Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

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.

Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley is putting his rhetoric against Syrian refugees settling in the state into action.

The governor has directed state agencies to try to block the relocation of any Syrian refugees in Alabama.

Bentley signed an executive order Monday after announcing his opposition to Syrian refugees settling in Alabama over the weekend. The order directs state agencies to use all "lawful means" to prevent the resettlement of refugees.

Governor Robert Bentley has announced he won’t allow any Syrian refugees to relocate to Alabama.

Bentley released a statement Sunday saying, "After full consideration of this weekend's attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way."

Governor Robert Bentley has announced he is refusing Syrian refugees relocating to Alabama.

In a news release Sunday Bentley said, "After full consideration of this weekend's attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way."

Tommy Bice
timesdaily.com

Alabama Department of Education Superintendent Tommy Bice says he will propose raising teacher salaries over the next three years.

Bice said yesterday his department would recommend raising teachers' salaries 5 percent in fiscal year 2017, which begins next October.

The state government will have the final word on public school spending next year. According to the department, the raise would cost $160 million.

Bice says he will seek additional raises in 2018 and 2019, with the goal of bringing teacher salaries in line with inflation.

Alabama’s Attorney General Luther Strange says the state's litigation against casinos will go forward despite the governor's order that local law enforcement should take over gambling enforcement.

Strange said yesterday he had been assured by the governor's legal adviser that the executive order issued by the governor had no impact on the state's pending litigation.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed an executive order recently saying local district attorneys and sheriffs should be in charge of gambling enforcement.

Alabama has reopened most rural driver license offices for one day each month.

The offices began reopening this week on a limited basis following national backlash over a plan to close them permanently.

In September, The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced plans to close 31 offices where state workers had given driving tests one day per week.

The agency said the closures were necessary because of budget cuts. Critics said the closures created a hardship for rural residents and only saved the state $100,000 a year in travel costs.

Sureshbhai Patel
Brynn Anderson / AP

The state of Alabama’s effort to cut off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood facilities was shut down in federal court yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is ordering the state of Alabama to restore funding to Planned Parenthood. He says the state had no legal reason to cancel the agreement between those facilities and Medicaid providers.

Susan Watson is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama. She says the judge’s ruling should be the end of this funding discussion.

Eric Parker
Brynn Anderson / AP

Federal prosecutors are trying for a second time to convict former Madison police officer Eric Parker of using unreasonable force when questioning an Indian man in February.

57 year old Sureshbhai Patel appears to have been slammed to the ground by Parker in a police dash camera video.

Robert Posey is the first assistant U.S. attorney for the northern district. He says the prosecution has good evidence on their side.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

The U.S. prison system is set to release thousands of inmates nationwide including hundreds in Alabama later this month thanks to new sentencing guidelines.

The Washington Post reports that this one-time release will occur between October 30 and November 2. The change is due to new guidelines shortening drug trafficking sentences that were approved last year.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley came out to defend the state’s closure of dozens of driver’s license offices after Congresswoman Terri Sewell said she was pursuing a Department of Justice investigation.

Bentley sent a letter to U.S Representative Terri Sewell yesterday responding to Sewell's criticisms. She has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate since Alabama requires a photo ID to vote. She says the closures disproportionately impact poor and African-American populations.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper has announced its intention to sue several entities including chemical manufacturer 3M over pollution in the Wheeler Reservoir.

The riverkeeper plans to sue 3M as well as BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, Decatur Utilities and the City of Decatur. They allege those groups are responsible for contaminating the waterway with perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs. PFCs tend to accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals, and exposure has been linked to diseases like cancer, thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis.

Planned Parenthood
Getty Images

Planned Parenthood is taking the state of Alabama to court after Governor Robert Bentley halted Medicaid payments to the organization's clinics in Alabama.

A federal judge will hold a hearing later this morning on Planned Parenthood Southeast's request for a preliminary injunction. Last month, Governor Bentley announced that he planned to terminate agreements allowing Planned Parenthood to be paid for providing services to Medicaid patients.

The state of Alabama has a general fund budget in place for the new fiscal year beginning in less than two weeks.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed the state's general fund budget yesterday morning. He says the spending plan isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction for the state.

Lawmakers passed a $1.7 billion budget on Wednesday after months of negotiations over a substantial budget shortfall. Legislators approved a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase and a transfer of $80 million in education funds to minimize cuts to state services.

The Alabama Legislature has approved a general fund budget and wrapped up their second special session.

Lawmakers gave final approval to a spending plan that will avoid cuts to critical state agencies such as Medicaid, prisons and mental health. Other state agencies will see cuts of around 5.5%. Gov. Robert Bentley says he expects to sign the budget into law after reviewing it this morning. He praised lawmakers for their hard work.

    

Shelby County sits in the geographic center of Alabama.  It has been the fastest growing county in the state for the past four decades.  Shelby County has become a Mecca for suburbanites in the Hoover/Birmingham metropolitan area.

Shelby County has not always been a suburban enclave of Jefferson County.  While Governor Robert Bentley was growing up it was a rural county much like most of the counties in the state.  Shelby County was part of a four county center that was known as the home of the original Republicans in the state.

Media outlets are asking a judge in Tuscaloosa to unseal the divorce case of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and first lady Dianne Bentley.

A motion filed today by a group of Alabama television stations and newspapers says the case was sealed last month following a hurried hearing held without notice to the public.

The motion says the divorce is newsworthy and a fair subject for reporting by the media. It says allowing the case to remain closed promotes the spread of rumors.

Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard has given a litany of complaints about his case in a recently unsealed document.

Hubbard says the state’s ethics law is unconstitutionally vague, did not apply to him as Republican party chairman and that he had a free speech right to lobby for his clients.

Late last week, a judge unsealed Hubbard's motion to dismiss his ethics case on the grounds that the ethics law is unconstitutional.

The civil rights trial of former Madison police officer Eric Parker was delayed for hours yesterday for a closed hearing involving the Madison police chief.

WHNT reports Police Chief Larry Muncey and other high-ranking members of the Madison Police Department were called into a closed hearing before the judge regarding allegations of improper contact between members of the department.

Muncey was asked to bring copies of all e-mails he sent regarding the trial. If the allegations are proven true, Muncey could face criminal contempt of court charges.

Alabama lawmakers are returning to Montgomery today for their third attempt at balancing the state’s general fund budget.

The special session begins at 5 PM this afternoon.

So far, legislators haven’t been able to agree on how to handle a projected funding shortfall of at least $200 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

Bentley makes appearance in Birmingham, Youth Dove Hunt

Sep 2, 2015

Governor Robert Bentley made his first public appearance Wednesday since first Lady Dianne Bentley filed papers last week to end their 50-year marriage. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold has more…

Governor Bentley appeared in a groundbreaking ceremony for a pharmaceutical company in Birmingham. Oxford Pharmaceuticals manufactures generic drugs and will create up to 200 jobs. The company is investing nearly $30 million at the Birmingham manufacturing site.

Alabama State House
Trance Mist / Flickr

Alabama lawmakers are heading back to the hill after the Labor Day weekend. APR’s Stan Ingold has more.

Governor Robert Bentley is calling a special session next week to try once again to pass a state budget.

The governor announced that he is bringing lawmakers back to Montgomery on September 8th.

The second special session is needed after the regular session and a first special session ended in a stalemate over proposed solutions to a projected general fund budget shortfall.

Eric Parker confrontation
Madison Police Department

A former Madison police officer stands trial today on a federal charge of using excessive force against an Indian man who was partially paralyzed during a confrontation.

Eric Sloan Parker is accused of violating the civil rights of 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel in February when he threw the man to the ground during a police stop.

Stan Ingold

            For years, Alabama was a “flyover” state for candidates seeking the presidency. That is, until recently. Within the past two weeks, the Yellowhammer State has been a popular destination for the seeking the Republican nomination.

            “You know I represent the state of Texas, we’ve got twelve hundred miles of border with Mexico, and we see firsthand the consequences of illegal immigration…”

Judge seals Alabama governor's divorce file

Aug 31, 2015

A judge orders that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's divorce case be sealed from public view. Tuscaloosa Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner issued the order today after the couple's attorneys jointly requested that the records be kept private. Lawyers told the judge that it would be in the best interest to keep the divorce records private. The request noted the governor's position as a prominent public office holder. Dianne Bentley filed for divorce on Friday, saying the couple's 50-year marriage had suffered an irretrievable breakdown.

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