Tuscaloosa

State lawyers are hoping to set a date for the execution of a death row inmate who unsuccessfully challenged Alabama's lethal injection method as unconstitutional.

Last week, the Alabama Attorney General's office asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set an execution date for Thomas Arthur "as soon as possible." The request comes after a federal judge ruled for the state and against Arthur's claims that the state's lethal injection method was unconstitutional earlier this month.

Democratic National Convention
Wikimedia

Alabama lawmakers are currently being polled about support for lottery legislation as Governor Robert Bentley contemplates calling a special session on Medicaid funding.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says legislative leaders are gauging interest from state legislators. Marsh says the discussions come as Governor Bentley contemplates calling a special session that could include a lottery bill.

Supporters of the family of a 19-year-old man shot and killed by a Mobile police officer last month are calling for criminal charges against the officer and governmental changes.

Fourth of July celebrations in Tuscaloosa and Northport were complicated yesterday as the area continues to address a massive sewage spill.

Northport officials say four pump stations were forced to close Saturday in order to perform emergency repairs on the main sewer pipeline. The pumps overflowed, leaking raw sewage into three area creeks and the Black Warrior River. The city’s initial estimate is 100,000 gallons spilled, but other estimates put the total closer to several million.

The Tuscaloosa City Council has approved a deal that will allow the ride-sharing service Uber to begin operations in the city within a month.

The Tuscaloosa News reports the council voted 6-1 yesterday to change its vehicle-for-hire ordinance to allow Uber and similar companies to begin operations in the city.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox says he plans to sign the amended ordinance into law.

The families of two girls who were killed in a DUI crash involving a former NASA astronaut in rural west Alabama have filed wrongful-death lawsuits in state and federal courts.

Authorities say 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in a crash that left two others injured on June 6 in rural west Alabama.

Former NASA astronaut 59-year-old James Halsell has been charged with reckless murder in the crash and now faces wrongful-death lawsuits in Tuscaloosa County and in federal court.

A new LGBT organization in Tuscaloosa is looking to expand. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

Druid City Pride held a fundraiser this past weekend to help shape the future of the organization.

The group formed late last year to organize the city’s annual Pride festival. But thanks to community interest and recent events, they’ve taken on advocacy efforts as well. The first step is becoming an official nonprofit.

“It costs a little chunk of change to become a non-profit, which is funny.”

The Montgomery County District Attorney says his county’s court system is drowning in a massive backlog of pending drug cases.

District Attorney Daryl Bailey tells the Montgomery Advertiser that a backlog of more than 1600 cases means that anybody arrested for drug-related charges would currently be waiting more than two years for trial as evidence is processed.

Bailey says the state's budget crisis and staff cuts mean the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences is struggling to keep up with the number of cases it needs to analyze.

Alabama Department of Public Health officials say a new law allows people and businesses to keep epinephrine injectors on hand in case of an allergic reaction.

A new state law allows people and organizations including camps, child care centers, restaurants and others to keep single-dose epinephrine auto-injectors on hand.  It’s in case someone has an allergic reaction because of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is often caused by insect stings, foods and medication.

Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is asking a state judicial panel to dismiss ethics charges against him. Moore says he never told probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

Moore is accused of violating judicial ethics with a 2016 administrative order.  It came six months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage.

His lawyers say the order only noted correctly that a state court injunction to refuse same-sex marriage licenses had not been lifted.

Supreme Court
Equal Justice Initiative

The U.S. Supreme Court says lower courts in Alabama and two other states must re-examine three death penalty convictions for evidence of racial prejudice in jury selection.

The court ruled yesterday in the cases of Christopher Floyd of Alabama, Jabari Williams of Louisiana and Curtis Giovanni Flowers of Mississippi.

A committee of lawmakers opened impeachment hearings against Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, beginning a probe on whether there are grounds to remove the two-term Republican from office.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones opened the hearings Wednesday by noting the seriousness of the committee's task.

Twenty-three representatives in April signed impeachment article accusing Bentley of corruption and neglect of duty. The articles were filed after Bentley admitted making sexually-charged remarks to a top aide.

Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard's name has been removed from the Alabama Legislature's website and his legislative district is listed as vacant in the wake of his conviction on ethics charges.

A jury convicted Hubbard Friday evening on 12 felony ethics charges. The felony convictions caused Hubbard's automatic and immediate removal from office.

House Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston is fulfilling the speaker's duties.

Tuscaloosa vigil
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Gay rights advocates in Tuscaloosa are remembering the dozens of victims of a gruesome mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando Sunday.

Druid City Pride, an LGBTQ organization in Tuscaloosa, held a candlelight vigil last night along with countless other groups across the state and throughout the country. Those taking part memorialized the 49 people killed and remembered the dozens more injured in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Hubbard trial
Todd J. Van Ernst

Mike Hubbard’s political career appears to be over.

The former Alabama House Speaker faces sentencing next month after being convicted on 12 of the 23 felony ethics charges. APR’s MacKenzie Bates was at the Lee County Courthouse and files this report.

Hubbard’s defense attorney put his arm around him as the verdicts were read one by one convicting him of using his political office for personal gain.

Hubbard maintained his innocence throughout the indictments, saying the transactions that were made fell within the state ethics law.

Philip Anderson family
Pat Duggins / APR

The family of a dead Tuscaloosa County prison inmate is defending him before the press. APR’s Pat Duggins met with Philip Anderson’s relatives who are filing a federal civil rights suit.

“...it hurts…he was my best friend…”

Erika Fykes is Phillip Anderson’s youngest daughter. She says she got the phone call from her father’s cellmates saying that Anderson had been screaming in pain for a week. Only then, his family claims, did jail officials take him to a hospital. Anderson later died on the operating table from a perforated ulcer.

The former state law enforcement chief who accused Governor Robert Bentley of having an affair with an adviser has been questioned by federal investigators about the governor's administration.

Kenny Mendelsohn, an attorney representing former state law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier, revealed yesterday that the questioning occurred. But he refused to elaborate on what questions investigators asked.

A workshop today in Tuscaloosa was expected to help Alabama communities that lost coal mining jobs.

The Appalachian Regional Authority spoke about how colleges and governments can apply for part of sixty five million dollars in federal aid. The money is meant to help put out of work coal miners back on the payroll.

Co-Chairman Earl Gohl** says some coal towns have used grant money to beef up their manufacturing sectors, while West Virginia took another path…

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Governor Robert Bentley's longtime spokeswoman is resigning next month.

Communications director Jennifer Ardis says that she wanted a change after nearly 10 years in the governor's office, six with Bentley and four with Gov. Bob Riley.           

Ardis will take over June 16 as the director of communications and external affairs for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Ardis said she was interested in new challenges and a change of pace after a decade in the governor's officer.

It was on this date five years ago when a super tornado outbreak hit parts of west and west-central Alabama in 2011.

Over fifty people were killed in the city of Tuscaloosa and twelve percent of the town was destroyed. 

Tuscaloosa’s Acting Planning Director Phillip O’Leary spent the first hours after the tornado in his office. When he finally visited the damage zone, one thing stuck with him…

Tuscaloosa officials are seeking money to replace the city's old passenger train station.

A City Council committee voted Tuesday to select an architect to design the new station and to apply for a grant through the Southern Rail Commission.

Mayor Walt Maddox tells The Tuscaloosa News he fears the city will lose Amtrak service unless it invests in a new station.

2011 Tornadoes: A Forecaster's nightmare

Apr 20, 2016

The April 2011 tornado outbreak caused widespread destruction, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage.  Local TV weathercasters helped spread the word on where tornadoes were and where they’re going. But what happens when the weatherman becomes a victim of the severe weather while he’s on the air? APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the story of one forecaster where on April 27th, 2011, the saying the story hits close to home takes on a whole new meaning.

Ask anyone in the TV news business, and they’ll tell you people tune in mostly for the weather.

Stan Ingold

 

It has been nearly five years since a massive EF-4 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa Alabama. Twelve percent of the city was destroyed and seven thousand people became unemployed. Here is a look at what recovery has been like for those who decided to come back and those who did not…

 

Alabama senators have approved establishing an innocence commission to review some of the state’s capital convictions.

Senators voted 20-6 in favor of the bill yesterday, sending it to the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation would create a panel to review new evidence in death row cases that hadn't previously been heard by a court.

Bill sponsor, Republican Senator Dick Brewbaker, says he supports the death penalty in Alabama, but he thinks the state should work harder to make sure people are guilty before executing them.

The National League of Women’s Voters launched a website that is a “one-stop-shop” for voting information ahead of Alabama’s presidential primary.  Vote 4-1-1-dot-org provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information.

Kathryn Berg is First Vice President of the league of women’s voters of Alabama. She says the website sorts out the differences between partisan primary votes and the general election for President…

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.

Advanced Band
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Say “the blues,” and Mississippi might come to mind. But Alabama has just as much heritage when it comes to this musical form, and for the past 20 years, the Tuscaloosa-based Alabama Blues Project has been working to preserve that heritage for future generations. Tomorrow, the nonprofit will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert in Tuscaloosa. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports some of the musicians are only as big as their guitars.

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.

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.

A tuberculosis outbreak is continuing in the small Alabama town of Marion.

Alabama Department of Public Health officials say two more people have tested positive for TB in Perry County. Division of tuberculosis control director Pam Barrett says one case of the infection was diagnosed in a child less than 15 years old.

Officials say the tuberculosis outbreak has killed three people since 2011, prompting more aggressive screening efforts in Marion. Those efforts included paying residents to get tested, attend follow-up appointments and complete necessary treatment.

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