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Daily News Digest – August 19, 2020

Presented by

The Business Council of Alabama


Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, August 19.


1. State seeks to provide additional unemployment benefit

  • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that the state is seeking to provide out-of-work people with an additional $300 per week in unemployment assistance for a short time through a plan announced by President Donald Trump.
  • The Alabama Department of Labor said in a news release that the state is applying for the Lost Wages Assistance Program created by Trump.
  • It is unclear how long the extra payments would last, and it may be only for a short time. The state Labor Department said federal guidance indicated states would get three weeks’ worth of funding. Additional weeks would be granted on a weekly basis if funds are available.
  • To be eligible for the benefit, the Alabama Department of Labor said recipients must receive at least $100 in unemployment and must certify that they remain unemployed or partially unemployed due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
  • Full story HERE.


2. Opioid overdoses on the rise

  • Emergency room visits for drug overdoses have risen in Alabama during the months since the coronavirus pandemic first impacted the state, health officials say.
  • During a virtual meeting of the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council on Tuesday, Dr. Darlene Traffanstedt, the medical director of Adult Health & Family Planning at the Jefferson County Health Department, updated the council on opioid deaths and ER visits seen since March.
  • Statewide ER visits for drug overdoses have increased in recent months peaking in July at 1,169 visits. Traffanstedt said she expects to see an even larger amount in August.
  • “And the greatest majority of them are opioid overdoses,” Traffanstedt said.
  • In Jefferson County, opioid-related overdose deaths from January to June of this year were up 32.5% from last year.
  • State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris told council members combating opioid abuse is important now more than ever with so much of the health industry focused on COVID-19.
  • “These problems don’t go away just because we are not paying attention to them and there is certainly a lot that still needs to be done,” Harris said.
  • Full story from ADN’s Caroline Beck and Mary Sell HERE.





A message from

The Business Council of Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama is proud to present Engage Alabama, a virtual business conference open to all Alabamians.
It is available at no cost to attendees, thanks to our incredible sponsors.
This two-day summit, taking place August 26-27, will bring together more than 40 elected officials, industry leaders, and subject matter experts to provide invaluable resources on hot-button issues in our state.
Register at no charge, and the first 750 to do so will receive a complimentary conference t-shirt.






3. Postal Service halts some changes amid outcry, lawsuits

  • Facing mounting public pressure and a crush of state lawsuits, President Donald Trump’s new postmaster general says he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics blame for widespread delays and warn could disrupt the November election.
  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday he would “suspend” several of his initiatives — including the removal of the distinctive blue mailboxes that prompted an outcry — until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
  • “We will deliver the nation’s election mail on time,” DeJoy said in a statement.
  • The abrupt reversal from DeJoy, who is set to testify Friday before the Senate, comes as more than 20 states, from New York to California, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. Several vowed they would press on, keeping a watchful eye on the Postal Service ahead of the election.
  • Full story HERE.


4. Ivey appoints new members to Port Authority

  • Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday appointed three new members to the Alabama State Port Authority’s board of directors, charging each with being good stewards of taxpayer money and steering Alabama’s seaport through particularly important times.
  • Ivey appointed Tony Cochran and Patricia Sims to represent both northern region seats and Carl Jemison to represent the central region. Alvin Hope was reappointed to a second term representing the southern region.
  • All appointees will need to be confirmed by the State Senate under the rules set forth by the Alabama Constitution, but each will be allowed to take their seats this month.
  • “I’ve appointed individuals that have consistently demonstrated the necessary knowledge and leadership skills critical to economic expansion in Alabama,” Ivey said on making the appointments. “The success of our port is fundamental to Alabama businesses and jobs, and I’m confident these folks will contribute to the great work being done under John Driscoll and the board.”
  • The nine-member board of directors holds fiscal and policy oversight for the deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile, one of the nation’s largest seaports. Alabama’s port will soon undergo a significant transition as the Army Corps of Engineers has approved a major $274 million dredging project that will deepen and widen the shipping channel from the Gulf of Mexico to the state docks in Mobile. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and longtime Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons have called the project “transformative” in adding economic value for the state of Alabama.
  • Full story HERE.



5. Column: Can we pass the Marshmallow Test?


  • In case you haven’t noticed, Alabama has been doing pretty well lately in combatting the coronavirus.
  • The state is now averaging 840 new cases a day, down from 1,851 a month ago. Hospitalizations have begun to level off, too. A total of 1,280 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized compared to 1,613 at our peak on August 6. A quick perusal of the charts on the indispensable shows unmistakable progress in nearly every metric.
  • It feels good to finally have some good news. And yet, it all feels pretty fragile.
  • Maybe that’s because many of us are quietly holding out hope for a college football season and we know that whether or not that happens is ultimately up to a bunch of college kids in Auburn and Tuscaloosa.
  • I wrote a column about it.
  • Here’s an excerpt:
“If we’re being honest, one key reason many of us want Alabama’s virus numbers to keep improving is the prospect of having college football this fall. Early on in the outbreak, I didn’t like the idea of dangling football as a carrot to pressure people to act right, partly because I’ve been pessimistic about it happening regardless of where the numbers sit in September. Yet, here we are a little over a month out of the SEC’s first games and it seems more realistic than ever.
“Which is why it was so distressing to see images stream over social media of young people in Tuscaloosa and Auburn partying like there’s no tomorrow with few masks or feet between. It was enough to elicit tweets of disappointment from several football players and efforts to crack down on irresponsible behavior from city police.
“Whether or not we see major transmission spikes on college campuses – and whether we actually get a college football season – won’t ultimately depend on government mandates and policing, though those are important. At the end of the day, it will come down to thousands of 18-22 year-old students deciding to act responsibly, or not. They must pass the marshmallow test…”
  • Read my full column HERE.


News Briefs

Ex-school administrator pleads guilty to wire fraud

  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A former Alabama school administrator accused of defrauding a district of more than $300,000 has pleaded guilty to a federal charge, according to an agreement made public Tuesday.
  • Walter James III, 49, the former assistant principal at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Monday, news outlets reported, citing the plea agreement.
  • The court documents also alleged former Jefferson Davis Principal Bobby Abrams and former interim Chief School Financial Officer Brenda Palmer were aware of the scheme and were paid for their involvement in it.
  • James served as the assistant principal from 2014 through June 2019. Prosecutors alleged that during his time with the district, he created a consulting company and submitted fraudulent invoices for payment to Montgomery County Public Schools. He was accused of then depositing the checks and withdrawing the money for personal use.
  • James received payments of about $340,000 from the school system, according to a February audit obtained by news outlets.
  • Five other Montgomery Public Schools employees were accused of misusing funds in the audit, which came during an ongoing investigation by the system, officials have said. More than $700,000 was found to be misappropriated from the district between October 2017 through September 2018.
  • If convicted, James could face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
  • The office of United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. declined to comment to The Montgomery Advertiser on whether Abrams and Palmer were also being investigated.

Woman arrested after video shows child outside strip club

  • PRICHARD, Ala. (AP) — A woman was charged with child endangerment after video captured images of a child in the back seat of a car that was parked outside an Alabama strip club in the middle of the night.
  • Eva Rudolph, 20, surrendered to police early Tuesday, the Prichard Police Department said in a statement. News outlets reports she was booked into Mobile Metro Jail and released soon after on bond.
  • Police Lt. Robert Martin said the woman went to the Lotus Gentleman’s Club around 9:30 p.m. Friday, and Facebook live video that began around 3 a.m. Saturday showed a young child in the back seat of a car parked outside. A small crowd gathered around the vehicle after someone realized a child was inside.
  • A woman exited the club and drove away with the child still inside, according to the video, which showed the license plate number of the vehicle. Rudolph is the mother of the child, police said.
  • There wasn’t any indication the child was harmed, but authorities said they were referring the case to child welfare workers for review. Court records were not available to show whether Rudolph has an attorney.

Environmental groups sue TVA over long-term power agreements

  • MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Environmental groups are suing the Tennessee Valley Authority over long-term partnership agreements signed by local power companies that receive electricity generated by the nation’s largest public utility.
  • A lawsuit filed in Memphis federal court Monday claims the 20-year deals signed by more than 130 companies lock the power distributors into exclusive, “never-ending” contracts with the TVA and “will forever deprive distributors and ratepayers the opportunity to renegotiate with TVA to obtain cheaper, cleaner electricity,” the Southern Environmental Law Center said in a statement.
  • Protect Our Aquifer, Energy Alabama and Appalachian Voices also allege the deals hurt the ability of local power companies to use renewable power from sources outside the TVA.
  • TVA is the nation’s largest public utility, providing power to more than 10 million people in parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia.
  • TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said 141 of 153 local power companies have agreed to the deals voluntarily.
  • “Nobody is being forced to sign up for anything,” Brooks said Tuesday. “All the local power companies have a choice whether they want to sign up for this long term partnership.”
  • Read more HERE.





ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State seeks to provide additional unemployment benefit
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Opioid overdoses on the rise since pandemic began
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey appoints new members to Port Authority board of directors
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Environmental groups sue TVA over long-term power agreements
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Postal Service halts some changes amid outcry, lawsuits
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Stacy Column: Can we pass the marshmallow test?
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State continues progress in reducing coronavirus transmissions
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Merrill urges Alabama voters to submit absentee applications as soon as possible
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama college crowds raise questions about pandemic safety
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – August 17, 2020
AL.COM – Alabama adds 1,220 new coronavirus cases; 105,815 cases statewide
AL.COM – ADPH disputes coronavirus table circulating on social media
AL.COM – Coastal Alabama projects getting over $26 million in offshore oil leases
AL.COM – Alabama Power launches new payment plan as suspension on disconnects ends Sept. 28
AL.COM – Inmate video gives peek inside Alabama prison during quarantine
AL.COM – Austal’s fast transport: Enticing possibilities, unclear politics
AL.COM – Woodfin’s $412M budget includes furloughs, cuts for local agencies
AL.COM – ‘Larger than life’ Little Richard mural set for Huntsville
Montgomery Advertiser – Prattville council delays controversial liquor license request, again
Montgomery Advertiser – As Empire falls, Montgomery councilman wants security standards raised for all city venues
Montgomery Advertiser – Teen charged with manslaughter in shooting death of 2020’s youngest homicide victim
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Alabama will only allow 20 percent fan capacity at Bryant Denny
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – ADPH: Recovered from COVID? Don’t get retested, here’s why
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Shelby County leaders give update on COVID impact in district
Tuscaloosa News – UA makes physical changes to prepare for students’ return
Tuscaloosa News – UA Ripple Effect sends student volunteers across the community
Tuscaloosa News – DEAR ABBY: Man pines for wife who left without giving an explanation
Decatur Daily – DU: Aggressive fix of sewer overflows will raise rates
Decatur Daily – Alcohol license rejected for West Moulton Street store owner
Decatur Daily – Alabama college crowds raise questions about pandemic safety
Times Daily – Drug bust in Sheffield nets marijuana, edibles, other items
Times Daily – School Share Drive generates more than $10,000 to benefit children
Times Daily – Homicide probe continues in 3-year-old’s death
Anniston Star – Anniston council debates money matters in last meeting before election
Anniston Star – Anniston man charged with stabbing two women
Anniston Star – Robbery investigation leads to drug trafficking charges
YellowHammer News – Doug Jones: Biden ‘going to do very well in Alabama’
YellowHammer News – University of Alabama announces seating capacity, attendance policies for 2020 football season
YellowHammer News – Ivey appoints three to Alabama State Port Authority board, reappoints another
Gadsden Times – Hokes Bluff police continue to probe cause of Friday’s crash
Gadsden Times – Gadsden City Council votes to increase retirement benefits for employees on Tier 2 plan
Gadsden Times – Alabama’s substitute teacher shortage amplified during pandemic. What will districts do?
Dothan Eagle – Free internet for Houston students who qualify for free/reduced lunch
Dothan Eagle – City gives Montana Street school to Housing Authority
Dothan Eagle – Accident closes one lane of 231 North
Opelika-Auburn News – Jill Biden’s path from reluctant politico to possible FLOTUS
Opelika-Auburn News – China says US damaging global trade with Huawei sanctions
Opelika-Auburn News – The Latest: South Africa loosens coronavirus restrictions
WSFA Montgomery – Missing Kansas woman’s vehicle found in Crittenden County with body inside
WSFA Montgomery – Democrats make it official, nominate Biden to take on Trump
WSFA Montgomery – Former MPS administrator pleads guilty to federal wire fraud
WAFF Huntsville – School officials at Brindlee Mountain Primary school prepare for new school year
WAFF Huntsville – A colorful mural honoring the life of Little Richard is in the works for Huntsville
WAFF Huntsville – Tomorrow is the first day of school for Madison County School District
WKRG Mobile – AU fraternity and sorority dorm floor under COVID-19 quarantine
WKRG Mobile – UA announces COVID-19 classroom safety upgrades
WKRG Mobile – Arkansas authorities find body, vehicle matching missing Kansas 0woman heading to Birmingham
WTVY Dothan – Merrill urges Alabama voters to submit absentee applications as soon as possible
WTVY Dothan – Deadline to vote absentee in municipal election getting closer
WTVY Dothan – Man who walks three hours to work donated a car
WASHINGTON POST – Joe Biden officially becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee on convention’s second night
WASHINGTON POST  – Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Uncle Joe, who outlasted them both
WASHINGTON POST – WHO warns young people are emerging as main spreaders of the coronavirus
NEW YORK TIMES – G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia
NEW YORK TIMES – As D.N.C. Unfolds, Trump Reprises Grimmest Language of 2016 Campaign
NEW YORK TIMES – Democrats Nominate Biden for President, Delivering Long-Sought Prize
WALL STREET JOURNAL – USPS to Suspend Changes Until After Election
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Senate Panel’s Russia Probe Found Counterintelligence Risks in Trump’s 2016 Campaign
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Trump Expresses Support for Oracle to Buy TikTok



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