Alabama

A Montgomery judge says extra security is unnecessary in the case against a white police officer charged with fatally shooting a black man.

Officer Aaron Smith sat quietly between his two attorneys today as the court considered several motions.

Smith’s attorney Mickey McDermott filed a motion for extra security as a "necessary precaution" due to threats against Smith. But in court, the lawyer agreed with Judge Jimmy Pool that existing courthouse security was adequate.

The heat is on across Alabama and records are falling as unseasonably warm air blankets the region.

The National Weather Service says Montgomery broke a 43-year-old record by reaching 89 degrees. Birmingham topped in at 88 degrees on Tuesday, breaking the 4-year-old record by four degrees.

To the east, Anniston also set a new high temperature record at 84 degrees.

Alabama jobless rate unchanged, Black Belt Region tourism

Mar 14, 2016

Alabama's unemployment rate remains unchanged even though the state added more than 8,000 jobs.

A statement from the governor's office released today says the state's unemployment rate for January was 6.2 percent, the same as the month before. Shelby County has Alabama's lowest jobless rate at 4.5 percent, and Clarke County is highest at 12.4 percent.

Fairfield city leaders have voted to dissolve the city's police department as leaders look to address financial hardships, but the mayor says city council has no authority to make that decision.

The Fairfield City Council voted 4-0 to disband the police department during a meeting Friday. A resolution to disband the department failed in a 3-3 vote earlier this week.

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.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's prison construction proposal is facing its first legislative test.

Bentley is asking lawmakers to approve an $800 million bond issue to build four new prisons and close most existing facilities. Some members of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee questioned aspects of the project during a public hearing Wednesday.

Montgomery city officials are planning their own investigation of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold reports the decision was made after complaints from the officer's colleagues…

Mayor Todd Strange told The Montgomery Advertiser that officers are unhappy, concerned and upset over the arrest of Officer Aaron Smith.

The U.S. Supreme Court says Alabama’s highest court overstepped its bounds when it invalidated a lesbian mother’s adoption. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

 The Supreme Court ruled unanimously to throw out an Alabama Supreme Court decision denying a lesbian woman adoption rights she had previously been granted.

The woman had adopted three children with a former partner. When she tried to ensure her visitation rights, the Alabama Supreme Court said her adoption was invalid.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is taking on a new position as chairman of Don Trump's advisory committee on national security.

Trump named the Mobile Republican to the post yesterday. A release from the Trump campaign says he's honored to have Sessions as a member of his team.

The announcement comes a week after Sessions endorsed the New York businessman for the GOP nomination for president.

Selma will honor its history as a center for voting rights activism this weekend. The annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the fifty-first anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Officials expect crowds will be down from the numbers that visited for the fiftieth anniversary and to see President Barack Obama speak. The weekend will include an education summit tomorrow, a hip-hop summit on Saturday, and the bridge crossing on Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

An EF-2 Tornado ripped through parts of Birmingham last night. APR student reporter Parker Branton has more…

Two tornados ripped through parts of Jefferson County.

The tornado was rated EF2 by a survey crew in Bessemer from the National Weather Service this morning.  There was also EF1 damage near McAlla.

Matt Grantham is a Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He described what path the tornado took.

Voter turnout in the state looks "extraordinarily high," pointing to a projected turnout as high as 60 to 70 percent in one county.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says there were a few minor hiccups around the state as polls opened this morning, but nothing that directly affected voting or voter participation.

The state of Alabama is taking part in Super Tuesday and the SEC primary election today, and some of the ballots being counted this year are a little special.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office teamed up with America’s armed services to make Alabama the first state in the country to accept online votes from military members deployed overseas. Election officials tested the system out with Montgomery’s municipal election last year and they say it’s ready for Super Tuesday.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says voting for deployed soldiers used to be a hassle.

Presidential hopefuls flooded the state of Alabama this weekend. APR student reporter Parker Branton has more…

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Miles College in Birmingham while Florida Senator Marco Rubio made two stops at Samford University and the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. Businessman Donald Trump also made an appearance in Huntsville.

Secretary Clinton praised Mayor William Bell of Birmingham for his work to raise the minimum working wage.

The list of Presidential candidates coming to Alabama keeps growing.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office says Republican Doctor Ben Carson will be making a stop at Auburn University-Montgomery on Monday.  The time of the event has not been confirmed yet.

Carson is the fourth candidate for the White House to come to Alabama in the next few days.  Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton will be in Birmingham on Saturday.  Republican candidate Marco Rubio will also be in the magic city.

Alabama’s governor has signed a bill that prevents cities from setting their own minimum wage. 

Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill in to law shortly after the State Senate approved it by more than 2-to-1 vote.  The majority of the votes fell along party lines.

Republican lawmakers supported the bill that will block the Birmingham City Council, which voted to increase their city’s minimum wage to $10.10.  That minimum wage hike set to go in to effect on Monday.

A Senate committee is debating a proposal to have Alabama join multi-state lottery games like Mega-Millions and Powerball.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose wants the state join the multi-state games instead of creating its own lottery scheme. The bill is an alternative proposal to other lottery bills that have stalled because of a lack of consensus over the details.

If approved by lawmakers, voters would have the final say on whether lottery ticket sales will be allowed in the state.

Strong storms could be making their way across southern Alabama once again starting tonight.

The storms, which could produce isolated tornadoes will likely start late this afternoon and should dissipate by early Wednesday morning. Areas along the line between Camden and Mobile and later the I-65 corridor will likely be affected by the storms.

Joe Maniscalco is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mobile. He says the storms come from a combination of factors.

Huntsville city leaders have announced that Google is bringing high-speed fiber optic Internet and television service to the area.

Mayor Tommy Battle and Google representatives and others made the announcement today at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Battle expects faster Internet speeds to boost the local workforce and help provide more opportunities for residents to work from home.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Alabama native Harper Lee died this morning at the age 89.

Lee is best known for “To Kill A Mockingbird”, the story of a girl nicknamed Scout growing up in a Depression-era Southern town. It tells the story of about how a black man was wrongly accused of raping a white woman, and Scout's father, the resolute lawyer Atticus Finch, defends him despite threats and the scorn of many.

The National League of Women’s Voters launched a website that is a “one-stop-shop” for voting information ahead of Alabama’s presidential primary.  Vote 4-1-1-dot-org provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information.

Kathryn Berg is First Vice President of the league of women’s voters of Alabama. She says the website sorts out the differences between partisan primary votes and the general election for President…

Alabama: Jesse Owens' starting block

Feb 18, 2016

The movie “Race” debuts in theaters today across the United States.  The biopic depicts legendary Track and Field athlete Jesse Owens and his journey to winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany.  APR’s MacKenzie Bates traveled to Owens’s hometown in Northern Alabama, where a park and museum keeps his memory alive

When you talk about the Olympics, names like swimmers Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz or gymnast Gabby Douglas may come to mind. But in 1936, Alabama Native Jesse Owens staked his claim as one of the greatest Olympians in American history.

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 Alabama House is debating on proposed legislation that would prevent cities from setting local minimum wages.

The Republican-backed bill is on the legislative fast track as the city of Birmingham seeks to expedite a minimum wage increase approved last year for all workers within the city limits.

Birmingham leaders sought to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and planned to begin with an $8.25 minimum wage March 1.

Ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft are getting the green light to operate in the City of Huntsville.

The Huntsville City Council approved two ordinances last night to allow the companies to begin service in the Rocket City.  The first requires the businesses to seek council approval for a license.  The other sets the fees for the licenses.

Birmingham recently approved the use of ride-sharing companies.  Mobile and Montgomery also have Uber.   

Advocacy groups representing three states, including Alabama want changes to a national form regarding proof of Citizenship to register to vote.

The 30 groups want a federal elections official to throw out the rule in Alabama, Georgia and Kansas

The groups sent a letter to the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, arguing the impact would be particularly significant because 2016 is a presidential election year when people typically register in greater numbers.

The first case of the Zika virus in Alabama has been reported. APR student reporter Parker Branton has more on how this case fits into to the overall outbreak…

The Alabama Department of Public Health says a travel related case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Morgan County in north Alabama.

The Birmingham City Council is increasing in the local minimum wage a little earlier than expected.  The council voted today to move the implementation date of the wage increase to March 1.

The council had the idea in August to establish an hourly minimum wage of $8.50 by July 2016; and $10.10 by July 2017, with increases afterward tied to inflation.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

A judge has rescheduled a hearing on indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard's request to dismiss ethics charges against him.  Circuit Judge Jacob Walker delayed the hearing until Feb. 16 because of a scheduling conflict.

Hubbard is alleging prosecutorial misconduct after a political consultant says he communicated often with the lead prosecutor and used the information to try to damage Hubbard politically.

NWS: Severe weather possible in Alabama on Tuesday

Jan 31, 2016

Forecasters say Alabama could be in for a round of severe weather this week.

The National Weather Service says northwestern Alabama faces an elevated risk of damaging winds and isolated twisters beginning Tuesday afternoon.

Forecast models show a lesser threat of severe weather extending south and east across the state on Tuesday evening.

Weather service meteorologist Jim Stefkovich says forecast can change before Tuesday. But he says the question right now is how far the severe weather extends eastward across the state.

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