Boston, MA – Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is slamming Alabama and Arizona over their tough immigration policies.

The Boston Globe ( ) reports that in a speech earlier this week at Tufts University, Patrick said the actions of states on the issue have been ham-fisted, self-defeating and even racist. He also calls much of the debate over immigration reform hysterical and poisonous.

Montgomery, AL – Two bills aimed at making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion have passed an Alabama House committee. A public hearing was held in a Senate committee, but no vote was taken on another bill that is seen as a step toward banning abortion all together

The House Health committee approved on a voice vote Wednesday a bill to allow the state to opt out of providing health insurance for abortions under provisions of the new federal health care law. The committee also approved a bill that establishes new rules for abortion clinics.

Atlanta, GA – The federal appeals court in Atlanta is considering a challenge from environmental groups seeking to block Shell from drilling 10 new deepwater wells off the coast of Alabama, one of the first drilling approvals since the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

Attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups Wednesday told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that federal regulators ``rubber-stamped'' Shell's plans.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Supreme Court paved the way for the city of Pritchard to move forward with a nearly 3-year-old filing for bankruptcy.

The ruling released on Friday says cities don't need to have bond debt in order to declare bankruptcy. That means Pritchard's filing can move forward, but also paves the way for Jefferson County's largest-in-history municipal bankruptcy.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama House has passed a bill that would establish a comprehensive system to grade the performance of schools and school systems.

The bill by Republican Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur passed the House late Thursday 89-5. It now goes to the Senate.

Collins said the ratings would give parents a way of knowing how their children's schools are performing. She said the ratings would by based on a data-based assessment of school performance. Schools would be given a grade of A, B, C, D or F just like students receive on their report cards.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has urged a Louisiana federal judge to set a trial date to hear claims of lost revenue by Alabama and Louisiana because of the massive BP oil spill.

Strange said Friday that setting a trial date would put pressure on BP and other companies responsible for the spill. Strange has said that keeping pressure on BP would encourage the oil company to begin serious discussions toward a settlement.

Montgomery, AL – The winner of Alabama's Republican presidential primary, Rick Santorum, hasn't released his 22 Alabama delegates to support another candidate. But delegates say they expect to unite behind Mitt Romney if he locks up the GOP nomination.

Delegates said they don't want the party to get divided and lose sight of beating Democratic President Barack Obama in November.

Delegate Kenny Dean of Birmingham, who was Santorum's grass-roots coordinator in Alabama, said the most important thing is removing Obama from the White House.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama's unemployment rate has fallen for the eighth straight month to 7.3 percent for March.

That's down from a revised rate of 7.5 percent in February and a high of 10.0 percent in July. The state Department of Industrial Relations reports that the last time Alabama's unemployment rate was this low was December 2008. Alabama's rate was also below the national figure of 8.2 percent.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said initial claims for unemployment have fallen to pre-recession levels.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Thousands of people still lack permanent homes in Alabama, a year after a swarm of killer tornadoes pummeled the state.

The government says about 3,200 homeowners statewide are either receiving rental assistance or living in mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The head of the state emergency management agency, Art Faulkner, says that number doesn't include people who were renting homes before the twisters. He says officials aren't sure how many displaced renters still might lack permanent housing.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Senate has given final approval to a bill designed to fight the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine by restricting where cold and allergy medicine containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine can be sold.

The bill by Republican Rep. Blaine Galliher won approval in the House last month and cleared the Senate 27-4 on Thursday. It now goes to the governor for signing into law.

Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama is honoring the University of Alabama football team for winning the BCS championship in January.

It was the Crimson Tide's 14th championship. Alabama entered the game ranked second and beat top-ranked Louisiana State University 21-0.

Obama says it was a ``fun season to watch'' but also a ``deeply meaningful season'' for the Crimson Tide.

Obama praised the team for their efforts in the Alabama community, noting the importance of athletes helping rebuild Tuscaloosa, Ala., after devastating tornadoes touched down in April 2011.

Montgomery, AL – The deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants women farmers in Alabama to know how the department can help them.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will give the keynote address at the National Women in Agriculture Association conference in Tuskegee on Thursday. She says she'll outline the department's programs to help women and minority farmers.

Merrigan says women and minorities are traditionally underserved, despite the fast-growing population of women in the agriculture industry.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama House is expected to spend much of Thursday debating a bill that makes changes to Alabama's immigration law.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama House and Senate are looking for a compromise on their different versions of a bill to tie legislators' pay to the state's median household income.

The House voted 77-8 Thursday and the Senate voted 30-2 to send the pay bill to a conference committee of six legislators to seek a compromise.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has spent much of the 15 months he has been in office pursuing efforts to recover losses by Alabama and other states because of the massive BP oil spill.

With the second anniversary of the April 20, 2010 spill coming Friday, Strange believes he can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Montgomery, AL – A state legislator has renewed his efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to allow copies of the Ten Commandment to be posted on walls in state buildings, including schools.

The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee on Wednesday delayed consideration of the bill by Rep DuWayne Bridges of Valley for a week so the committee could study whether or not the bill is constitutional. Bridges has introduced the bill several years in the past. The amendment would have to be approved by Alabama voters.

Montgomery, AL – Women seeking to take emergency contraception like the so-called ``morning after'' pill would have to do so in the presence of a doctor under a bill before the Alabama Legislature.

A Senate panel approved the measure on Wednesday, sending it before the full chamber. An earlier version would have required women to undergo an exam by a physician before taking the pill.

The proposal also requires a follow-up visit to determine whether the contraception was effective.

Montgomery, AL – A state Senate committee has approved an education budget that reduces funding for K-12 schools and higher education next year.

The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee voted Wednesday to approve a $5.5 billion education budget for the 2012-2013 school year that is about $150 million smaller than this year's budget. The state expects to take in about the same amount of education revenue next year as this year, but a state law enacted last year limits how much can be spent in order to build up a reserve. That's why the proposed budget is less.

Montgomery, AL – An Alabama state Senator took action after a county health department threatened to shut down a constituent's home bakery.

Sen. Rusty Glover says an old woman from his district would bake and sell cakes from her house, until the health department threatened to shut her down if she didn't submit to an inspection.

A Senate panel on Wednesday signed off on Glover's bill to exempt that type of so-called cottage industry from inspection. Alabamians would be allowed to sell from their homes baked goods, canned jams or jellies or dried herbs.

Montgomery, AL – An Alabama state Senate panel approved a number of changes to its charter schools bill, including a requirement that the people operating the schools be U.S. citizens and Alabama residents.

Republican sponsor Sen. Dick Brewbaker also wants charter schools to keep detailed records of students who drop out or transfer in the middle of the year in order to better gauge their effectiveness.

Charter schools receive taxpayer money, but are run by private companies and aren't subject to the same rules as public schools.

New Orleans, LA – BP and a team of plaintiffs' attorneys have presented a federal judge with the details of a proposed class-action settlement designed to resolve billions of dollars in economic damage claims spawned by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company and lawyers representing more than 100,000 individuals and businesses are asking U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to give his preliminary approval to the agreement filed Wednesday in New Orleans.

Barbier hasn't indicated when he will rule.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature has approved a bill to assign oversight of prefabricated storm shelters to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

A compromise version of the bill cleared the House and Senate on unanimous votes Tuesday and now goes to the governor. A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley said he's reviewing the bill.

The bill requires manufacturers to post a $20,000 bond with EMA, and it requires random inspections of manufacturers and installers of residential storm shelters for fewer than 17 people.

Montgomery, AL – A package of homeowners' insurance bills pushed by coastal legislators has stalled in the state Senate.

Several senators from the northern two-thirds of the state led opposition to the bills, and the Senate quit work on them when none appeared likely to pass.

Montgomery, AL – A bill making some changes to Alabama's immigration law has been approved by a House committee, but Democrats complained it does not go far enough alleviate concerns that the law allows police to engage in racial profiling.

Washington, D.C. – Members of a presidential commission that investigated the Gulf Oil spill say they are encouraged by safety improvements made by industry and the Obama administration, but give Congress poor marks for failing to enact major legislation newly two years after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature is getting closer to clarifying the value of gifts that can be given to state employees and public education employees.

The Legislature rewrote Alabama's ethics law in late 2010 to allow only gifts of minimal value, but the law didn't give an amount. That caused questions about students' gifts for teachers. The House recently passed a bill to allow gifts of less than $25 in value.

Montgomery, AL – Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has made another effort to say animal cruelty is wrong, urging Alabama lawmakers to increase penalties for cockfighting.

Vick says in a statement Monday that Alabama's cockfighting law is the nation's ``weakest'' because the $50 fine is the maximum punishment. Vick has been outspoken against animal cruelty since he served 16 months in federal prison on a dog-fighting conviction.

Vick says he doesn't want others to make the same mistake of being cruel to animals.

Tuscaloosa, AL – The Tuscaloosa News has won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of a deadly tornado last April.

The Pulitzer judges announced the selection Monday afternoon.

The newspaper's former executive editor, Doug Ray, said the storms knocked out power for more than 48 hours. But the newspaper had enough generator power to run its computers and used social media to get out real-time updates and help make sense of what was happening in the city. The newspapers' print editions were done in Birmingham for two days.

Montgomery, AL – A Montgomery County grand jury has decided not to issue any indictments from investigating complaints that some Republican and Democratic organizations allegedly violated Alabama's campaign finance laws.

The grand jury issued a report citing several problems with the laws, including no individual being identified to be held responsible for any criminal violation. The grand jury says Alabama's new law banning transfers between political action committees does not make it clear whether it's the chairman, the treasurer or someone else who violates the law.

Montgomery, AL – Many of the state's leading health care organizations are encouraging the Alabama Legislature to raise the state's cigarette tax by $1 a pack to prevent cutbacks in health care for the state's poor and elderly served by the state Medicaid Agency.

Eighteen organizations announced their support Friday, including the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, the Alabama Dental Association, the Alabama Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.