Anniston, AL – Alabama community colleges are having a tougher time funding services and employee payroll amid state budget cuts and declining enrollment.
The Alabama Department of Postsecondary education reports that early 97,000 students are enrolled in the state's community colleges for this fall. That marks a significant decrease from the 102,000 students enrolled in 2010.
The Department says state community colleges will see their budgets decrease by 2.4 percent and tuition will increase by nearly 1.9 percent.
Birmingham, AL – Three major Alabama daily newspapers will switch to publishing three days a week as part of a new focus on online news, in line with their new Orleans sister publication, The Times-Picayune.
The three papers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville and The Times-Picayune announced the new strategy Thursday. All four are owned by the Newhouse family group.
Both announcements said there will be unspecified staff reductions. The changes will take place in the fall.
Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature has approved a plan that redraws House and Senate lines during an all-night session that saw Democrats claim Republican leaders used strong-arm tactics to gavel the plan to final passage.
It was after 4 a.m. when the Senate voted 24-12 to pass a House redistricting plan moments before the House approved a Senate plan by a 65-36 vote.
Montgomery, AL – Alabama's Medicaid chief has proposed hiring a chief financial officer and actuary to keep track of spending in the agency that accounts for more than a third of the state's non-education budget.
Dr. Donald Williamson told a legislative panel on Tuesday that the hires would be part of a managed care system. Williamson heads a task force looking at ways to rein in costs for the $5.3 billion program.
Dauphin Island, AL – Alabama's Conservation Department has announced that state waters will open to shrimping on May 30 for the brown shrimp season.
The season usually opens the second week in June, but officials said a warm winter resulted in early spawning allowing shrimp to reach the legal size earlier than normal.
The program administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, Chris Blankenship, said the early opening is perfect timing because it coincides with the tourist season getting into full swing on Memorial Day weekend.
Tuscaloosa, AL – The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery has asked the Department of Justice to get involved in a serious issue at the Tutwiler Prison for Women. The organization wants the DOJ to look into what they call a widespread pattern of officer-on-inmate sexual violence. Bryan Stevenson is executive director at the Equal Justice Initiative. He talked to me about how the issue got to this point and how his organization got involved.
Montgomery, AL – A prisoner's rights group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to look into alleged sexual abuse of inmates by guards at an Alabama women's prison.
The Equal Justice Initiative says it filed a complaint with the Justice Department on Tuesday. It claims guards at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka have raped inmates, sexually assaulted them, exchanged smuggled contraband for sexual favors and sexually harassed them.
The Justice Department could not immediately be reached. The Alabama Corrections Department declined to comment on the allegations.
Montgomery, AL – The Republican majority in the Alabama House and Senate blocked efforts by Democrats to get new legislative districts that could favor them in the 2014 elections.
The House voted along party lines against House districts proposed by Mobile Democratic Rep. James Buskey. The Senate did the same thing Monday to block Senate districts offered by Greensboro Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton.
Republican leaders predict they will have the votes to pass House and Senate plans favored by the GOP later Monday.
Montgomery, AL – Alabama state officials have outlined cuts to Medicaid that have comes as a result of lower than expected state revenue.
The cuts include a 10 percent reduction to payments for certain providers, including doctors, dentists, x-rays, medical equipment and maternity primary contractors.
While state officials say benefits to children won't change, some adult benefits will. Medicaid will only cover routine eye exams once every three years instead of once every two, and the state is ending coverage of eyeglasses as a benefit.
Montgomery, AL – Gov. Robert Bentley has signed legislation making revisions in Alabama's immigration law, even though he didn't like all of it.
Bentley also said Friday he has changed his mind and won't push for additional revisions to the law in the Legislature's special session.
The Legislature passed revisions to the immigration law on the last night of its regular session Wednesday. Bentley supported most of the changes, but he objected to one requiring the state to create a public database of illegal immigrants who end up in Alabama courts.
Washington, D.C. – A federal appeals court has upheld a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and rejected a challenge by Shelby County, Ala., to the landmark civil rights law.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court said that Congress developed extensive evidence of continuing racial discrimination and reached a reasonable conclusion when it reauthorized the section of the law six years ago.
Appeals Judge David Tatel wrote for the majority that the court owes deference to Congress's judgment on the matter.