Brewton, AL – The U.S. Department of the Interior has affirmed the federal status of Alabama Indian land where highly successful casinos are located after Escambia County officials raised questions about the land.
New Orleans, LA – A new study says thousands of jobs would be created along the Gulf Coast if money from BP oil spill penalties and other sources is dedicated to coastal restoration.
The report by the research firm Mather Economics comes as Gulf interests press Congress for passage of the Restore Act, which would take 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and dedicate it to coastal projects. The fines could run anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion.
Montgomery, AL – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill that's designed to make it easier for local farmers to sell their produce to Alabama public schools.
The Farm to School Procurement Act, signed by the governor Wednesday, requires the state Agriculture Department and the state Department of Education to investigate the potential for schools to purchase local farm products. The House sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Rep. Elaine Beech of Chatom said the law calls for schools to provide training to lunchroom staff on how prepare the fresh food.
Anniston, AL – State lawmakers are hoping a bill passed last month will alleviate overcrowding in a state that has the highest prison population growth in the country.
Senate Bill 386 gives the Alabama Sentencing Commission power to shorten prison sentences for various crimes starting in October 2013 unless the Legislature specifically rejects the change. Bill sponsor Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster, said over time the prison population will decline.
Alabama's prisons hold 27,000 inmates but they were built for half that.
Birmingham, AL – Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman says his ``heart is broken'' over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to refuse an appeal of his federal bribery conviction.
In a statement, Siegelman says law professors plus current and former attorneys general from both political parties backed his appeal. He says he hopes something positive comes out of the case in the future.
The Supreme Court declined Monday to review Siegelman's conviction on charges of accepting a bribe from former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy, who also lost his appeal.
Birmingham, AL – Birmingham's new smoking ban is now in effect.
The ordinance prohibits smoking in virtually all public places, including bars. But it goes a step further and also restricts smoking outside of businesses.
While the sight of smokers standing around outside doors of downtown buildings is common, it may be a thing of the past. That's because smokers must now be at least seven feet from any public entrance, and businesses are required to post ``No Smoking'' signs.
Violators can be fined $50, and businesses face a $100 fine.
Montgomery, AL – A national coalition of civil rights and labor organizations say they will run advertisements around the country encouraging people not to visit tourist sites in Alabama because of the state's crackdown on illegal immigration.
Leaders of the group said in a telephone news conference Thursday that they also plan to have demonstrations in front of 73 Hyundai dealerships around the county to encourage the South Korean auto manufacturer to publicly take a stance against Alabama's immigration law.
Gulf Shores, AL – State leaders are prodding Alabama's coastal counties to make earlier decisions on hurricane evacuations so residents have more time to get away if a major storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico.
With hurricane season starting Friday, officials tell The Associated Press that state leaders have pushed for the change in meetings held as recently as this week.
Montgomery, AL – Montgomery city officials are working with state officials on a study to determine whether it's feasible to create a passenger railroad line that would allow residents to travel on trains between Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.
In 2009, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs received a $200,000 matching grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to fund the study.
Robert Smith, Montgomery's director of planning, said the first part of the study will look at a Birmingham-to-Montgomery connection, and will cost $200,000.
New Orleans, LA – An expanded class-action settlement agreement calls for around two dozen companies that manufactured trailers distributed by the government after hurricanes Katrina and Rita to pay a total of $37.5 million to resolve claims that Gulf Coast residents were exposed to dangerous fumes while living in them.
The amount is disclosed in a federal court filing Wednesday. About $22.7 million of the total would be paid by four manufacturers that agreed Monday to participate in the expanded settlement proposal.
Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs is closing 17 veterans' service offices around the state. This means veterans in some counties will have to travel to get assistance in receiving benefits or help with other issues.
The offices are being closed because of severe funding cuts to agencies funded by the state General Fund budget.
Spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Horton, says no employees will lose jobs because of the offices being closed. Manpower will be consolidated in the offices remaining open.
Montgomery, AL – Gov. Robert Bentley has vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature with only one negative vote. It would have set up a new streamlined system for hearing appeals of state and local tax disputes.
Legislators and lawyers who worked on the legislation to create the Alabama Tax Appeals Commission said a compromise was worked out on the final day of the legislative session, but in the rush of the last day, not all of the agreed-upon language got included in the bill that was presented to the Legislature for the nearly unanimous vote