Alabama

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.

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