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Natural Gas Prices
7:38 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

Dunn Says Hedging Cost Alabama Gas Customers $245 M

Commissioner Dunn says hedging cost Alabama Gas Corp. customers $245 million since 2003.
Wikimedia Commons

A member of the Public Service Commission says hedging agreements on natural gas prices have added nearly $245 million to the bills of Alabama Gas Corp. customers since the state's largest natural gas distributor started the practice in 2003.

PSC member Terry Dunn said Alabama Gas is one of many utilities that used the risk-management strategy and saw it "go very badly in recent years." He said it points to the need for the PSC to re-examine its rules on hedging agreements.

Politics & Government
8:12 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Voters to Decide on Rewritten Constitution Parts

Alabama House member Paul DeMarco.
legislature.state.al.us

Some members of the Alabama Legislature have been trying for more than 10 years to rewrite the Alabama Constitution by doing it one article at a time.


Two of the rewritten articles are finally ready to go before voters. Proposed amendments rewriting two sections on the 1901 Constitution relating to banking and corporations passed the Alabama House and Senate earlier this year and will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.


It's a similar process that was used in the early 1970s to rewrite the state's judicial articles.

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Politics & Government
8:03 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Ala. Governor Won't Implement Part of Health Law

governor.alabama.gov

Gov. Robert Bentley says he won't implement part of the federal Affordable Health Care Act in Alabama.


Bentley's aides announced Monday that he sent a letter to Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius saying he's an opponent of the act. Bentley said he will not make a decision on establishing minimum benefits for those buying individual and small group policies in Alabama. He called it irresponsible to decide what Alabama's benchmark will be for essential health benefits without clear guidance from the federal government.

New Meth Law
5:13 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

New Law Makes It Harder To Buy Key Meth Ingredient

A new law looks to make it tougher for people to get a key ingredient needed to produce methamphetamine.
Radspunk Wikimedia Commons

A new law has taken effect that's aimed at making it tougher for people to get a key ingredient needed to produce the illegal drug methamphetamine.

At the same time, the new law insures that allergy sufferers will still have access to the same substance, pseudoephedrine, which can mean the difference between clogged sinuses and being able to breathe.

The new law stops a process called "smurfing" where manufacturers of meth ask various people to buy pseudoephedrine in small amounts from different locations.

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Tax Preparer Test
4:51 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

IRS Urges Tax Preparers To Schedule Testing

The Internal Revenue Service is urging Alabama tax preparers to take their competency test as the deadline nears.
Ray Tsang Flickr

The Internal Revenue Service is urging the nearly 6,000 tax preparers in Alabama to schedule their competency test now as the exam deadline nears.


The IRS said in a statement Monday that the appropriate test for most of the tax preparers will be the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) competency test.


The RTRP test has been available since November 2011 and is being administered at 260 testing sites nationwide. However, if too many preparers delay, available seats will be scarce.

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Politics & Government
8:37 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Census: Alabamians Pay Second-Lowest Taxes

facebook.com

State, city and county governments in Alabama collected fewer tax dollars per resident than any other state except Idaho in fiscal 2010.

The Birmingham News (bit.ly/VeL2DQ) reports that figures from the Census Bureau show Alabama at $2,779 per resident, while Idaho was $10 lower at $2,769. The national average was $4,112 per person.

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Politics & Government
8:34 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Tuscaloosa County to Vote on Employee Pay Raises

Tuscaloosa County employees should soon know if they can expect a pay raise in the coming year.

The Tuscaloosa News reports (http://bit.ly/St1b7O ) that county commissioners are scheduled to take up the pay raise in their vote Wednesday on an $84.7 million budget for fiscal 2013.

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Politics & Government
8:30 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Bessemer Looks to Increase Budget to $41M for 2013

The Birmingham News/Toraine Norris

Officials in Bessemer will soon vote on a spending plan that would boost the Alabama city's overall budget by $2.4 million over the previous year.


The Birmingham News reports (http://bit.ly/PPYueo ) the Bessemer City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the $41 million budget for fiscal 2013.


The proposed budget slightly increases spending from $38.6 million in the fiscal year that ended Sunday. The new budget would include a 4-percent cost-of-living raise for city employees.

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Politics & Government
8:26 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Alabama GOP Sending Volunteers to Battlegrounds

fox10tv.com

Alabama's Republican Party chairman is traveling across the state to announce that the party will send volunteers to battleground states because Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to carry Alabama by a wide margin.

Party Chairman Bill Armistead is calling the effort Alabama Battleground Patriots.


A party spokeswoman says Armistead plans stops Monday in Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile and Dothan. He will be in Hoover on Tuesday.


The Republican nominee for president has carried Alabama in every election since 1980.

Arts & Life
8:22 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Storms Bring Threat of Tornadoes to Alabama

Strong storms are bringing the threat of tornadoes to much of Alabama.


The National Weather Service says there's a marginal threat of twisters for areas near and east of Interstate 65 in Alabama on Monday morning.


Forecasters say the threat will virtually end for areas west of Montgomery by 11 a.m. Monday, as the storms push eastward.


However, the tornado threat will linger into the afternoon hours for Alabama counties near the Georgia state line.

Politics & Government
10:34 am
Sun September 30, 2012

Haikala to Take Federal Bench Monday in N. Alabama

blog.al.com The Birmingham News

A new federal judge will soon take the bench in Alabama.

New Orleans native Madeline Haikala will start her new job Monday as a U.S. magistrate judge hearing cases in a district composed of 31 counties in the northern part of Alabama. The Birmingham News reports (http://bit.ly/QpmFyA ) that Haikala is the first new magistrate judge in 14 years.

Magistrate judges hear federal misdemeanor cases and conduct pre-trial proceedings.

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Business & Education
10:30 am
Sun September 30, 2012

Jefferson Co. May Select New Superintendent Monday

Jefferson County Superintendent Phil Hammonds is retiring when his contract expires in February.
Birmingham News file

A new superintendent could be picked for Jefferson County next week.

The county's Board of Education plans to meet Monday morning to discuss which person it should select among the five candidates who were recently interviewed.

The Birmingham News (http://bit.ly/QpsFrj ) reports that the board received a total of 24 applicants from 15 states. Officials have aimed to have the new superintendent in place by Jan. 2. The current superintendent, Phil Hammonds, will retire early next year.

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Politics & Government
10:26 am
Sun September 30, 2012

District Attorney Retiring From 35th Circuit

District Attorney Tommy Chapman is stepping down from his post as district attorney for the 35th Judicial Circuit.
http://blog.al.com

The district attorney prosecuting cases in Monroe and Conecuh counties will soon retire.

Tommy Chapman will step down Monday from his post as district attorney for the 35th Judicial Circuit. Gov. Robert Bentley has appointed Chapman's chief assistant, Steve Wadlington, to fill the remainder of Chapman's term.

Gov. Guy Hunt first appointed Chapman as the local district attorney in 1990. He was re-elected four times.

Politics & Government
4:58 pm
Sat September 29, 2012

Army Plan Would Limit Lock Usage on Ala. Rivers

People fish at the downstream lock of he Claiborne Lock and Dam on the Alabama River Wednesday, June 29, 2011, near Claiborne, Alabama. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to restrict traffic through the locks to save money.
Press-Register/Mike Kittrell

State officials are criticizing a plan that would limit lock usage on the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers.

Citing budget cuts and low river traffic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said starting Oct. 7 it will allow commercial boats to transit the locks if boat operators make an appointment 72 hours in advance. The locks allow boats to bypass dams that obstruct river travel.

Recreational boats can use the locks only if the locks are being used for another purpose.

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Politics & Government
4:55 pm
Sat September 29, 2012

Bentley Appoints Jay York to Mobile County Court

blog.al.com

Gov. Robert Bentley has appointed a workers compensation attorney to a judgeship in Mobile County.

Jay York will replace retiring District Judge Michael McMaken. The Mobile Press-Register (http://bit.ly/PAil07 ) reports that McMaken's last official day is Sunday.

York was among three lawyers recommended by the Mobile County Judicial Commission. By law, Bentley had to select one of the candidates endorsed by the commission.

Bentley said that York brings experience and "sound judgment" to the court.

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