Alabama

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.

Donald Trump wins Alabama

Nov 8, 2016

Donald Trump has won Alabama's presidential election, continuing the Republican streak in the Deep South state.

Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Trump was long the favorite in the deeply red state, considered one of the safest for Republicans. Alabama hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Trump and Clinton both visited the state several times during the hard-fought primary battles.

'No Burn' order expanded to all Alabama counties

Nov 7, 2016

Gov. Robert Bentley has extended a "no burn order" to all Alabama counties because of wildfires fueled by dry conditions.

Bentley placed all 67 counties under a drought declaration today that prohibits outdoor burning. Previously, 46 counties were covered by the order.

The Alabama Forestry Commission says 1,421 wildfires have occurred in Alabama since the first of October. The fires have destroyed around 15,409 acres.

Future of State Parks at stake with Amendment 2

Nov 7, 2016

Voters in Alabama and the rest of the country head to the polls tomorrow to help determine the next President of the United States.  But that won’t be the only issue citizens in the Yellowhammer State have on the ballot.  APR’s MacKenzie Bates has more on the issue known as “Amendment 2”…

Alabama’s State Parks, like many services in the state in recent years have seen its fair share of funding cuts.  Over the past five years, more than $30 million from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources budget has been slashed.

Blast-damaged gasoline line should reopen Sunday

Nov 4, 2016

The company that owns the gasoline pipeline that exploded and erupted in flames in Alabama this week says it expects to restore service to the line on Sunday.

Officials with the Colonial Pipeline Co. say it is constantly reassessing the timeline for a restart but that its current projection is Sunday afternoon.

The large pipeline, which transports gasoline from the Gulf Coast to New York City, exploded Monday while a crew was making repairs related to a September gas spill.

Governor's gambling council votes to open to public

Nov 3, 2016

A panel that will recommend changes to Alabama's gambling laws has opened its meeting to the public, after the governor's office initially said it would be closed.

The governor's advisory council on gaming voted to open the meeting.

Gov. Robert Bentley created the advisory council to make recommendations ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

Company begins excavating pipeline after leak

Nov 3, 2016

A company says it is excavating the gasoline pipeline that exploded and erupted in flames in Alabama this week.

A statement from the Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. today says "substantial progress" has been made since work began last night at the rural site southwest of Birmingham.

The company says the remaining small fire will be extinguished and draining operations will continue once preparations are finished.

Birmingham inching towards drought record

Nov 2, 2016

Summer-like heat and bone dry conditions continue to stick around Alabama this fall season.

Much of the state has broken records on high temperatures in the past couple of days. Forecasters are predicting a cold front to move in on Thursday that will bring a few storms and near average temperatures.

John De Block is a meteorologist for the national weather service in Birmingham.   He says that Birmingham is closing in on the record for the longest streak of days without significant rainfall…

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is offering a blunt assessment of the state's education system: It "sucks."

Bentley's remarks came during an appearance in Montgomery before the Alabama Association of Regional Councils.

Video aired Wednesday by WSFA-TV shows Bentley saying: "Our education system in this state sucks." Some in the audience laugh; others applaud. Bentley calls the situation intolerable and vows to make improvements.

Colonial Pipeline explosion kills one, injures others

Nov 1, 2016

A federal agency that regulates pipelines says contractors were working on repairs stemming from a September leak when gasoline ignited and spread fire to the Colonial pipeline in Alabama.

Colonial Pipeline executive Gerald Beck says a nine-man crew was using a track hoe to excavate the pipeline as part of preparation work so permanent repairs of the September leak could be made. Beck says the track hoe — a large piece of heavy equipment — struck the pipeline yesterday, causing the explosion.

Gas prices likely to increase due to pipeline explosion

Nov 1, 2016

Officials with the Colonial Pipeline say it has restarted one of its two main pipelines after an explosion in Alabama.  The Georgia-based company says that it restarted its Line 2, which transports diesel, jet fuel and other products around 11 this morning.

A Colonial Pipeline leak last month led to gas shortages and rising prices across the South.  Clay Ingram is the Public Relations manager for Triple A of Alabama.  He says the shutdown will likely affect prices at the pump…

The Supreme Court has denied an appeal from a death row inmate in Alabama.

The justices did not comment Monday in turning away the appeal from Bill Kuenzel, convicted of killing a convenience store clerk in 1987.  Kuenzel says evidence withheld by prosecutors entitled him to a new court hearing.

Kuenzel's case had gotten a boost from former Attorney General Edwin Meese, who said Kuenzel is "very likely actually innocent."

Record 3.3 million voters registered in Alabama

Oct 31, 2016

The secretary of state's office says a record 3.3 million voters are now registered in Alabama. Secretary of State John Merrill says more than 584,000 voters have been registered.

Merrill credits the record number of voters to a combination on online registration, a mail-in program and a partnership with the state law enforcement agency.

Alabama doesn't register voters by party, so it's impossible to say whether Republicans or Democrats gained the most potential voters.

Wildfires burning around South as drought worsens

Oct 27, 2016

Wildfires are charring hundreds of acres daily in the South amid a worsening drought, and no rain is in sight.

Wildfires have burned more than 12,000 acres statewide in Alabama in the last 30 days.  Fires have burned acreage in communities around Birmingham.

Forestry officials say rain is the answer, but substantial storms aren't predicted in short-term forecasts.

Pool of judges selected for Moore appeal

Oct 27, 2016

Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore walked out of the state courthouse after the acting chief justice refused to halt the lottery to pick the judges that will hear his appeal.

The names of 50 retired judges were drawn in a lottery today as potential members of the special Supreme Court for Moore's appeal. The first seven willing judges will hear the case.

Impeachment committee wants Bentley to testify

Oct 26, 2016

An impeachment committee is demanding that Gov. Robert Bentley testify under oath.

The House Judiciary Committee sent a formal demand for the governor to provide deposition-like testimony to the committee's special counsel on Nov. 9.

Committee Chairman Mike Jones says the committee wants a, "clear, truthful record from the governor and his staff" and he looked forward to the governor's cooperation.

Judges to be picked Thursday to hear Moore appeal

Oct 25, 2016

Judges will be named this week to hear suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's bid to return to the bench.

Alabama Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart says in a Tuesday order the judges for Moore's appeal will be randomly selected Thursday afternoon in a public proceeding at the Alabama Judicial Building.

A judicial panel last month suspended Moore for the remainder of his term after finding he urged state probate judges to defy the federal courts on gay marriage. Moore is appealing the decision.

Alabama could see record number of voters on election day

Oct 25, 2016

Alabama could see record number of voters at the polls on Election Day.

Secretary of State John Merrill says he anticipates between 2.2 million and 2.4 million state voters to cast ballots in the upcoming election. He says either number would be a record turnout.

Merrill believes high voter enthusiasm will drive turnout in the race that pits Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Alabama asks to let execution go forward

Oct 24, 2016

The state of Alabama is asking an appellate court to let the November execution of an inmate go forward.

The state attorney general's office on Friday asked the 11th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals to reject Tommy Arthur's request for a stay.

The state argues Arthur has used abusive litigation tactics to "escape" execution. Arthur had been scheduled for execution on six previous occasions, but was given court-issued reprieves.

Study looks at tornadoes on Alabama's Sand Mountain

Oct 23, 2016

Researchers want to determine why the Sand Mountain area of northeast Alabama seems so prone to tornadoes.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville says scientists and students will spend the next year studying the role the region's mountains and valleys play in twister formation.

The work is being performed with a nearly $250,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A release from the school says the area was affected by 49 tornadoes in the last decade.

Elba to divide $2M in flood funds through drawing process

Oct 23, 2016

The city of Elba will host a town hall meeting to decide how to distribute $2 million of FEMA flood mitigation funds.

The city is using the money to buy and tear down houses damaged during the 2015 Christmas flood.

Coffee County Emergency Management Director Larry Walker says there isn't enough funding for everyone who's applied for the buyout.

He adds homeowners with major damage will be guaranteed assistance.

Walker says there are about 40 homes with minor damage and they're not sure if there's enough money to cover them all.

Ethics panel dismisses complaint against Tom Parker

Oct 21, 2016

A judicial ethics panel dismisses a complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker over comments he made about the court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Parker's attorney announced today that the complaint had been dismissed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission. Attorney Mat Staver called it a victory for free speech.

Parker, in a 2015 interview on a Christian-themed radio show, said the U.S. Supreme Court decision jumped outside of legal precedents to "impose their will on this country."

Alabama jobless rate unchanged

Oct 21, 2016

Alabama's unemployment rate for September is unchanged at 5.4 percent.

A statement released by the governor's office today says the jobless rate represents a total of 117,125 unemployed people in the state. Just over 2 million people were employed at the same time.

The state's unemployment rate remains above the national rate, but the gap is closing. The U.S. unemployment rate inched up to 5 percent in September, compared to 4.9 percent in August.

The Alabama Association of School Boards is seeking public input, including parents and employees, on what they want to see in the Huntsville City Schools district's next superintendent.

WAAY-TV reports the association has held at least two sessions to gather the information and planed Thursday to hold at least two more. The association also has opened an online survey that can be taken anonymously through Friday.

Moore won't remove items from courthouse office

Oct 19, 2016

Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has not cleared out his courthouse office despite a request by the acting chief justice to remove his personal items.

Moore is appealing his suspension from the bench. He says he has several large paintings, a grandfather clock and other items that cannot be quickly removed.

Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart asked Moore to clear out his office by Tuesday evening. Moore's lawyers have asked the Alabama Supreme Court to overrule Stuart.

Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler is opposing a November ballot measure that clarifies the threshold to oust an impeached public official.

Amendment 6 specifies that a two-thirds vote of the Alabama Senate is required to remove an impeached public official.

Zeigler says the change would make it almost impossible to remove Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Zeigler called it the "Get Out of Impeachment Free Card."

Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of an Alabama death row inmate he says could be "very likely actually innocent."

Meese filed a brief on behalf of inmate Bill Kuenzel with the U.S. Supreme Court which will decide whether to hear Kuenzel's case.

Kuenzel was convicted of killing store clerk Linda Jean Offord in 1987.

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