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 – 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.

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 University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to partner for a greener campus and more environmental curricula.

The EPA will help the university beef up its environmental policy and science curricula and offer opportunities for students interested in environmental careers.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education show that the number of students pursuing science and other technological careers is decreasing.

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.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Democrats failed in the Legislature and in court Friday to stop new legislative districts proposed by Republicans.

Two legislative committees turned down redistricting plans drawn by Democrats and approved Republican-backed plans Friday. Both committees have a majority of Republicans.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama's unemployment rate has declined for the ninth straight month to 7.2 percent for April.

That's down from a revised March rate of 7.4 percent. Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday that Alabama's rate hasn't been this low since November 2008. Alabama's rate has been declining each month since hitting 10 percent in July. The state's rate was below the national rate of 8.1 percent.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said hiring in the automotive and tourism sectors have helped reduce the state's unemployment rate.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama – Last year's retirement of the NASA's Space Shuttle program doesn't mean the end of Congressional budget woes for the U.S. Space Program. The winged spacecraft are being sent to museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. In their place, NASA hopes to create a brand new four hundred foot tall rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, to carry astronauts on missions far from Earth, perhaps to an asteroid, or maybe to the planet Mars.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama craft beer loves got a victory with the passage of a bill to allow bigger brew bottles, but they're still waiting action on a measure to make the state the 49th to allow home brewing.

The Legislature approved the bill to allow bottles up to 25.4 ounces last week. A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says he hasn't decided whether to sign it.

The bill to legalize home brewing has been passed by the House, but is still wai
ting on action by the Senate. Wednesday is the Legislature's last regular day.

Birmingham, AL – A movie about baseball groundbreaker Jackie Robinson is filming in Birmingham this week.

Crews will be at the downtown Tutwiler Hotel on Monday to film scenes for the film ``42,'' and they will move to the city's Rickwood Field baseball park on Tuesday.

The film is about Robinson's rookie season as the first black major league player in 1947. It stars Chadwick Boseman of ``The Express'' as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford of ``Raiders of the Lost Ark'' as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who brought Robinson into the league.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Alabama's strict new immigration law has been quite the hot button issue. Since passing House Bill 56 last session, immigrants have left the state in droves as expected, but with all the legal challenges to the law Dorthy McDade like many others thought the evacuation would be temporary...

"At the very beginning a lot of them left they were still keeping their jobs."

Montgomery, AL – Hanging in limbo as Alabama legislators head into the last day of the 2012 session is a bill aimed at keeping Alabama courts running in the midst of a financial crisis.

Court clerks from all over the state have been frequent visitors to the Statehouse in recent weeks to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would raise court costs and a fee paid by bail bondsmen.

The House sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Hill of Columbiana, said the bill would raise about $40 million for courts, which have been hurt by several years of budget cuts.

Montgomery, AL – Organizers say they're planning for a nationally-televised college all-star game in Alabama's capital city early next year.

The game will be played at the Cramton Bowl in downtown Montgomery in January.

Organizers predict financial success, though a title sponsor has not signed up.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange says the city got assurances that financial backers would foot half of the $750,000 bill. He says the city was also assured there would be a TV contract and that the NFL would support it in competition with the Senior Bowl.

Mobile, AL – Gulf Coast promoters are launching a new marketing campaign to increase sales of Alabama seafood.

The Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission is kicking off a three-year, $5 million marketing drive to increase demand for Alabama seafood. The ads particularly target state consumers and restaurants across the region.

Commission members will gather in Mobile on Friday to unveil the campaign, which is funded with grant money from BP. The campaign will advertisements featured in television, print, online sites and billboards.

Montgomery, AL – The fate of a bill designed to boost tourism spending by extending summer vacation for school children is in limbo as the Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on overriding a veto by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The House voted 71-21 Tuesday to override the governor's veto.

But the Senate on Wednesday delayed action on the bill so senators could debate a measure that would make changes in the state's immigration law.

Kansas City, MO – Major League Baseball and a charitable foundation for players are working with Habitat for Humanity to build nine homes for the tornado-ravaged cities of Joplin and Tuscaloosa, Ala. About half the funding will come from State Farm, the insurance company.

Officials said Wednesday in Kansas City they want to use the effort to remind fans that the communities still need help. To spotlight the need, crews will build frames for two of the homes outside Kauffman Stadium during baseball's All-Star game on July 10.

Montgomery, AL – An Alabama House panel has approved a version of the state's education budget that would save teacher jobs.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee tweaked the Senate's budget, which would have cut more than 600 teacher jobs. The House version reduces that to about 350.

The change was accomplished partly by removing $20 million that was in the Senate's budget for bus purchases. The House version would sell bonds to buy buses.

Montgomery, AL – A joint committee is proposing new districts for the Alabama House and Senate that could force four sitting Democratic representatives to face off against one another in primary elections.

The maps released Wednesday place the homes of Montgomery Democratic Reps. Joe Hubbard and John Knight in the same district. It also groups together Reps. Patricia Todd and Demetrius Newton of Birmingham.

Hubbard says Republicans purposefully pitted white Democrats against blacks in districts that contain a majority of black voters.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill to increases the penalties for people who are convicted of committing unemployment compensation fraud.

The new law was signed by the governor Thursday. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood.

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations has estimated that more than $15 million in unemployment compensation benefits were fraudulently obtained in Alabama last year.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature is getting close to make it legal to brew beer and wine at home.

The Senate Job Creation and Economic Development Committee voted 3-1 Tuesday for a bill allowing adults to make 15 gallons every three months. The bill by Republican Rep. Mac McCutcheon of Capshaw cleared the House in 44-33 last month. All it needs now is a vote in the Senate and signing by the governor.

Montgomery, AL – An Alabama Senate Committee has passed a General Fund budget that depends on voters approving the transfer of money from an oil and gas revenue savings account and from education funds to pay for the state's Medicaid program.

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee voted 7-0 for a $1.4 billion budget that would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 6 general election. The amendment would partly fund the cash-strapped Medicaid Agency by transferring $184 million from the oil and gas account and from education funds.

Montgomery, AL – Texting on Alabama's public roads will soon be prohibited under a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Bentley says he believes the law will save lives, much like the state's statute requiring motorists to wear seat belts.

The bill prohibits sending text messages, instant messages and e-mails while behind the wheel. It provides exceptions for contacting emergency services and for using global position services.

Montgomery, AL – House budget committee Chairman Jay Love has devised an education budget that would cut fewer teachers' jobs than the one passed by the Alabama Senate.

Love outlined his proposed budget for the House Ways and Means-Education Committee on Tuesday. The committee will vote on the budget Wednesday and the House could consider it Thursday.

Birmingham, AL – Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to serve as co-chair of events for the 50th anniversary of Birmingham's civil rights activities in 1963.

Mayor William Bell on Monday announced Rice's participation in the commemoration. He says he expects to have more big names lined up for the events in the months to come.

Important events that year included Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from the Birmingham jail, the children's marches and the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls.

Montgomery, AL – The leaders of the Alabama Legislature's reapportionment committee intend to unveil their proposed plans Wednesday for drawing new legislative districts.

The Senate co-chairman, Republican Gerald Dial, says he will recommend Senate districts that don't pit any incumbent senators against one another.

The House co-chairman, Republican Jim McClendon, says people will have to wait until Wednesday to see if any incumbents get their districts combined in his House plan.