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
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.
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.