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 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.

Governor Robert Bentley is refusing Syrian refugees relocating to Alabama.

Bentley says in a news release on Sunday that, “After full consideration of this weekend's attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way."

Governor Robert Bentley has announced he won’t allow any Syrian refugees to relocate to Alabama.

Bentley released a statement Sunday saying, "After full consideration of this weekend's attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way."

Tommy Bice

Alabama Department of Education Superintendent Tommy Bice says he will propose raising teacher salaries over the next three years.

Bice said yesterday his department would recommend raising teachers' salaries 5 percent in fiscal year 2017, which begins next October.

The state government will have the final word on public school spending next year. According to the department, the raise would cost $160 million.

Bice says he will seek additional raises in 2018 and 2019, with the goal of bringing teacher salaries in line with inflation.

There is a new development in the case of an Alabama boy who was taken from his mother thirteen years ago.  APR’s Taylor Swinney has the latest…

Bobby Hernandez is being held on $250,000 bond. Prosecutors claim he abducted his own son thirteen years ago from his home in Vestavia Hills. A preliminary trial that was scheduled for today in Cleveland, Ohio has been cancelled.

Hernandez faces tampering charges in Ohio.

A police officer in Birmingham, Alabama was stripped of a combat medal last night. APR’s Alex AuBuchon tells us why.

Birmingham police officer Daniel Aguirre received his department’s Combat Cross Medal in May after valorous action in a shooting last year. Officials honored him for shooting a robbery suspect who the officer claimed pointed a gun at him.

Classes are cancelled today in Headland, Alabama after storms dropped more than 5 inches over the area yesterday.

Henry County Superintendent Lesa Knowles said high winds and strong storms passed through the area early Sunday morning and peeled the roof off the Headland High School auditorium. The storms also caused leaks at Headland’s elementary school, and power outages throughout town due to felled trees. School was cancelled today, and the school board has called an emergency meeting for later today.

NASA’s new rocket program designed to eventually carry astronauts to Mars has a new   

  man at the helm. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

            John Honeycutt has been named the new manager of NASA’s Space Launch System program.

            The program is currently in development at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and aims to construct the largest rockets ever built.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says it is pulling examiners out of 31 part-time satellite driver’s license offices because of budget cuts.

The agency made the announcement today. The examiners currently travel to the locations during some days of the week.

The agency said the change will save money on travel costs.

Secretary Spencer Collier says the impact on citizens will be lessened because of online renewals and other options.

A Selma-based auto supplier is continuing its lawsuit against a former employee they fired, after a Montgomery County judge ruled whistleblower protections don’t apply.

A recent decision by Birmingham leaders to raise the city's minimum wage has gotten a lukewarm reaction from some workers.

Minimum wage employees in the city say the measure sounds like a step toward financial stability, but it has also prompted concerns about an increasing cost of living.

The Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance late last month to establish an hourly minimum wage of $8.50 by July 2016 and $10.10 by July 2017. Future increases would be tied to inflation. Alabama has no state minimum wage, so the federal wage floor of $7.25 per hour applies.

Immigrant detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center are at the center of a civil rights complaint over abuse and visitation rights.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds an average of 300 foreign detainees in Etowah County awaiting deportation. The advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement says there's evidence of widespread abuse at Etowah. They filed a formal complaint earlier this month.

Christina Mansfield is a co-founder of CIVIC. She says she heard reports of abuse on her first visit to the facility in 2013.

The fight over political redistricting in Alabama is headed back to federal court.

A three-judge panel will hear arguments later today in Montgomery over whether legislators relied too much on race when they drew legislative district lines.

The Birmingham City Council has passed a resolution increasing the minimum wage to over ten dollars an hour. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports it won’t happen all at once.

The Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance during their meeting today that will eventually increase the city’s minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents ($10.10) per hour.

The Birmingham City Council will consider increasing the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Local media reports the council could vote on an ordinance as soon as this evening.

Dozens of people rallied outside City Hall after a council meeting last month to show support for an ordinance requiring all businesses within the city and those contracted through the city to raise the minimum wage.

Birmingham's City Council president is defending the group’s recent decision to raise their salary from $15,000 to $55,000.

Some council members have said they have been asked to do full-time work on part-time pay.

Local media reports the nine-member council voted 8-1 to approve the raise last week and faced questions Tuesday night on the way the increase was handled. The vote was added last minute to a meeting agenda as an addendum and was passed with virtually no time for public comment.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is cutting off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos implying the group was selling fetal tissue to research groups.

Governor Bentley called Planned Parenthood's practices "deplorable” in a statement yesterday. He says he doesn't want Alabama to be associated with the group. Bentley says the state is terminating an agreement with Planned Parenthood Southeast to serve as a Medicaid provider.

A patient being treated for Ebola-like symptoms at UAB Hospital has tested negative for the disease.

Jefferson County Medical Director Edward Khan says the patient recently visited a country with active Ebola cases. The patient began developing symptoms and notified authorities, and was admitted to UAB Hospital last night. Authorities have not released the patient’s identity or the country visited.

A federal judge says he will rule by Friday on a female prisoner's request for an abortion.

U.S. District Abdul Kallon made the comment after hearing arguments yesterday in a lawsuit filed by the woman.

The unnamed prisoner filed suit against Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton seeking a court order that would let her leave jail to travel to Huntsville for the procedure.

A.G. Gaston
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

A new report provides the specific economic impacts of decades of climate change both in Alabama and throughout the United States.

In Alabama, the largest issue is expected to be increased temperature. By 2040, the report estimates that the state will see up to 33 additional days per year above 95 degrees. That would result in a nearly 9% drop in crop yields, a 7.5% jump in energy demand, and nearly 500 additional deaths per year.

Preserving History: The A.G. Gaston Motel

Jul 28, 2015

One of the most hallowed sites of Alabama’s Civil Rights Movement is in danger of vanishing. The A.G. Gaston Motel was a staging point for Martin Luther King Junior, Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy’s equality efforts in Birmingham. A-P-R’s MacKenzie Bates takes a look at the history of the Gaston Motel and the effort to keep this landmark around for future generations…

The Chairman of Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee says a drunken driving charge shouldn’t cost him his job.

State Senator Cam Ward says drinking alcohol and driving was a Huge mistake on his part.

The Alabaster Republican doesn’t believe he should quit either his senate seat or his industrial job with the city.  The reason is, Ward says he wasn’t working when he was stopped by police.

A Senate leader said earlier that he doesn't plan to strip Ward of the committee chairmanship.