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Daily News Digest – December 17, 2019

Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Tuesday, December 17.

1. Storms strike Southeast

  • Two people were reportedly killed in Lawrence County in North Alabama as a line of tornado-producing thunderstorms moved through the Southeast last night.
  • Another person was reportedly killed in Louisiana.
  • Tornadoes in December aren’t unusual. Monday was the 19th anniversary of a Southeastern tornado outbreak that produced a twister that killed 11 people in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Storms on Dec. 1, 2018, spawned more than two dozen tornadoes in the Midwest.
  • Read more from Jay Reeves HERE.
  • Also read local coverage from The Decatur Daily’s Michael Wetzel HERE.



2. State House update: Education budget jockeying begins

  • The 2020 legislative session, where the only required task is passing the state’s two budgets for 2021, is less than two months away and at least in the Education Trust Fund it looks like there will be more money for 2021.
  • That means a lot of different factions will be asking for budget increases for the next fiscal year, many in addition to increases they already got for the current fiscal year.
  • Higher education will be seeking more funds, still trying to get back to pre-recession state spending levels. Alabama’s Community Colleges want more money for workforce development programs to keep up with the unprecedented demand for workers. And Pre-K-12 will have many funding needs, from the new literacy law to capital expenses and a possible teacher pay raise.
  • ADN’s Mary Sell got the jump on education budget jockeying going into next year’s session, and her story is worth a read HERE.
  • (For Inside Alabama Politics subscribers, there was a special little tidbit about that possible teacher pay raise in this week’s edition that you won’t want to miss. Sixth story down.)


3. Marsh wants ‘comprehensive’ action on education

  • Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Monday he expects  a “comprehensive education plan” during lawmakers’ 2020 session.
  • Marsh, the Senate president pro tem, said legislators want to see improvements in education benchmarks, including standardized tests.
  • “Everything is on the table,” Marsh said. “The amount of money being spent, we have to answer taxpayers on why these scores aren’t getting better and what we have to do to improve that?”
  • Of note: Alabama students scored last or near last on the National Assessment of Education Progress reading and math tests this year, a decline from two years ago.
  • “What else can we do as a state to improve education scores?” Marsh asked.
  • Read more from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.



4. Big approps bill filled with bipartisan Christmas goodies

  • [I just really love that photo of the Capitol. Don’t you?]
  • Congress has reached a deal on a $1.4 trillion government-wide spending package that will avoid a government shutdown and take care of a number of unrelated issues.
  • In a divided government, not a whole lot of consequential bills actually pass and become law. So, with this must-pass spending bill, lawmakers sought to attach provisions that might not have passed on their own. In fact, some have been sought for the better part of a decade.
  • The bill repeals three long unpopular Obamacare provisions lawmakers have been looking to axe for years: the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) that was set to impact small business employers and employees, the “Cadillac Tax” that would have imposed a 40% tax on the most generous health insurance plans (many enjoyed by union members), and the medical device tax.
  • The bill provides $1.375 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall, plus increases for early childhood education, election security systems, and affordable housing programs.
  • In short, Republicans and Democrats both got a lot of what they’ve wanted for years, but it came at a price tag: the bill adds $400 billion to the deficit.
  • The House is expected to vote today and the Senate later this week.
  • Read more HERE.



5. SPLC votes to unionize

  • Employees of the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights organization have voted to unionize.
  • SPLC employees voted to join the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. The vote was 142-45, according to the SPLC union twitter account.
  • A supermajority of employees this fall requested representation by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, Local 32035 of The News Guild-Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO.
  • The move to unionize follows upheaval at the organization that saw the departure of longtime leaders and the announcement of a review of workplace culture.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.
  • Also read Brian Lyman’s report in the Advertiser HERE.






A message from

Alabama’s Electric Cooperatives

Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives are grateful that  Rep. Terri Sewell  is the lead sponsor of a bill which would ensure that co-ops don’t lose their tax-exempt status if they accept government grants to restore power after natural disasters or provide broadband service to rural communities.
A majority of House members are now co-sponsoring the  RURAL Act , which would fix the problem.






ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State House update: Education budget jockeying begins
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Marsh wants ‘comprehensive’ action on education
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 3 dead as suspected twisters, other storms batter the South
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – ‘Obamacare’ tax repeals, other provisions added to $1.4 trillion spending deal
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Budget deal puts access to health care above curbing costs
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Southern Poverty Law Center employees vote to join union
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Birmingham mayor backing Biden for president
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Weekend Digest- December 16, 2019
AL.COM  – Southern Poverty Law Center employees vote to unionize
AL.COM  – New Orleans declares state of emergency after cyber attack
AL.COM  – Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin endorses former VP Joe Biden in 2020 presidential race
AL.COM  – Contributor Terri Sewell: Skyrocketing drug prices are bankrupting Americans
Montgomery Advertiser – Public welcome to memorial service for Aniah Blanchard on Saturday in Birmingham
Montgomery Advertiser – Police investigating brutal attack at Shack bar in Montgomery that was posted to Facebook
Montgomery Advertiser – Southern Poverty Law Center staff vote to unionize
YellowHammer News – Doug Jones: ‘I’m concerned that the impeachment inquiry is going to hurt the country’
YellowHammer News – Auburn establishes center for opioid research
YellowHammer News – Ozark police officer shot in line of duty needs help with medical bills
Dothan Eagle – GoFundMe account for injured Ozark police officer continues to grow
Dothan Eagle – Answer Man: Who has the authority to order flags to be lowered?
Dothan Eagle – Structure fire reported at house on Walnut Street
Tuscaloosa News – Disappearance of Lakira Goldsmith overwhelms her mother
Tuscaloosa News – Kidnapping victim leads Alabama deputies to slain woman
Tuscaloosa News – Birmingham mayor backing Biden for president
Decatur Daily – Decatur branding effort fizzles after ‘wasted effort, energy and time’
Decatur Daily – Authorities: Storm-related injuries possible in Lawrence County
Decatur Daily – Limestone County says investigator’s suit settled
Times Daily – Group considers major Tennessee Street project
Times Daily – Nearly 550 students participate in UNA fall commencement
Times Daily – Historian to discuss Lauderdale pre-Civil War position
Gadsden Times – Brees sets NFL all-time TD mark as Saints crush Colts 34-7
Gadsden Times – 2 dead as suspected twisters hit Alabama
Gadsden Times – Marshall County Sheriff’s Office seeks robbery suspect
Anniston Star – Calhoun County school system faces crucial hearing on integration
Anniston Star – Owners, city leaders grapple with aftermath of night-spot shootings
Troy Messenger – TRMC names Smith new CEO
Troy Messenger – Slight chance of severe weather tonight in Pike County
Troy Messenger – Community supports JCA at ‘Christmas at the Center’
Andalusia Star News – Rhodes named to Reid State President’s List
Andalusia Star News – School systems eye new math standards
Andalusia Star News – Reception set for interim LBWCC president
Opelika-Auburn News – Authorities respond to threat of homicide in Beulah; multiple arrests made
Opelika-Auburn News – Concerned about your package getting stolen? It’s porch pirates who should be worried — about Glitter Bomb 2.0
Opelika-Auburn News – Two men plead guilty to running illegal streaming services with more content than Netflix, Hulu
Daily Mountain Eagle – SOS to drop $100 expedited business fee
Daily Mountain Eagle – Battle: Jasper will see ‘shadow economy’ from broadband
Daily Mountain Eagle – Junior Ambassadors help seniors, community
Trussville Tribune – NWS issues Tornado Watch for eastern Alabama counties
Trussville Tribune – 3 confirmed dead, including Alabama couple, as storms batter the South
Trussville Tribune – Trussville Police Department searching for woman who used stolen checks at area store
Athens News Courier – ACA receives $25,000 grant from 3M
Athens News Courier – Family Resource Center receives donation
Athens News Courier – Alabama man arrested in fire vehicle theft that led to chase
Sand Mountain Reporter – School News: What goes on in Marshall Christian School’s busy lunchroom?
Sand Mountain Reporter – School News: Wilson has worked as librarian, art teacher for 10 years
Sand Mountain Reporter – School News: Stallions’ biology teacher has loved science her entire life
WSFA Montgomery – Shelters to open in Lee County, Ala. if tornado watch issued
WSFA Montgomery – Dr. Stehl takes the stand, testimony to go into second day
WSFA Montgomery – Arrangements announced for Aniah Blanchard memorial
Fox 6 Birmingham – Police release update on Chilton Co. chase
Fox 6 Birmingham – Lawrence County couple killed, child critically injured in storms
Fox 6 Birmingham – EMA alert system in Shelby County helps keep people safe in severe weather events
WAFF Huntsville – Authorities searching for Marshall County robbery suspect
WAFF Huntsville – AL man facing child pornography charges
WAFF Huntsville – Lawrence County couple killed, child critically injured in storms
WKRG Mobile – Byrne: “Impeachment is only for extreme cases”
WKRG Mobile – Faith-based L.E.A.D. Academy hosting Huckabee to help fundraise for expansion
WKRG Mobile – Community pays final respects to victim of NAS Pensacola shooting
WTVY Dothan – Ozark officer critically injured showing improvement
WTVY Dothan – Senator Doug Jones discusses potential repeal of “Widow’s Tax” in Ozark
WTVY Dothan – Dothan Prep needs you to be a mentor
WASHINGTON POST  – Centrist Democrats line up behind impeachment
WASHINGTON POST  – Congress set to prohibit sales of tobacco products to anyone under 21
WASHINGTON POST  – Corporations paid 11.3 percent tax rate last year, in steep drop under Trump’s law
NEW YORK TIMES  – Report: 5th Straight Year With Under 30 Executions in US.
NEW YORK TIMES  – Jonathan Martin: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Have a Problem: Each Other

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