Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

A top political aide to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is stepping down. Rebekah Mason’s departure follows an admission by Bentley that he made inappropriate remarks. The governor denies the two ever had an affair.

Mason announced her resignation in a statement sent by the governor's office. She says she would no longer be his senior political adviser and would no longer be paid by his campaign fund.

The family of a soldier killed in a 2010 Fort Rucker helicopter accident has reached a multi-million dollar settlement with two companies.

The Dothan Eagle reports Rolls-Royce Corporation, the company responsible for inspecting the helicopter, will pay $8 million to the family of 38-year-old Jeremy Clark. Clark was an instructor pilot who died in the Dec. 14, 2010 crash. A student pilot was also injured. Helicopter maintenance company L-3 Communications also agreed to pay $500,000.

The Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in the case of an Alabama man who is facing execution for throwing four children off a bridge to their deaths.

The justices did not comment Monday in rejecting an appeal from Lam Luong. He argued that pretrial publicity prevented him from having a fair trial.

Alabama may see the creation of new jobs abroad in the future if the governor approves a recent joint resolution from the state legislature.

The bill would lift the embargo between Cuba and the state of Alabama. This would clear the way for companies like Cleber LLC. That’s an Alabama tractor company aiming to be first U.S. business to build a factory in Cuba since 1959.

Addie Bryant is the chief of staff at Engage Cuba. She says if the resolution is passed, Alabama can expect to see some definite economic benefits.

An Alabama judge says there’s enough probable cause to let a grand jury review the case against a white police officer in Montgomery charged with fatally shooting a black man last month.

Officer Aaron Smith was arrested and charged with murder less than a week after police say he fatally shot 58-year-old Greg Gunn in February.

Alabama lawmakers are expected to give their final approval to the General Fund budget later today. That will set up an expected veto by Gov. Robert Bentley over what he calls inadequate Medicaid funding.

Governor Bentley says the spending plan in its current form is unacceptable and he plans to veto it. The budget is $85 million short of the amount Bentley and state Medicaid commissioner Stephanie Azar say is needed to adequately fund the state's Medicaid program.

Governor Robert Bentley’s plan to construct four new prisons is moving on through the state legislature, but not without a few red flags. APR’s MacKenzie Bates explains.

The Senate Budget Committee sent Governor’s Bentley’s prison building plan to the full Senate. The committee approved the bill yesterday in wake of two violent uprisings at a South Alabama prison. Governor Bentley blames the incidents on overcrowding.

Senator Cam Ward says those situations show that the state desperately needs new prisons.

The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a bare-bones General Fund budget that Gov. Robert Bentley has already threatened to veto over inadequate Medicaid funding.

Representatives approved the spending bill on a 65-35 vote yesterday after a five-hour filibuster by black lawmakers. Democrats harshly criticized the proposed spending plan, which comes up $85 million short of the amount Bentley says is needed to adequately fund Medicaid.

Montgomery Rep. John Knight says Medicaid provides medical care to 1 million vulnerable Alabamians and has few programs to trim.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

The violence continues at a prison in south Alabama. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on the latest incident, and how it appears to be following a pattern.

The state Corrections Department says an inmate was stabbed by another prisoner at the Holman Correctional Facility.

Gov. Robert Bentley is hinting that lawmakers could be back in special session if they fail to pass a budget that he feels adequately funds Medicaid.

Bentley says he would veto any budget without an additional $100 million for Medicaid. While lawmakers could override his veto, Bentley says that did not preclude a special session.

Commissioner Stephanie Azar says Medicaid needs that amount to avoid cuts and continue a switch to managed care.

The Alabama House of Representatives voted unanimously yesterday to approve an education budget that gives teachers their first pay raise in several years.

The spending plan would give a 4 percent raise to teachers making less than $75,000 annually, and a 2 percent raise to all other teachers in the state.

All 105 state representatives approved the budget, sending it to the Alabama Senate for consideration.

In 2013, lawmakers approved a 2 percent pay raise for teachers, but that was offset by increases in benefit costs. The last raise before that came in 2007.

Parts of the Gulf Coast are reeling after a bout of severe weather that caused Governor Robert Bentley to declare a preemptive state of emergency.

A storm reportedly knocked down trees and damaged property in Reform, Alabama, but no one was hurt. The National Weather Service tweeted that radar indicated a possible tornado in that area.

NWS radar also showed a tornado briefly touching down in Hackleburg, in northwest Alabama. Some roofs were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Gov. Robert Bentley is placing the head of Alabama's state law enforcement agency on medical leave.

Bentley announced the decision today about Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier. The medical leave will last for as long as three months, allowing Collier time to recover from what the governor's office describes as an upcoming back surgery.

Bentley is appointing Stan Stabler as acting director during Collier's absence. Stabler is currently the chief of the dignitary protection unit at ALEA.

The Tuscaloosa Police Department has announced how officers will be disciplined after a violent arrest last fall that went viral.

Police Chief Steven Anderson says Officer James Kent is still on administrative leave with pay pending disciplinary action. Officer Justin Sams received a written reprimand along with remedial training to improve his communication skills.

A Muslim advocacy group is asking to meet with  Governor Robert Bentley about statements he made on a refugee resettlement program that they call insensitive.

During his State of the State address Tuesday, Bentley criticized the federal refugee resettlement program for not disclosing refugees' background information to officials in states they settle in.

Bentley mentioned terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, and said one of the killers and some refugees in Alabama came from "terrorist nations."

Stan Ingold

       

The National Weather Service is confirming that two tornadoes hit west central Alabama last night. An EF-2 storm struck parts of Pickens County, destroying thirteen homes. A second tornado was confirmed as an EF-1. That twister tore through Fayette County. No deaths are reported from either storm. Today’s damage report was made after assessment teams surveyed the area. Forecaster Jason Holmes says even the trees in this rural area can provide clues as to what happened…

Tornado
Scott Peake / Basehunters

The threat of flooding in parts of Alabama follows up a pair of tornadoes that hit west central Alabama last night.

Dozens of homes near Aliceville were reportedly damaged, but police report only minor injuries and no deaths. Damage assessment teams from National Weather Service will spend the morning examining the aftermath of two tornadoes that marched single file just west of Tuscaloosa.

Forecaster Jason Holmes says the clues those teams find today will establish what kind of storm hit specific areas.

Much of Alabama is under threat of severe weather this afternoon and evening. The National Weather Service is predicting damaging winds of up to 70 miles per hour this afternoon. The forecast also includes hail and the possibility of isolated tornadoes. Several school districts across north and central Alabama dismissed early or canceled after-school activities in anticipation of the storms. John de Block is the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He says the storm threat will continue well into the overnight hours.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

The next session for Alabama’s state legislature will convene at noon today.

State lawmakers are starting the 2016 session on Groundhog Day to some very familiar budget issues, but there will likely be some new debates as well.

Supporters and state officials are rallying at the state capitol today for National School Choice Week.

Alabama is celebrating the variety of educational opportunities for children throughout the state, allowing them to decide what type of school they want to attend.

Sonya DiCarlo is the Director of Communications for the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund. She says there are scholarship opportunities for families to pick the school of their choice.

A public meeting was held in Perry County last night about an outbreak of tuberculosis. APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the latest about the ongoing efforts to contain the respiratory disease.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health took questions about tuberculosis for about an hour at Francis-Marion High School. Officials say 26 people have been diagnosed with tuberculosis within the last year, 20 of which are from Marion. The illness has resulted in three deaths.

       

The Alabama Department of Public Health will be holding a town hall meeting tonight to discuss an outbreak of Tuberculosis.  Twenty-six people have been diagnosed in the Marion, Centreville and Tuscaloosa areas in the past two years.  Pam Barrett is the Director for the Division of TB control with the Alabama Department of Public Health. She says keeping track of those infected has been a problem.

Federal prosecutors say Alabama’s probate judges should continue issuing same sex marriage licenses, despite the actions of the state’s chief justice. APR’s Pat Duggins spoke to one group that thinks Roy Moore should be kicked out of office, again.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Roy Moore with the state’s Judicial Ethics Panel. This comes after Moore suggested that probate judges defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage.

beachfront mansion
Jay Reeves / AP

Alabama is using a chunk of BP settlement money to renovate a beachfront governor's mansion that's been abandoned on the Gulf Coast for nearly two decades.

Work began earlier this month near Gulf Shores to fix the 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion that was never repaired after Hurricane Danny badly damaged the home in 1997.

A spokeswoman for Governor Robert Bentley says no taxpayer money is being used in the project. She says BP grant money remaining from the 2010 oil spill is being used to cover the cost, estimated at as much as $1.8 million.

A solar panel park large enough to power 50 homes a day is being built in Alabama. APR’s Stan Ingold reports it is being built by a private company that will sell the electricity generated at the site to Tennessee Valley Authority.

Spokesman Steven Pitts for contractor ACE LLC Solar tells The Decatur Daily that the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based PJ Kraft Enterprises is developing the $690,000 solar energy-producing system. They are using nearly an acre of land in Elkmont, Ala. PJ Kraft is a company that invests in renewable energy projects.

If any Alabamians missed out on signing up for coverage associated with the Affordable Care Act, there is still time to do so. APR’s MacKenzie Bates explains.

HealthCare.gov says it will be extending Tuesday’s deadline to sign up for health insurance to tonight. The reason is high demand among health care consumers who wanted coverage starting January 1. The new cutoff point is tonight at midnight PST.

Officials say the surge in consumer demand caused some applicants to wait at the call center or while trying to log into HealthCare.gov.

Alabama death row
EJI

The Alabama Supreme Court has refused to stop an execution scheduled for next month.

In a unanimous decision yesterday, justices refused inmate Christopher Brooks' request to stop his execution. A federal judge is expected to rule soon on Brooks' request for a stay.

Brooks is scheduled to be put to death Jan. 21 for the rape and murder of Deann Campbell more than 20 years ago. The execution would be Alabama's first in more than two years.

The Alabama state report card on its infrastructure will be released in December by the American Society of Civil Engineering. APR student reporter Taylor Swinney has more.

The United States as a whole has not graded well over the years, coming in with an overall D+ in the American Society of Civil Engineering's last report in 2013.

Andrew Herrmann is the former President of ASCE. He says Alabama citizens pay more a year to drive on roads and bridges that are not in good condition.

Demonstrators emptied liquor bottles outside the Alabama Capitol to protest the closing of driver's license offices in Black Belt counties.

Selma state senator Hank Sanders told the Montgomery Advertiser that state agencies are leaving money-losing liquor stores open in the impoverished areas while closing rural driver's license offices.

The crowd chanted "Give us the ballot, not just the bottle" during the Monday protest.

The event was one of several demonstrations over the closures.

Supreme Court
Wikimedia

An Alabama woman who had her adoption rights stripped by the state Supreme Court is now turning to the highest court in the nation.

The woman identified as V.L. adopted her long-term partner’s three children in Georgia. When the couple later split, the biological mother prevented V.L. from seeing her children. V.L. asked Alabama's Supreme court for help. Instead, the justices invalidated her adoptions.

Cathy Sakimura is an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and represents the woman. She says what Alabama’s Supreme Court did was unprecedented.

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