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Daily News Digest – January 23, 2020

Presented by AlabamaWorks!

Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, January 23.



1. Literacy, mental health big asks for education budget

  • More funding for early literacy efforts and mental health services were among the Alabama State Department of Education’s requests in the state’s 2021 education budget.
  • The state’s education leaders presented their budget requests to lawmakers on Wednesday in advance of the the legislative session that starts Feb. 4.
  • One of the major asks from State Education Department Superintendent Eric Mackey was nearly $50 million to implement the Alabama Literacy Act, including $21 million to train every K-3 teacher in the state in the science of reading to help students be reading proficiently by the fourth grade.
  • It was the largest request from Mackey but he said it would be a one-time cost.
  • “We’re partnering with our colleges of education and our hope is that we won’t have to train any of the students coming from an Alabama college and only have to train people who are coming to us from out of state,” Mackey said.
  • Mackey also asked for $18.5 million more to implement the summer reading programs for any of the K-3 students identified with a reading deficiency, as laid out in the Alabama Literacy Act.
  • Lawmakers approved the act in 2019. It provides regional literacy specialists to the lowest-performing 5% schools in the state, as well as providing summer reading camps and holding back third graders who aren’t reading on grade level. It goes into effect in the 2021-2022 school year.
  • The Alabama Commission on Higher Education asked for a $73 million increase for four-year universities. In total, ACHE is asking for a 6.8% increase over the current year’s funding in hopes of getting back to pre-2008 funding levels.
  • The Alabama Community College System is asking for a $35 million increase in operations and maintenance funding for its nearly two dozen schools and a $50 million increase to expand workforce development capabilities relating to skills training and career and technical skills education. Chancellor Jimmy Baker also asked for $4.2 million increase to help expand correctional and post-correctional education services, which he said will help reduce prison recidivism.
  • Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross did not have a specific budget request, but offered lawmakers a detailed report on the benefits of state’s award-winning First Class Pre-K program. The Legislature has granted funding increases for Pre-K each year since the program’s inception in 2005, including a $25 million boost for the current year’s budget.
  • Read the full story from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.
  • On tap today are General Fund agencies. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., we’ll hear presentations from Pardons & Paroles Director Charlie Graddick, ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor, ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn, State Health Officer Scott Harris, Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear and Alabama Medicaid Agency Commissioner Stephanie Azar.



2. Trial unfolds to fidgety Senate

  • House prosecutors began rolling out their case against President Donald Trump in the Senate Wednesday, as arguments in the impeachment trial began.
  • Holding the room proved difficult. The agony of the senator-jurors had begun to show the night before, with widespread but more subtle struggles to pay attention to opening arguments. Gum-chewing, snacking, yawning and alleged napping could be seen throughout the cramped chamber. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was apparently reprimanded for having a pack of Red Man chewing tobacco on his desk.
  • Nearing nine long hours of arguments, the empty seats became apparent. Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., was under the weather and left early. Some lawmakers dashed down the hall to appear on television. Visitors thinned from the galleries, one briefly interrupting in protest and being removed by Capitol police.
  • They’ve got at least six more days of this.
  • Read the top lines about what all happened on day one of arguments HERE.
  • Read more about the Democrats’ arguments, including the potential political risks HERE.
  • Read more about the marathon session and how Senators are agonizing through it, including the funny Sasse thing, HERE.
  • Also of note, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was on Capitol Hill Wednesday joining fellow Republican attorneys general in calling the impeachment trial unjust.







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3. Missing child alert issued

  • The Pelham Police Department is asking for help locating a missing 13-year-old girl.
  • Amberly Nicole Flores was last seen wearing a white jacket, blue jeans and carrying a pink backpack in the area of Green Park South Mobile Homes at 7 a.m. Tuesday. She’s hispanic with black hair and brown eyes, 5’1″ and 115 pounds.
  • Pelham police on Wednesday said via Twitter that Amberly appeared to willingly get into a dark-colored Mercedes SUV. Anyone with information about her location is asked to contact the Pelham Police Department at (205) 620-6550 or call 911.
  • A new missing child alert is chilling, especially given how many high-profile missing persons cases Alabama has seen over the last year.
  • Incidentally, Angela Harris, the mother of slain college student Aniah Blanchard, was in the State House Wednesday advocating on behalf of legislation to allow jurisdictions to deny bail to those considered to a threat to the public.
  • Read more HERE.



4. Elliott bill would increase penalties for crimes against police

  • State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, this year will try again with legislation to increase penalties for those who commit crimes against law enforcement officers by adding them as a protected class under Alabama’s hate crimes law.
  • It is already a capital offense to kill a police officer in Alabama, but Elliott said his bill is intended to protect police officers from other forms of crime.
  • “This is a broader attempt to protect our law enforcement officers from targeting simply because they are police officers,” Elliott told Alabama Daily News.
  • Read more from Devin Pavlou HERE.


5. News Briefs

Mobile dims chances for Amtrak renewal on Gulf Coast

  • MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Leaders in Alabama’s port city of Mobile are dimming chances for reviving passenger train service along the northern Gulf Coast.
  • Member of the City Council’s finance committee withheld support for funding service through Alabama’s port city during a meeting Tuesday.
  • Amtrak hasn’t operated along the coast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Southern Rail Commission supports restarting passenger trains between Mobile and New Orleans with stops in Mississippi.
  • A full vote of the Council is expected this week
  • Read more HERE.

16-year-old arrested in slaying of Alabama mother, twin sons

  • MUNFORD, Ala. (AP) — A 16-year-old has been arrested for the stabbing deaths of his mother and twin brothers, authorities said Wednesday.
  • Landon Durham faces a capital murder charge for the deaths of his mother, 36-year-old Holli Christina Durham and his brothers, 13-year-old twins, Branson and Baron Durham, Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens said. The three were found dead Tuesday in their home in Munford, about 60 miles east of Birmingham.
  • The prosecutor did not comment on a possible motive, but said authorities believe the three were killed early Tuesday.
  • The teen is automatically charged as an adult.
  • “I don’t mean this bad, but this is the kind of crime that you see on TV or the media or the internet that happens other places. To have it here, really hits home. Munford, like all communities in this county, is pretty close knit, and I know they are hurting and we are too,” Giddens said.
  • “It’s just hard to believe these kind of things can happen.”
  • Story link.

Man found dead months after courthouse gun incident

  • SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man accused of bringing a gun into an county courthouse last year has been found dead.
  • News outlets reported that authorities confirmed Wednesday that a body found in a rural part of Jackson County was that of Fred Swearengin, 72. Relatives reported the man missing about three weeks ago.
  • Swearengin was accused of entering the Scottsboro courthouse on Sept. 18 with a loaded handgun and extra ammunition. Deputies shot and wounded him, but Swearengin was later released from a hospital.
  • Authorities never said why Swearengin might have entered the building with a gun.
  • A state trooper helicopter found the man’s body near a bluff during a search, and his vehicle was located about 300 yards away. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.






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ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Literacy education, mental health services big requests in 2021 budget
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill would add law enforcement officers to protected classes
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Missing Child Alert: Pelham Police looking for 13-year-old girl
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trial highlights: Democrats roll out case as senators fidget
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Democrats face risks and limits in Trump’s impeachment trial
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 24 hours in, senators flout quaint impeachment rules
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mobile dims chances for Amtrak renewal on Gulf Coast
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 16-year-old arrested in slaying of Alabama mother, twin sons
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – After tweaks, Trump trial format will be similar to Clinton
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill would allow convictions to be expunged from criminal records
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – January 22, 2020
AL.COM  – Columnist John Archibald: Dear ALDOT: Sorry
AL.COM  – Can new I-10 expressway plan generate ‘consensus’?
AL.COM  – Aniah Blanchard’s mother says bail reform is ‘my fight’
AL.COM  – Shelby County sheriff appointed to President Trump’s law enforcement commission
AL.COM  – 6 takeaways from Democratic Alabama 1st congressional forum
AL.COM  – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: The Alabamafication of the lunchroom
AL.COM  – Alabama educators explain funding needs to legislators
AL.COM  – Alabama Futures Fund investing in medtech company
AL.COM  – Huntsville firm to demonstrate system for U.S. Army
Montgomery Advertiser – SPLC sues MPS for expulsion of two students after Lee High shooting
Montgomery Advertiser – Aniah Blanchard case: Amendment would allow judges to deny bail to many violent offenders
Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery Council OKs plan to acquire Garrett Coliseum from state
YellowHammer News – Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission
YellowHammer News – Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements
YellowHammer News – Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles
Dothan Eagle – Gilley announces plans for future of former BamaJam property
Dothan Eagle – Dothan Regional Airport adding an afternoon flight
Dothan Eagle – Man charged with murder files bar complaint against defense attorney; attorney withdraws
Tuscaloosa News – Mobile dims chances for Amtrak renewal on Gulf Coast
Tuscaloosa News – Plumbing company workers reject union
Tuscaloosa News – Appellate court throws out kidnapping convictions in Samantha Payne murder case
Decatur Daily – Health care on demand: Convenience, easy access leading to more urgent care centers in area
Decatur Daily – Concerns raised that zoning changes would deter developers
Decatur Daily – Hearing set on mental competency of alleged killer
Times Daily – Stephens helped resurrect Alabama Symphony Orchestra
Times Daily – Employment Growth Program seeks additional funds
Times Daily – Mission to reopen planetarium close to reality
Gadsden Times – Teen charged in Munford triple homicide arrested in Ball Play
Gadsden Times – $2.7 million improvement project announced for mega-site
Gadsden Times – Electric cooperative warns of scam
Anniston Star – DA: Munford teen charged with capital murder in slaying of mom, twin brothers (updated), (with photos)
Anniston Star – Georgia man charged with child abuse
Anniston Star – Phillip Tutor: A raunchy and gross Alabama jail
Troy Messenger – Brundidge transfers 28 acres to PCBOE for new athletic complex
Troy Messenger – Fatback lures McBride-Smith back to Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival
Troy Messenger – Relay for Life kickoff meeting Thursday night at Recreation Center
Opelika-Auburn News – Auburn council OKs new park; I-85 exit improvements
Opelika-Auburn News – DECISION 2020: A complete voters guide to the 2020 election
Opelika-Auburn News – Auburn council OKs new park; I-85 exit improvements
Daily Mountain Eagle – Callahan named interim clerk as Parrish works through bills
Daily Mountain Eagle – Search warrant executed at Jasper pawn shop
Daily Mountain Eagle – Sumiton sets Sunday alcohol vote on April 14
Trussville Tribune – Trussville City Schools Superintendent given excellent evaluation by board
Trussville Tribune – Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions coming to Trussville for joint chamber luncheon
Trussville Tribune – POLICE: Hoover school bus driver arrested in Moody for child pornography
Athens News Courier – Volunteers spend MLK Day picking up litter
Athens News Courier – FREE TAX HELP: RSVP announces locations, times
Athens News Courier – 16-year-old arrested in killing of Munford mother, twin sons
Sand Mountain Reporter – Deputies seize 25 pounds of marijuana
Sand Mountain Reporter – Sheriff updates County Commission
Sand Mountain Reporter – Sardis City talks Sunday alcohol sales | Council considers adding issue to August ballot
WSFA Montgomery – Workers prepare for Rebuild Alabama construction
WSFA Montgomery – K-12 department wants $300 million more from lawmakers
WSFA Montgomery – NASCAR driver pit stops in Montgomery to promote upcoming show
Fox 6 Birmingham – B’ham police investigating overnight homicide near Norwood Park
Fox 6 Birmingham – More people skipping mandatory court appearance in Cullman Co.
Fox 6 Birmingham – 16-year-old charged with capital murder in death of his mother, twin brothers in Munford
WAFF Huntsville – Electric scooter debate rolling back into Huntsville City Council
WAFF Huntsville – Police searching for Huntsville teen missing since October
WAFF Huntsville – Study shows chemicals in Decatur drinking water; DU says water is safe
WKRG Mobile – Mobile teen honors late baby brother by hosting prom for others with disabilities
WKRG Mobile – Pedestrian hit near Carleton Avenue in Mobile
WKRG Mobile – Teen charged with manslaughter in Ensley shooting death
WTVY Dothan – Road work at Dothan’s South Park Avenue and Taylor Road
WTVY Dothan – ADPH joins with CDC to prevent spread of new coronavirus
WTVY Dothan – Three armed and dangerous men wanted in Marianna
WASHINGTON POST  – Democrats scale back language as Trump and GOP press ahead with attacks on Senate impeachment trial
WASHINGTON POST  – Biden says he refuses to be part of impeachment witness deal
WASHINGTON POST  – Battle over Social Security spills into 2020 campaign as Democrats spar and Trump weighs in
NEW YORK TIMES  – Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands
NEW YORK TIMES  – In Presidential First, Trump Will Attend Anti-Abortion March for Life
NEW YORK TIMES  – A New Face of White Supremacy: Plots Expose Danger of the ‘Base’

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