faith-based day care facilities from regulation.

Alabama lawmakers delayed a vote on a proposed gas tax increase to pay for road and bridge construction after the bill ran into heavy opposition.  

 House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says the bill is likely dead for the session.

The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force.    Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.  

The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

 Veteran Affairs health benefits have been extended to more than 142,000 veterans living in rural Alabama. 

Al.com reports that the extension of federal program was approved by Congress to allow vets living more than a certain distance from a VA facility to seek private medical care outside of the Department of Veteran Affairs. The program was voted to allow the program to last until the $1 billion within the program is used up.

Congress voted on the program's extension on Wednesday.

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Israel's advanced missile defense system is being designed in northern Alabama.   

Al.com reports that the system named David's Sling was partially designed in Huntsville to help Israel's defense against regional enemies such as Iran, Palestine, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East. The defense system is designed to intercept enemy drones, planes, medium- to long-range rockets, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The system is named after the David and Goliath Bible story.

red flags
John David Mercer / AP / Press-Register

Dangerous surf conditions are causing lots of problems on the Alabama coast during spring break season.

Red flags are flying to warn people about hazardous rip currents that can quickly and easily pull swimmers out to sea. But in Gulf Shores, Ala., lifeguards have still had to rescue at least five people since Saturday. Beach safety director Scott Smothers tells WALA-TV one man had to be resuscitated but is now doing OK.

Lifeguard Jordan Russell says he had to help a 6-year-old boy and the boy's sister after both got pulled away from the beach on Tuesday.

An Alabama committee has passed a bill allowing death row inmates to be executed with nitrogen gas.    The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 6-3 Wednesday.  

 Montrose Republican Senator Trip Pittman says his bill would make Alabama the second state in country behind Oklahoma to allow a person to be put to death with nitrogen.

      State lawmakers return from spring break Tuesday to a full plate of issues. State budgets, prison construction and action on the proposed impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley are among the matters set to be decided before the session ends in late May.   

   The State House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to end Alabama's practice that allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama is the last state to still allow a judge to override a jury's sentencing recommendation in capital murder cases. 

A bill in the Alabama Legislature would require women seeking abortions to get a sonogram two days ahead of the procedure and hear a detailed description of the embryo or fetus. 

The Senate Health Committee has scheduled a Wednesday public hearing on the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. A federal appeals court in 2014 blocked a similar North Carolina ultrasound law.

A vote on whether lawmakers will impeach Alabama Governor Robert Bentley could come sooner than you think.

The top lawyer in a legislative investigation of Gov. Bentley has indicated that lawmakers are speeding to a decision on whether to impeach him over a sex scandal involving a former aide.

Special counsel Jack Sharman issued a memo to the governor's lawyers describing a tentative schedule that would decide Bentley's fate quickly. Sharman provided that memo to The Associated Press yesterday.

A new judge has been named to a high-profile Montgomery murder trial.

Montgomery police officer Aaron Cody Smith's murder trial will now be overseen by Circuit Judge Roman Shaul.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports Circuit Judge James Anderson recused himself from Smith’s trial last week because the judge’s son works for a law firm defending Smith in a federal civil lawsuit brought by the victim’s family.

The president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama has been charged with possession of child pornography.

The Tuscaloosa News reports 52-year-old Anthony Dellon Bush was arrested yesterday.

Authorities say pornographic images were found on the Tuscaloosa man's phone and work computer, but they were not of children who were involved in the Boys' & Girls' Club. Police found the images during an investigation of an incident earlier this month in which Bush was arrested and charged with assault.

dry river bed
weather.com

Those in central Alabama hurt by last year’s drought are running out of time to apply for help from the federal government.

The Small Business Administration says April 25 is the deadline for residents of seven Alabama counties to apply for disaster loans related to the drought. Assistance is available for those in Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, St. Clair, Shelby and Talladega Counties, which saw some of the worst conditions during Alabama’s dry spell.

Police in Alabama's two largest beach towns say they've made more than 450 spring break-related arrests so far this year, and that's a big improvement from last year.

Police in both Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are implementing some new tough policies this year to keep young vacationers under control. They say the change has resulted in far fewer problems.

Orange Beach police tell WALA-TV they made 287 arrests so far this spring, which is significantly fewer than last year when more than 750 were arrested.

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 A board is seeking an investigation into the election of a new University of Alabama student government president who won with the open backing of a secretive campus society.  

The student government's election board asked for the Office of Student Conduct to review Jared Hunter's election earlier this month.

Hunter won after publicly acknowledging he was backed by a campus group called The Machine which is controlled by historically white fraternities and sororities. Hunter was the first black candidate to gain the group's support.

Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just one week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.

Alabama’s state veterinarian recently announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County, near the Mississippi state line.

Dr. Tony Frazier's statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

University trustees are set to vote on a new president of Auburn University today. Some say that selection process should be more transparent.

The trustees will hold a special meeting later today to name a new president.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports no candidates have been announced in the search to replace Auburn President Jay Gogue. That means there's been no chance for any prospective new administrators to meet with the university community.

Police across central Alabama say three mosques in the state have been burglarized in recent days, and one Islamic leader hopes the cases aren't part of a conspiracy of hatred.

Tuscaloosa police say two safes containing cash and a handwritten Quran were stolen from the Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa earlier this week. Police have released a photo of a car believed to be involved in the robbery that was captured on surveillance video.

State agriculture officials are banning poultry sales in Alabama over concerns about avian influenza.

The Cullman Times reports Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan issued an order Wednesday prohibiting bird sales, poultry exhibitions and the transportation of birds.

State veterinarian Tony Frazier says the order is the most effective way to prevent the possible spread of the illness.

The ban follows confirmation of avian flu in Tennessee, plus possible cases in the north Alabama counties of Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison counties.

After hours of debate over the lack of a raise for state employees, the Alabama House of Representatives finally approved a General Fund Budget.

Representatives voted 72-28 in favor of the $1.8 billion budget late last night. The funding bill now moves to the state Senate.

Montgomery lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to add some sort of raise or bonus for state employees, who haven't had a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard says lawmakers wouldn't expect to work 10 years without a raise.

recycling
Lloyd Gallman / Montgomery Advertiser

Municipal officials can lose sleep over the volume of trash that residents produce, but those in Montgomery have the opposite problem. They say the city isn’t producing enough trash to sustain a citywide recycling program.

Montgomery has a similar population size to three other major Alabama cities, Huntsville , Birmingham and Mobile. But the Montgomery Advertiser reports that the capital city is the only one without a recycling program and the only one with any doubts about its ability to maintain one.

There will be a delay in the reckless murder trial of a former NASA Astronaut. The judge in the Tuscaloosa case against James Halsell says the trial will be delayed until June while both sides work on a possible plea agreement. The defense requested a delay due to negotiations for a possible settlement involving Halsell. A motion says the two sides also are still exchanging evidence. The sixty year-old former astronaut was arrested after a June traffic crash that killed led eleven year old Niomi James and thirteen year-old Jayla Parler.

One of Alabama's largest and wealthiest churches is trying to create its own police department in what experts say would be an unprecedented move.

State legislators are considering a bill that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police force. Similar bills failed the past two years. This year's version is set for debate in the House before this year’s legislative session ends in May.

Construction is still ongoing in Tuscaloosa for a new$16 million 911 dispatch center serving all county emergency agencies and the Emergency Management Agency.

The Tuscaloosa News reports work on the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations and Communications Center is expected to finish by the end of the year, with staff occupying the building next spring. Work on the building began last August.

Lawmakers are attempting to define what criminal convictions should disqualify a person from voting.    The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday for the bill.  

 The Alabama Constitution says people convicted of felonies involving "moral turpitude" are no longer able to vote, although politicians have disagreed through the years on what crimes should be on that list.

A state general fund budget has passed committee, and it looks like state employees won’t be getting a raise after all.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a lean general fund budget yesterday. It gives level funding to most state agencies and removes a proposed pay raise for state employees. Lawmakers say the state can’t afford it.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley had proposed a 4 percent pay raise for state workers.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would stop requiring probate judges to sign marriage licenses.

The bill comes as a few probate judges in the state continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so they do not have to issue them to same-sex couples.

Senators voted 22-6 for the bill yesterday. The measure now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Instead of a license signed by the probate judge, Republican Senator Greg Albritton's bill would require couples to file a form and affidavit with the probate judge to record their marriages.

After a several-month hiatus, the House Judiciary Committee is once again meeting to discuss the possible impeachment of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee is scheduled to meet later this morning to discuss a procedural question related to the probe. It is the first meeting since the investigation was put on hold by outgoing Attorney General Luther Strange in November.

The committee is tasked with making a recommendation to the full House of Representatives on whether there are grounds to impeach Governor Bentley.

Alabama's state auditor is suing Governor Robert Bentley over his appointment of Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Jim Zeigler filed suit in Montgomery County on Sunday claiming Bentley is wrong in waiting until 2018 to hold an election for the position.

More and more U.S. States are following Alabama's lead, and re-instituting cursive writing instruction for school kids. The skill is looping back into style in schools across the country after a generation of students raised on keyboarding, texting and printing out letters longhand. Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states to require cursive. And last fall, the 1.1 million-student New York City school system encouraged teaching cursive to students in the third grade.

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