Birmingham

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.

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
timesdaily.com

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.

phys.org

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.

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