Birmingham

The Salvation Army has broken ground on a $25 million new headquarters campus in Birmingham.

Al.com reports the headquarters broke ground on the 4.1-acre campus Thursday. The new facilities will house administrative offices plus emergency relief services including overnight accommodations for homeless men, women and children.

Officials say construction on the campus should be complete by September 2017. Two new buildings will be under construction soon in addition to an extensive renovation of a 50,000-square-foot school building.

A federal judge says a pending lawsuit over Alabama's voter identification law will go to trial in the fall of next year.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler has set the trial to begin Sept. 11, 2017, in Birmingham federal court. Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP challenged the state’s existing voter ID law as an infringement on voting rights disproportionately affecting black and Latino voters.

Weather forecasters say conditions are going to be downright brutal for the next few days.  Central Alabama is expected to be under the influence of a subtropical ridge.  That could means temperatures approaching triple digits in some parts of the state starting today.

John DeBlock is with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He says those temperatures don’t even include the heat index, which is how humidity makes it feel outside…

Police in Mobile say they will strictly enforce the city's open-container alcohol ordinance in the downtown entertainment district.

That means consuming alcoholic beverages outside of entertainment venues in downtown Mobile is about to get harder for tourist and local residents.

Mobile police say the outside consumption of alcoholic beverages will still be permitted but will come with conditions.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of new state laws banning abortion clinics near schools and outlawing a commonly used second trimester abortion procedure.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an order yesterday delaying enforcement of the laws that were set to take effect Aug. 1. Thompson scheduled an Oct. 4 hearing on a request from abortion providers to permanently block the laws.

A large number of dead fish were found at the top of the Black Warrior River this weekend. A-P-R  Student Reporter, Katie Willem has more…

State officials are investigating after dozens of dead fish were found at Mulberry Fork south of Jasper, which is near the William Crawford Gorgas power plant operated by Alabama Power.

Lance LeFleur is the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. He says ADEM is collaborating with other organizations to figure out what happened…

Lawyers for the state of Alabama are asking an appellate court to allow the execution of a death row inmate this week.

Vernon Madison is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday night for the 1985 murder of Mobile police office Julius Schulte.

The state attorney general's office told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday that a lower court decided correctly that Madison is mentally competent and can be executed.

A state lawmaker says he has enough signatures to re-ignite an impeachment effort against Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Republican Rep. Ed Henry says he’s obtained 23 signatures on impeachment articles.

The announcement came after the House passed a rule change requiring 21 votes to start an impeachment investigation. That thwarted Henry's earlier effort with 11 signatures.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says he is not responding to the state auditor's order to testify before him.

Bentley issued the statement today, a day after State Auditor Jim Zeigler ordered Bentley to appear before him to answer questions about the use of state funds and his relationship with a former staffer.

Bentley says the appropriate legal process was through the Alabama Ethics Commission where Zeigler has already filed a complaint.  The governor said he is cooperating fully with the commission.

Much of Alabama was hit by storms and severe weather last night, and at least two tornadoes touched down in various parts of the state.

Eldridge, Alabama was reportedly hit by a tornado around 8 p.m. last night according to Walker County Emergency Management director Harry Markham. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.

Limestone County Emergency Management director Rita White says a second tornado hit near Ardmore about an hour before. There have been no reports of damage or injuries associated with that tornado either.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is admitting that he made inappropriate remarks to a female staffer two years ago. But, the Governor says he never had a physical relationship with the woman.

Bentley spoke to reporters after the state's former top law enforcement official made a series of accusations.  Former Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier, had been fired on Tuesday. Alabama’s top cop said during a news conference he believed the governor had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is taking on a new position as chairman of Don Trump's advisory committee on national security.

Trump named the Mobile Republican to the post yesterday. A release from the Trump campaign says he's honored to have Sessions as a member of his team.

The announcement comes a week after Sessions endorsed the New York businessman for the GOP nomination for president.

A Jefferson County judge has ruled Alabama’s method of imposing the death penalty unconstitutional.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd sided with defense attorneys who argued that Alabama’s death penalty statute was extremely similar to Florida’s, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s law was unconstitutional in January.

In death penalty cases in Alabama and Florida, juries recommend sentences but judges have the final decision. It’s not uncommon for Alabama judges to overrule a jury suggestion of life in prison and impose the death penalty.

Alabama’s governor has signed a bill that prevents cities from setting their own minimum wage. 

Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill in to law shortly after the State Senate approved it by more than 2-to-1 vote.  The majority of the votes fell along party lines.

Republican lawmakers supported the bill that will block the Birmingham City Council, which voted to increase their city’s minimum wage to $10.10.  That minimum wage hike set to go in to effect on Monday.

Alabama lawmakers are quickly moving to block a minimum wage hike that has already been approved in Birmingham.

The Alabama Senate could vote today to give final passage to a bill stripping cities of the ability to set their own minimum wages.

Republican Rep. David Faulkner of Mountain Brook says his bill will maintain uniformity across the state. Faulkner says it would be an undue burden on businesses to allow hundreds of different minimum wages across Alabama.

A Senate committee is debating a proposal to have Alabama join multi-state lottery games like Mega-Millions and Powerball.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose wants the state join the multi-state games instead of creating its own lottery scheme. The bill is an alternative proposal to other lottery bills that have stalled because of a lack of consensus over the details.

If approved by lawmakers, voters would have the final say on whether lottery ticket sales will be allowed in the state.

Parts of the Gulf Coast are reeling after a bout of severe weather that caused Governor Robert Bentley to declare a preemptive state of emergency.

A storm reportedly knocked down trees and damaged property in Reform, Alabama, but no one was hurt. The National Weather Service tweeted that radar indicated a possible tornado in that area.

NWS radar also showed a tornado briefly touching down in Hackleburg, in northwest Alabama. Some roofs were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Strong storms could be making their way across southern Alabama once again starting tonight.

The storms, which could produce isolated tornadoes will likely start late this afternoon and should dissipate by early Wednesday morning. Areas along the line between Camden and Mobile and later the I-65 corridor will likely be affected by the storms.

Joe Maniscalco is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mobile. He says the storms come from a combination of factors.

Alabama’s House of Representatives has approved a bill to block cities from setting their own local minimum wages. The bill would also roll back Birmingham's wage increase to $10.10 per hour, set to take effect March 1.

Legislators approved the GOP-backed bill last night on a 71-31 vote after cutting off a filibuster by House Democrats. The measure now moves to the Alabama Senate.

Alabama doesn’t have a state minimum wage. Instead, it uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

Alabama State Capitol
Wikimedia

State lawmakers may vote today on a measure that would block cities from setting local minimum wages.

Last week, the Birmingham City Council voted to expedite the effective date of a planned minimum wage increase to March 1. Republican state Rep. David Faulkner of Mountain Brook filed a bill that would mandate uniform minimum wages in Alabama and void any local wage ordinances.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal wage floor of $7.25.

Advocates for low-income workers say local governments are better suited to handle local wage regulations.

The Tuscaloosa Police Department has announced how officers will be disciplined after a violent arrest last fall that went viral.

Police Chief Steven Anderson says Officer James Kent is still on administrative leave with pay pending disciplinary action. Officer Justin Sams received a written reprimand along with remedial training to improve his communication skills.

The Birmingham City Council is increasing in the local minimum wage a little earlier than expected.  The council voted today to move the implementation date of the wage increase to March 1.

The council had the idea in August to establish an hourly minimum wage of $8.50 by July 2016; and $10.10 by July 2017, with increases afterward tied to inflation.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

Tuscaloosa tornado damage
NWS Birmingham / Wikimedia

The federal government says it wants its money back after auditors claim Tuscaloosa improperly received more than $1 million in aid following the 2011 tornadoes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has determined the Federal Emergency Management Agency should reclaim about $1.2 million in storm assistance funding.

     

     Troy University will observe Black History Month with its 2016 Leadership Conference starting tonight. Actor, dancer and director Jasmine Guy will deliver a keynote speech during the event. Attendees will also hear from Juanita Jones Abernathy. She’s the widow of the Reverend Ralph Abernathy. City of Troy spokesman Isaiah Scott says the conference continues to improve each year with more speakers and activities.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders Campaign

The dust is settling from this week’s visit by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The Democratic contender became the eleventh presidential hopeful to visit Alabama when his campaign rolled into Birmingham on Martin Luther King Day.

“Well-attended” could easily be an understatement. The Sanders campaign says over 7,000 people turned out for the rally, with well over a thousand braving sub-freezing temperatures to watch outside after the auditorium reached capacity.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon attended the rally and takes this look back.

Ride sharing services have officially started operating in Birmingham.

Tom Maguire, general manager of Uber in Alabama told al.com users were able to hail rides from their smartphones beginning yesterday afternoon.

Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for rides. Birmingham officials had been discussing whether to allow the companies to set up shop for more than a year.

Alabama is drying out and cleaning up from tornadoes that hit Christmas night. Flooding is also a concern as the state heads toward the New Year’s holiday.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-0 tornado hit Tuscaloosa County Friday afternoon with winds of seventy five miles per hour. Two hours later, a confirmed EF-2 twister touched down in suburban Birmingham. That storm is confirmed to have damaged more than 70 structures, from minor damage to total destruction.

The ride-hailing company Uber says it will soon begin operating in Birmingham after city officials approved new regulations.

City council members voted 7-1 today to approve the ordinance. The city's mayor still must sign it.

Companies have to apply and get approval for a permit and conduct background checks on drivers under the ordinance.

A man convicted in the shooting death of an off-duty Birmingham police officer has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. APR’s Stan Ingold has more.

42-year-old Patrick Johnson was sentenced Monday. In October, he was convicted of felony murder in the 2014 shooting death of Birmingham Police Officer Keary Hollis.

A jury reached a deadlock on a verdict in May, and Johnson was tried again in October.

A civil rights group has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama, claiming that its law requiring voters to have photo identification will prevent thousands from casting ballots.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Greater Birmingham Ministries filed the federal lawsuit today.

The lawsuit cites state estimates that at least 280,000 people will be disenfranchised because of the law.

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