Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that 16 online travel service companies, like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline, do not have to pay lodgings taxes on part of the fees they charge customers.

The court ruled in a lawsuit filed by nine municipalities including, Birmingham, Huntsville and Gulf Shores. The court found that the companies should not have to pay the tax because the travel service companies do not own or operate hotels in any of the cities involved in the lawsuit.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama's Republican-led Senate and the Republican governor disagree over the best way to borrow money to address the state's road and bridge needs.

The Senate has approved legislation providing for the state to sell up to $650 million in bonds over the next year. The bill by Sen. Paul Bussman now goes to the House. Gov. Robert Bentley said he's already working on a plan to pay for road and bridge construction that doesn't need legislative action. He said Bussman's bill is unnecessary.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Education Association is organizing a rally Saturday afternoon at the state Capitol in Montgomery that is expected to draw educators from throughout the state.

AEA Executive Director Henry Mabry said the rally called ``Save Our Schools'' grew out of educators' concerns that their voices were not being heard by the governor and some legislators.

Montgomery, AL – With the U.S. surgeon general returning to her home state to talk about the dangers of smoking, some legislators are pushing an increase in the state cigarette tax, but they say it doesn't have much chance of passing the Legislature.

Regina Benjamin is scheduled to join the president of the state medical association and the state health officer in Birmingham on Friday to talk about smoking-related illnesses.

Montgomery, AL – The crowd attending the annual ``Pro-Life Legislative Day'' in Montgomery on Thursday got a surprise when Republican Rep. Ed Henry of Hartselle talked publicly for the first time about going with his pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion.

The freshman legislator from Hartselle said it happened in 1991. He told the crowd, ``I murdered my first child.''

He said the impact of it hit him nearly eight years later when his wife was pregnant with their daughter and they went for an ultrasound. He said he will live with regret for the rest of his life.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama State Board of Education wants an investigation into the embattled leadership of the state's third largest school district.

The state board voted Thursday to launch an investigative review of the government of the Birmingham City Board of Education. The board has been mired in personal feuds between members and allegations of open meetings violations.

The Birmingham News reports the city board in a Tuesday meeting made two separate motions to fire the besieged superintendent. Birmingham board members had called for the state to intervene.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature has approved a bill aimed at restoring a settlement over Alabama's financially troubled prepaid college tuition plan.

The board of the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan had reached a settlement to pay tuition at 2010 rates rather than current rates, but the Alabama Supreme Court struck it down in March. The court said the settlement violated a law the Legislature passed in 2010 to provide extra funding to PACT. That law provided for the program to be 100 percent funded.

Montgomery, AL – A proposed constitutional amendment to tie the compensation of Alabama legislators to the state's median household income has cleared a state Senate committee.

The pay plan sailed through the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee unanimously Thursday. It has already passed the House. If approved by the Senate, it will be up for a statewide vote in the general election Nov. 6.

Montgomery, AL – A proposed constitutional amendment to tie the compensation of Alabama legislators to the state's median household income has cleared a state Senate committee.

The pay plan sailed through the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee unanimously Thursday. It has already passed the House. If approved by the Senate, it will be up for a statewide vote in the general election Nov. 6.

Montgomery, AL – Before the anniversary of the killer tornadoes on April 27, the Legislature may create a new crime that provides up to 10 years in prison for looting following a natural disaster.

The looting legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. John Merrill of Tuscaloosa, cleared the House last month and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, all by unanimous votes. All the bill needs to become law is approval by the Senate and signing by the governor. Merrill said he's optimistic that will happen before April 27.

Montgomery, AL – More than 20 people have spoken at a public hearing on a bill to make changes to Alabama's ``toughest in the nation'' immigration law.

Many of the speakers at Wednesday's meeting of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee said the changes do not go far enough to fix what some called Alabama's ``terrible immigration law.'' Many wanted legislators to repeal the original immigration law.

Steve Jones, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, said the bill does not reflect the values of most Alabama residents,

Montgomery, AL – A state Senate committee has delayed work on Alabama's next education budget for one week.

The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee was scheduled to take up the education budget Wednesday, but the committee chairman, Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Daphne, got it postponed it for one week because he said he's still talking with senators about their priorities.

That means the first committee vote on the education budget won't come until the legislative session is two-thirds over.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama legislators will begin the task of reviewing a bill that rewrites Alabama's toughest in the nation immigration law.

The bill by Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur was introduced last week and will be debated Wednesday morning at a meeting of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

The bill was introduced in an attempt to ease some of the concerns that have been raised by religious groups and others to the new immigration law, approved by the Legislature last year.

Mobile, AL – The thriving Asian market for turtle meat is going to have to look elsewhere for the highly desirable meat.

A rule banning the commercial harvest of freshwater turtles passed in March by the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board went into effect on April 1. The Center for Biological Diversity says the rule makes Alabama one of the most protective states of wild turtles.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama lawmakers are still working on drawing new legislative districts after the 2010 U.S. Census, but some are already prepared to challenge those maps in court.

Democrats and a Republican lawyer say they're keeping a close eye on the remapping process, which is supposed to redraw districts to reflect population change after each census.

Republican attorney Mark Montiel says he has been disappointed with Republicans' efforts at redrawing congressional and school board districts.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Police have recovered the body of the University of Alabama student who fell into the Black Warrior River during a sorority party aboard a riverboat.

Police identified the student as 20-year-old Charles Edward Jones III of Demopolis, Ala.

Dive teams made several attempts to dive into water between 30 and 40 feet deep in the search for Jones.

Authorities in Tuscaloosa say Delta Sigma Theta sorority was holding its annual formal party aboard the Bama Belle when Jones fell overboard on Thursday night.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is ordering construction to resume on a new Bryce mental hospital in Tuscaloosa and revising plans to close other mental health facilities.

Bentley announced a new plan for the state mental health agency on Friday.

He says work will resume on the new, 268-bed Bryce after a temporary stoppage a month ago.

Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility and North Alabama Regional Hospital will remain open, contrary to an earlier plan. But Searcy Hospital in Mt. Vernon and Greil Memorial Hospital in Montgomery will still close.

Tuscaloosa, AL – An advisory committee has been named to help search for the next president of one of Alabama's largest public universities.

University of Alabama System Chancellor Robert Witt announced Friday that a 23-member committee has been named to help with the search for the presidency of the Tuscaloosa campus - a position Witt held until March.

Montgomery, AL – The sponsor of Alabama's tough immigration law has introduced legislation that he says revises some provisions, but doesn't weaken the bill.

Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur offered the bill Thursday in the House. He said the revisions will ``make the law more workable for local governments, more enforceable for state and local police, and less burdensome for law-abiding citizens and businesses.''

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature has given final approval to legislation to boost aircraft maintenance businesses by exempting some of the parts they use from the state sales tax.

The Senate voted 34-0 for the bill Thursday. It passed the House earlier 92-0. The
next step is signing by Gov. Robert Bentley, who pushed the legislation.

The bill waives the 4 percent state sales tax on parts that aircraft maintenance firms use on commercial and military planes and helicopters that are brought to Alabama from other states for maintenance or renovation.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama House has passed a bill to restore a settlement aimed at saving Alabama's financially troubled prepaid college tuition plan.

The bill passed the House 73-16 Thursday and now goes to the Senate for debate.

Montgomery, AL – A proposed constitutional amendment that is aimed at lowering compensation for legislators has been approved by the Alabama House.

The House voted 91-2 Thursday for a constitutional amendment that would change the way lawmakers are paid beginning when new legislators take office in 2014.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Ball of Huntsville, said the system of legislative compensation approved by the House would save the state about half a million dollars a year.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature has taken the first step toward passing legislation that would authorize 20 charter schools in Alabama.

These would be taxpayer-funded schools that would operate outside the regulations most public schools must follow.

Montgomery, AL – A study by a nonprofit research group finds Alabama families living at the federal poverty line paid more in state income taxes in 2011 than families living in any other state.

The study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said a family of four making $23,018 owed $548 in Alabama income taxes. Only 15 states levy state income taxes on families making less than the federal poverty level. A similar family in Georgia would pay $273 and a Mississippi family would pay $103.

Montgomery, AL – An Alabama House budget writing committee has approved a $1.39 billion budget that's $430 million less than the spending plan for the current fiscal year.

It could mean layoffs for hundreds of state employees and cuts of key services such as medicine for Medicaid patient and elimination of a Department of Human Resources program that provides assistance to poor children.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama's governor has signed into law a bill offering new tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill Wednesday morning providing a tax credit of $1,000 for a business that hires an unemployed veteran who was deployed overseas and is now within two years of discharge.

The law also offers a credit of up to $2,000 to help and unemployed veteran cover the costs of starting a small business.

Montgomery, AL – A bill to authorize charter schools in Alabama has been scaled down to create just 20 of the schools in the state. That's down from the original plan for 50.

A new version of the bill to authorize the schools that operate with public money but without many of the rules of public education was revealed Wednesday by a House committee considering the controversial proposal.

Pelham, AL – Tens of thousands of Alabama businesses have missed a deadline set by the state's strict immigration law to register with a federal database that lets employers verify the citizenship status of would-be workers.

The federal government says 18,137 Alabama companies had enrolled in the E-Verify system by Monday, the day after the deadline.

Huntsville, AL – An Alabama county is running out of room in a landfill as crews continue cleaning up debris after the March 2 tornadoes.

Madison County Commissioner Roger Jones says mountains of debris were dumped in the landfill after April 27 tornadoes. He said more debris from the recent storms have filled it almost to capacity.

Jones said a statewide moratorium on new landfills is complicating storm cleanup efforts. With no more space, Jones says that crews can't remove any more debris for homeowners that are insured.

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama Legislature returns after taking a 10-day spring break and will begin the second half of the 2012 session by starting to work on the cash-strapped General Fund budget to fund most non-education state agencies.