Alabama

There is a "Free Lunch"

Nov 5, 2015

This story is a class assignment in JN 325, a class on writing across media (Radio, TV, Web,) taught by Dr. George Daniels and APR news director Pat Duggins. The students are coached by Duggins, APR assistant news director Stan Ingold, and Morning Edition host Alex AuBuchon.

JN 325 Wrap Script

American Lunch

Lauren Fuller

With the growing popularity of food trucks, you can find food nearly anywhere you go. APR’s Lauren Fuller has the story about a food truck based charity that is bringing a truly free lunch to those in need with their mobile soup kitchen.

A police officer in Birmingham, Alabama was stripped of a combat medal last night. APR’s Alex AuBuchon tells us why.

Birmingham police officer Daniel Aguirre received his department’s Combat Cross Medal in May after valorous action in a shooting last year. Officials honored him for shooting a robbery suspect who the officer claimed pointed a gun at him.

Alabama and Whiskey: 100 years in the making

Nov 4, 2015

Alabama is predominantly known by three things.  Barbecue, football, and history.  But one father and son duo are looking to add something else to that list.  APR’s MacKenzie Bates took a trip to the John Emerald Distillery in Opelika where history is being made, one barrel at a time.

It’s a quiet afternoon in the back room at the John Emerald Distillery.  There are several large tanks filled with ingredients to make alcohol.   Jimmy Sharp is making a batch of rum with a local flavor to it.

Another Republican Presidential hopeful is coming to Alabama today.

Ohio Governor John Kasich* is meeting supporters during a campaign rally right now at Wintzell’s Oyster Bar in Mobile. The GOP contender earned the endorsement of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. Still, Kasich is behind in the polls compared to competitors like Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Bob Omainsky** owns Wintzell’s. He says the Kasich campaign approached him about using the oyster bar as the venue for today’s event…

Alabama red snapper fishermen say they’re feeling caught between state and federal regulators.

New numbers from Washington for the amount of snapper caught this year differs from the total from the state. The Federal Marine Recreational Information Program says Alabama anglers caught just over two million pounds of red snapper. Alabama regulators put that number at just over a million pounds. 

A secret student society is under fire at the University of Alabama.

A group called "The Machine" has operated in Tuscaloosa for a century or more. Members don't publicly acknowledge its existence, yet the group historically controls campus politics.

But 19-year-old sophomore Alex Smith wrote a column in the campus newspaper this week identifying herself as a Machine member and publicly resigning from the group.

A former Auburn University lab technician accused of distributing a chemical similar to a date-rape drug has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Court documents say Stephen Howard's guilty plea to three counts of possessing and distributing a form of butanediol was accepted yesterday by U.S. District Judge Charles Coody.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the chemical known as BD is odorless and colorless and is used as a sedative.

A federal judge has shut down the state of Alabama’s effort to cut off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.

Attorneys are questioning potential jurors for the retrial of an Alabama police officer accused of badly injuring an Indian man during an encounter earlier this year.

About 70 would-be jurors answered questions both in open court and in the judge's chambers today in preparation for the second trial of 27-year-old Eric Parker.

The Madison police officer is charged with violating the civil rights of 58-year-old Sureshbhai Patel during an encounter in a suburban neighborhood in February.

Rain is helping efforts to put out a nearly 2,000-acre wildfire that's been burning for more than a week in northwest Alabama.

The U.S. Forest Service says crews were monitoring a fire line in the Sipsey Wilderness today. Officials hope continuing rainfall will extinguish the blaze.

More than 1.5 inches of rain is forecast in an area where the Big Tree wildfire has burned about 1,938 acres since it was first reported on Oct. 16.

Brookwood Mining Layoffs, Bike Officers at State Capitol

Oct 14, 2015

About 130 people are losing their jobs at a coal mine west of Birmingham.

Walter Energy is laying off 129 workers at Jim Walters Resources in Brookwood.

Company spokesman Bill Stanhouse says the job cuts are a result of conditions in the coal market. The mine is operating at reduced production levels.

Walter Energy filed for bankruptcy in July and laid off nearly 200 people at a mine in Tuscaloosa County.

A legal group has filed a complaint against an Alabama Supreme Court justice over his public comments against same-sex marriage.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Tuesday it has filed a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission against Justice Tom Parker.

The complaint cites comments Parker made on a Christian radio show.

The Alabama Ethics Commission have released an opinion on  the idea of public employees being paid by outside sources.

Commissioners say the arrangements are presumed to be in conflict with the underlying principles of state ethics law. Commissioners say they will only approve such arrangements on a case-by case basis made through formal opinion requests.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton says the opinion process will bring the arrangements into the open and allow public scrutiny.

The fallout continues from Alabama’s new general fund budget. APR student reporter Taylor Swinney reports the fiscal year has just begun and the impact is now being felt…

Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency says there will be fewer State troopers on the road to help out with major events like Mardi Gras and races at Talladega. The department is facing a budget cut of eleven million dollars.

A judge has set a hearing on House Speaker Mike Hubbard's claims of prosecutorial misconduct and argument that the ethics law is unconstitutional.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker says the hearing is on October 26.  Walker says for Hubbard to prevail, he must prove misconduct that substantially impacted a grand jury's decision to indict Hubbard.

Hubbard faces 23 ethics charges accusing him of using his public offices to benefit his businesses.

Former Alabama first lady Dianne Bentley says she's "doing fine" days after her divorce from Gov. Robert Bentley.

Dianne Bentley filed for divorce from the governor in late August, citing an irretrievable breakdown.  A judge officially ended their 50-year marriage Tuesday.

The former first lady says God is helping her, and expressed thanks for prayers. She says she still wants to represent the state "as a lady" even though she isn't first lady anymore.

Republican Representative Phil Williams of Huntsville says he is challenging Mike Hubbard to be speaker of the House, saying he, and others, believe the House needs fresh leadership.

A letter to house members come as several Republican legislators called for Hubbard to step down as he heads to trial on ethics charges.

Williams shares a sentiment that the House can't operate effectively with current leadership.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says it is pulling examiners out of 31 part-time satellite driver’s license offices because of budget cuts.

The agency made the announcement today. The examiners currently travel to the locations during some days of the week.

The agency said the change will save money on travel costs.

Secretary Spencer Collier says the impact on citizens will be lessened because of online renewals and other options.

Former Alabama first lady Dianne Bentley told a judge that she and her husband's "likes, dislikes and lifestyles" have become so different that it caused discord and arguments in their home.

Her sworn testimony was unsealed Tuesday with other documents in Gov. Robert Bentley's divorce.

Dianne Bentley said that she and the governor had become incompatible and that a divorce was in the best interest of their family.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is moving forward with plans to close some driver’s license offices across the state.

Bentley made the remarks today during a trip to Birmingham.

There are 33 possible driver’s license offices in the state that could close.  He will follow the recommendations by Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Director Spencer Collier.

In addition to the license offices, Bentley is expected to close some Alabama National Guard Armories and possibly some state parks. 

Alabama's Water War and Politics

Sep 28, 2015

All year long on Alabama Public Radio, we’re been looking at water. In other words, we’ve been examining the condition of our water supply and the health of our rivers.   Politics is playing a big role in the state of our water, not only in Alabama but some of the surrounding states.  This has led to a new approach to manage water and help people who been hurt in the water war.

It’s 5:30 in the morning at the East Point Working Waterfront in Apalachicola, Florida. 

State agencies reviewing impact of cuts, level funding

Sep 27, 2015

Many state departments will be making do with less money when the fiscal year begins on Thursday.

Yet some state agency chiefs are remaining silent on what, if any, program reductions will be required.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says the governor and finance director are reviewing spending plans. She said they do not yet know of any specific impact on services and agencies.

Last week, lawmakers approved a general fund budget deal designed to shield critical state agencies.

Forecasters say heavy rainfall and some localized flooding are expected near the Alabama coast.

The National Weather Service says there is a high chance of rainfall starting Sunday afternoon and more through Tuesday. Officials say there is a high increase of rip currents near beaches.

Meteorologist Cody Lindsey says one of the coastal parts likely to be affected the most is Baldwin County. He says there is an 80 percent chance of rain with localized flooding of 2-4 inches near the coast.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley says lawmakers encroached on the powers of the executive branch with budget bill language dictating how state agencies should spend money.

The governor is asking the Alabama Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of budget language giving state agencies limitations as they deal with funding reductions.

It’s one week to go before Alabama’s new state budget goes into effect. APR’s Pat Duggins reports, big cuts might be coming despite tax increases…

Alabama lawmakers cobbled together a spending and taxation package of about one hundred and sixty six million dollars. That’s short of the two hundred million dollar budgetary shortfall Governor Robert Bentley was predicting during the budget debate.

A new emergency air ambulance service will soon begin providing medical transportation in Dothan and its surrounding areas.

A formal announcement and aircraft display will be held Wednesday for Wiregrass Life Flight.

The ambulance helicopter will be based in Dothan. It will be able to respond to emergencies as far as 300 miles away.  However it will be primarily responsible for providing service to southeast Alabama, southwest Georgia and north Florida.

Governor signs General Fund Budget, Bayfest update

Sep 17, 2015
Alabama Governor's Office

Alabama has a general fund budget.

Governor Robert Bentley signed the budget in to law today.

The governor says the spending plan was not perfect but was a step in the right direction.

Lawmakers passed a $1.7 billion operating budget yesterday after months of negotiations over a budget shortfall. Legislators approved a 25-cent-per pack cigarette tax and a transfer of education funds to minimize cuts to state services.

Media outlets are asking a judge in Tuscaloosa to unseal the divorce case of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and first lady Dianne Bentley.

A motion filed today by a group of Alabama television stations and newspapers says the case was sealed last month following a hurried hearing held without notice to the public.

The motion says the divorce is newsworthy and a fair subject for reporting by the media. It says allowing the case to remain closed promotes the spread of rumors.

A Senate committee has approved a House-passed cigarette tax and other revenue bills as lawmakers press forward in trying to close a budget shortfall.

The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee approved the 25-cent cigarette tax after postponing a vote earlier in the day.

The committee also approved Medicaid provider taxes on pharmacies and nursing homes.

Committee Chairman Arthur Orr says negotiations are continuing and he did not know when the bills would be up for a Senate vote.

House Committee approves tax hikes, NASA Smartwatch App

Sep 9, 2015

An Alabama budget committee has approved a cigarette tax increase and other revenue bills as lawmakers try to fill a budget shortfall.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 8-6 for a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. The increase would raise $66 million annually.

The committee also voted for bills to raise the car rental tax from 1.5 to 2 percent, increase the car title fee from $15 to $28, and adjusts the business privilege tax so smaller businesses pay less and larger ones pay more.

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