Siegelman Denied New Trial, Mental Health Budget Concerns

May 21, 2015

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman

A federal appeals court has upheld the bribery conviction and prison sentence of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Yesterday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Siegelman was not entitled to a new trial. The judges also upheld Siegelman's 78-month sentence.

This ruling is the latest legal blow to former Governor Siegelman, who has been fighting to overturn his 2006 conviction in a government corruption case. A federal jury convicted Siegelman of appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a state board in exchange for campaign donations.

Siegelman, a Democrat, had argued that a prosecutor with strong ties to GOP political leaders remained involved in trial proceedings despite her early recusal from his case. Federal judges say there is no evidence to suggest she influenced the prosecution team.

Siegelman is projected to get out of prison in 2017.

Supporters of state-funded mental health services will gather in Decatur tonight to talk about possible budget cuts.

The meeting comes after the State House passed a spending plan that could cut $200 million from the General Fund budget. 24,000 mental health patients would be impacted.

Bill Giguere is the Senior Development Officer for the Mental Health Center for North-Central Alabama. He says those budget cuts will likely mean a loss of housing.

“The Mental Health Center of North-Central Alabama provides 74 beds across six different housing programs for people with debilitating mental illnesses. If those cuts go through, we know immediately that those state funds, 20 beds will disappear, 20 out of 74. So we’re talking almost a third of our housing capacity will be gone very quickly.”

Giguere also says the proposed cuts would mean a $1 million loss to his mental health center. The gathering will start at 6 PM this evening at the Decatur Utilities meeting facility.

A bill allowing homeschooled students to play public school sports might finally catch a Hail Mary pass after years of fumbles.

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing for legislation named after the University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The Heisman trophy winner played for his local high school football team while being home-schooled.

Proponents say students of taxpaying families should be allowed to participate in extracurricular programs. Opponents say home-schooled students can't pick and choose which parts of public school life they want.

Committee Chairman Dick Brewbacker says the bill is gaining momentum and would have been approved by a vote.

Earlier this month, the bill passed the Alabama House on a 52-43 vote after dying in past legislative sessions.

Alabama will receive more than $137,000 in a settlement over a dispute about credit reporting errors that involved several states.

State Attorney General Luther Strange said yesterday that Alabama will be receiving $137,018 in a settlement with national credit reporting agencies Equifax Information Services LLC, Experian Information Solutions Inc. and TransUnion LLC.

That settlement will require those agencies to move more quickly to fix disputed information on credit reports, wait longer before adding items and more carefully scrutinize certain data they're given by collection agencies and others.

Officials say the settlement calls for the agencies to pay 31 participating states a total of $6 million for costs associated with an investigation into consumer complaints about credit reporting errors.

Strange says the settlement will mean better credit reporting service for consumers in Alabama and across the country.