Alabama

Alabama
6:06 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Montgomery, State Explore Idea Of Passenger Trains

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.

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Alabama
6:04 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Expanded Deal Over FEMA Trailer Fumes Worth $37.5M

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.

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Alabama
6:01 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

17 Veterans Assistance Offices Closing In Alabama

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.

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Alabama
5:58 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Gov. Bentley Kills Bill On Tax Appeals

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

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Alabama
5:57 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Troopers Investigate 3 Fatal Wrecks Over Holiday

Montgomery, AL – The state Department of Public Safety says troopers investigated three fatal crashes this year, down from seven in 2011, over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The crashes occurred in Walker, Madison and Winston counties. Preliminary investigations indicate that in two of the three crashes, seat belts were not used. In the third fatal crash, a motorcyclist was killed.

The holiday period began at 6 p.m. Friday and ended Monday. Despite heavier-than-usual holiday traffic, troopers were not called to investigate any fatal crashes Sunday or Monday.

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Alabama
6:10 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

New Formula Sees Alabama Graduation Rates Drop

Montgomery, AL – Fewer Alabamians are graduating from high school than previously thought according to a new formula for calculating graduation rates.

State officials said Thursday about 72 percent of Alabama high school students are graduating. That rate was previously thought to be at more than 87 percent under the old methodology.

State officials say the new formula for calculating graduation rates is believed to be more accurate.

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Alabama
6:08 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Community Colleges Seeing Declining Enrollment

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.

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Alabama
6:15 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Alabama Governor Signs Both Budgets

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed two state budgets into law.

Bentley said Thursday he didn't like everything the Legislature put into the education and General Fund budgets, but there were more positives than negatives.

Bentley said he waited to sign the budgets until the Legislature passed a use tax bill early Thursday morning. It moves part of the state use tax from education purposes to the General Fund budget.

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Alabama
6:13 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

3 Alabama Metro Papers Cut Publication To 3 Days

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.

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Alabama
6:12 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Alabama Students Below National Average In Reading

Florence, AL – A new report shows that more Alabama students read beneath their grade level than the national average.

The Alliance for Excellent Education's 2011 Nation's Report Card in reading shows that 31 percent of Alabama eighth-graders read below their grade level. Nationally, that rate is 25 percent.

Alliance president Bob Wise says that poor reading skills result in unprepared college students taking remedial courses and employers spending more money on job training.

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Alabama
6:11 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Alabama Legislature Passes Redistricting Plans

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.

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Alabama
5:58 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Alabama Medicaid Chief Proposes CFO, Actuary

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.

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Alabama
5:57 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Brown Shrimping Season Opening Early On Ala. Coast

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.

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Alabama
12:51 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Putting an End to Officer-on-Female Inmate Sexual Violence in Alabama

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.

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Alabama
6:09 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Alabama Senate Nearing Vote On Senate Districts

Montgomery, AL – Republicans in the Alabama Senate say they have the votes to approve new Senate districts that could increase GOP membership in the Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said the proposed districts could boost the number of Republicans in the 35-member Senate from 22 to 27.

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