Alabama

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says the statewide burn ban which has been in effect since early November is being lifted.

Alabama Forestry Commission officials say the state has received enough rainfall over the last few days to reduce the threat of dangerous wildfires.

Bentley said the forestry commission now believes "the worst of the drought has ended."

An Alabama inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his upcoming execution to consider whether a judge should have been able to give him a death sentence when the jury recommended life imprisonment.

Attorneys for Ronald Bert Smith filed the stay request today. Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next Thursday for the 1994 slaying of Huntsville convenience store clerk Casey Wilson.

A jury recommended life imprisonment by a 7-5 vote, but a judge sentenced Smith to the death penalty.

Hunters are clear to use an Alabama wildlife management area shut down by a major gasoline pipeline leak in September.

State officials say the William R. Ireland, Sr. Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area has been reopened between Brantleyville and Glen Carbon. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says cleanup and remediation efforts are complete, allowing big and small game hunters to return.

NWS Confirms Tornadoes in several Alabama counties

Nov 30, 2016

The National Weather service has confirmed that tornadoes touched down last night in Pickens and Winston counties. 

Meteorologists say there were at least two tornadoes overnight Tuesday. Emergency managers headed out at daybreak to survey the areas where the twisters are believed to have touched down.

There were reports of homes and businesses destroyed or damaged in Pickens and Winston counties. The National Weather Service office in Huntsville is also investigating possible tornado losses.

Experts: Rainfall didn't end drought in Alabama

Nov 29, 2016

Weather experts say storms that dumped as much as 5 inches of rain on Alabama didn't end the drought.

National Weather Service statistics show as much as 5 inches of rain fell near the geographic center of the state along the Shelby-Chilton county line.

Much of central Alabama got 2 inches of rain, and nearly the entire northern half of the state got at least 1 inch. The southern third of the state got less precipitation.

Dunn says uprisings, death show need for new prisons

Nov 29, 2016

The state prison commissioner says outbreaks of violence, including the stabbing death of a corrections officer last month, illustrate the need for new state prisons

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn made the remarks Tuesday as he briefed legislators on the governor's $800 million prison construction proposal. Dunn said the situation in state prisons has become urgent.

The proposal calls for the construction of three super-sized prisons for men and one for women. Most existing prisons would close.

Storms take aim at wildfires, but danger remains

Nov 28, 2016

Fire officials say a storm system moving across the South appears to be heading toward many of the largest ongoing wildfires and will help suppress them.

However, authorities say the rain moving across parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee likely won't end the fire threat and dangers posed by the blazes. Several of the largest fires are in Georgia and North Carolina.

Latest stats show nearly all of Alabama in severe drought

Nov 23, 2016

The latest federal estimate shows nearly the entire state of Alabama is in a severe drought.

An assessment released by the National Drought Mitigation Center today shows that about 98 percent of the state's land mass is now locked in a severe drought after weeks without rain.

The severity of the drought varies. About 82 percent of the state is in an extreme drought, and 35 percent is experiencing an exceptional drought. That's the worst of all the drought categories.

Hubbard appealing decision on juror misconduct

Nov 23, 2016

Ousted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is appealing a judge's ruling on allegations of juror misconduct during his ethics trial.

Lawyers for the one-time Statehouse leader filed a notice of the challenge this week with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

The defense is fighting the decision of a Lee County judge who dismissed Hubbard's claims that jury members made improper comments that were critical of Hubbard.

Airbus A321 will flyover Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa

Nov 22, 2016

The University of Alabama will welcome an Airbus A321 commercial airliner for a pregame flyover prior to the start of the Iron Bowl on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This aircraft is the first A321 that is being produced for Delta Air Lines in the Airbus Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala. It will be the 15th Airbus A321 delivered from the facility, which opened in September of 2015.

Judge: Ex-astronaut charged in 2 traffic deaths can drive

Nov 22, 2016

An Alabama judge says a former astronaut charged in the traffic deaths of two girls can continue driving, but with restrictions.

A judge in Tuscaloosa ruled late Friday that former space shuttle commander  James Halsell Jr. can't consume any alcohol or illegal drugs.  He also cannot take medication unless he has a prescription.

Circuit Judge Bradley Almond also ruled the 60-year-old Halsell must have a special locking device installed on his car's ignition. And the Huntsville man must undergo twice-weekly testing.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says wedding food was probably behind a salmonella outbreak that sickened about 100 people in north Alabama.

Officials say Salmonella was found both in cooked chicken and green beans following the event in Colbert County.

About 150 people were at the wedding, which was held in Tuscumbia, and the department says at least 99 people got sick. Of those, 22 people were hospitalized. Four people remain hospitalized.

Crews fighting large fire in northeast Alabama

Nov 21, 2016

Crews in northeast Alabama are fighting one of the largest wildfires yet to strike the state this fall.

The Alabama Forestry Commission says a fire near Mentone has burned more than 1,000 acres on Lookout Mountain.

National Guard helicopters are dumping water on the flames because the fire is inaccessible to bulldozers and firefighters in places. Only a few structures are at risk.

Alabama jobless rate jumps to 5.7 percent

Nov 18, 2016

Alabama's unemployment rate is on the rise, partly because more people are out looking for jobs.

The state said Friday that Alabama's unemployment rate jumped to 5.7 percent in October. That's three-tenths of a percent higher than September.

And while the state jobless rate is better than it was a year ago, Alabama still trails the nation. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in October.

Trump's staff picks disappoint, alarm minority groups

Nov 18, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump's picks for staff positions in his administration are alarming civil rights leaders who say his choices could turn back the clock on social issues.

Trump's picks include Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, alt-right architect Stephen Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist, and former Army Lt. Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Drought spreading southward in Alabama

Nov 17, 2016

A new report shows that a choking drought is spreading southward across Alabama.

Federal statistics show nearly 90 percent of the state is now in a severe drought. And the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 65 percent of the state is in an extreme or exceptional drought.

Conditions are worst in the northern half of the state, where many areas haven't had measurable rainfall in two months. The rainless period is setting records, and some places are more than 15 inches below normal rainfall for the year.

Bentley spokeswoman says Mason not returning to office

Nov 17, 2016

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says the governor's former political adviser — whose relationship with the governor became part of an impeachment probe is not returning to the administration.

Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August issued the clarification today after Bentley became testy when a reporter asked if Rebekah Caldwell Mason was returning to the administration.

Bentley approached by people seeking Senate appointment

Nov 16, 2016

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says the administration has already been approached by "several" people seeking appointment to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions' Senate seat if he takes a position in the incoming Trump administration.

Sessions has not taken a position with the President-Elect, but the mere possibility has set off a political chain reaction.

Trump garners record vote count in Alabama

Nov 16, 2016

History was made last week in Alabama as more than 1.3 million votes were cast in the state for President-Elect Donald Trump.  That is the highest amount any candidate for President has ever received in Alabama, according to Secretary of State John Merrill.

Merrill attributes some of the high vote count for Trump to a surge in late registrations, after more than half a million people signed up to vote within the last year…

Two of 1,100 Alabama wildfires under investigation

Nov 15, 2016

Alabama's fire marshal says state officers are investigating two of nearly 1,100 statewide wildfires as possible arson.

Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen says a fire that burned 800 acres in DeKalb County is under investigation. So is a series of three blazes that burned 65 acres along Interstate 65 north of Birmingham last week.

No arrests have been made. But Pilgreen says officers also issued a few misdemeanor citations to people who allegedly violated a statewide no-burn order during the drought.

Birmingham agency wins extension for Zika research

Nov 14, 2016

The Birmingham-based Southern Research is expanding its work on the Zika virus.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the non-profit organization a contract extension worth $650,000 to expand a screening effort to include testing of the virus.

The goal of the work is to identify compounds that may serve as drug agents to combat Zika, which is transmitted by the bite of a tropical mosquito.

Zika is so mild in people that most who get it don't even know they are sick.

Supreme Court clears way for Elba-Samson playoff game

Nov 14, 2016

Elba and Samson high schools will play in the 2A football playoffs after the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for the game to go forward.

Justices ordered today that the Alabama High School Athletic Association's decision to disqualify Washington County High School from the playoffs should stand.

The game between Elba and Samson will be played tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Owens Elementary to become virtual school headquarters

Nov 13, 2016

Sugar Creek Elementary School will absorb the elementary students of West Limestone High School and Owens Elementary School when it opens in August, but Owens is not going away.

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk says it will become the headquarters for the district's virtual school program as well as house some new and existing career tech programs.

The Athens News Courier reports another addition will be the introduction of a bluegrass academy, providing Limestone County students the opportunity to learn a bluegrass instrument.

MöllerTech chooses Bibb County for $46.3 million plant

Nov 13, 2016

Officials say a central Alabama county landed a $46.3 million production plant deal for a German auto supplier.

Al.com reports that MöllerTech chose Bibb County for the production plant. Officials said during a groundbreaking Tuesday that Bibb beat out more than 30 sites in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.

MöllerTech plans to have the site in full production by the end of 2019. The 150,000-square-foot plant will employ 220 people and will be MöllerTech's flagship production facility.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon adjusts to role

Nov 13, 2016

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said when he took the gavel in August.

As a special session on the budget began, he felt like he was drinking from a fire hose.

McCutcheon told The Associated Press that he is now settling into the job.

The Monrovia lawmaker replaced ousted Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was automatically removed from office in June after being convicted on ethics charges.

McCutcheon took the helm of a House dealing with a budget crisis and contentious gambling legislation and a fractured Republican majority.

Tuskegee Airmen receive Congressional Gold Medal

Nov 11, 2016

Two members of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen receive Congressional Gold Medals at a Veterans Day ceremony at the National Warplane Museum.

Congressman Chris Collins presented the replicas to Airmen Wallace Higgins and Herbert Thorpe, who also accepted one on behalf of his late brother, Richard.

Relatives of three other recipients accepted medals on their behalf during Friday's ceremony in New York.

Alabama is not the only state dealing with a drought.

Federal authorities say warmer-than-average temperatures and no rainfall are deepening a drought that's sparking forest fires across the Southeastern U.S., forcing people to evacuate dozens of homes.

Thursday's national drought report shows 41.6 million people in parts of 15 southern states now live in drought conditions. The worst is in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, but extreme drought also is spreading into western North and South Carolina.

Student test scores show improvement, continued struggles

Nov 10, 2016

Alabama students showed improvement on standardized test scores, but also show more than half aren't meeting reading standards.

The Alabama Department of Education on Thursday released scores from the ACT Aspire test taken last spring by public school students.

Thirty-seven percent of third-graders statewide scored ready or exceeding reading standards. Forty-five percent of eighth graders were at that level in reading.

Test scores also show a downward decline in math skills as students get older.

Trump wins Presidency

Nov 9, 2016

Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States.

The Republican nominee won  after capturing Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes, putting him over the 270 threshold.

Voters eager to shake up the nation's political establishment picked the celebrity businessman to become the nation's 45th president.

Trump rode an astonishing wave of support from voters seeking change and willing to accept a candidate loose with facts and accused of sexual misconduct.

He upset Democrat Hillary Clinton, who would have become the first woman to serve in the Oval Office.

Shelby wins U.S. Senate Race

Nov 8, 2016

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby will spend a sixth term in Washington.

Shelby easily defeated Democratic challenger Ron Crumpton. Crumpton is best known in the state as an advocate for legalizing medicinal marijuana.

The 82-year-old senator was first elected as Democrat in 1986, but switched to the GOP in 1994. He faced no significant opposition in 2004 and 2006, as right-leaning scorecards ranked him as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.

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