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Daily News Digest – January 26, 2021

Good morning!

For those counting down we have one week to go until Alabama’s 2021 Regular Legislative Session.

Here’s your Daily News for Tuesday, January 26.


1. Tornado tears through Fultondale

  • One person is dead after a tornado tore through Fultondale, leaving the area with crumpled buildings and downed trees.
  • Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said a young man trapped in the basement of his home was pronounced dead at the scene around 3 a.m. Tuesday,’s Carol Robinson reported.
  • At least a half dozen people have been hospitalized since the tornado hit the Fultondale area of Jefferson County late Monday night.
  • Injuries range from minor to severe but search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, said James Coker, the director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.
  • Several residential homes and buildings were damaged in the storm, including a Hampton Inn hotel, which sustained significant structural damage.
  • Read more HERE.


2. Budget hearings start today

  • Joint budget hearings of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, a sort of prequel to the official start of the Legislative session, begin today.
  • The hearings are usually a time for agency leaders to talk about the successes of their agencies and advocate for more funding, while lawmakers press for answers on how previous state funds were spent.
  • During the middle of last year’s legislative session, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down significant portions of Alabama’s economy, budget crunchers feared that state coffers could see as much as $2 billion in negative impacts. Thankfully, that did not happen and budgets have been mostly stable over the last year.
  • Will we learn more details about the state’s financial outlook going forward? That depends.
  • Years ago, these hearings involved the old Legislative Fiscal Office dropping its revenue estimates weeks ahead of the governor’s budget, which often had different estimates, leading to competing headlines.
  • These days, the Legislature is more willing to wait on the governor, and agency leaders certainly don’t want to get out ahead of her.
  • The governor’s budget usually drops the second day of the session, which is a week from tomorrow.
  • Read more and see the full schedule for budget hearings HERE.



3. AEA: ‘Education employees are dying,’ seeks vaccinations

  • The Alabama Education Association is urging the state to give teachers COVID-19 vaccinations following the deaths of at least 39 public school employees from the contagious illness.
  • The group, which represents public education employees, sent a letter to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris asking the state to direct county health departments to begin vaccinating education employees “as soon as possible.”
  • AEA said Monday that at least 39 school workers have died from COVID-19. The number includes teachers, support staff, coaches and administrators.
  • Under the state vaccine plan, the first shots in the rollout were given to health care workers and nursing home residents. The state announced earlier this month that it is triaging people in the 1b group because of the limited supply. The state on Jan. 18 began vaccinating people over 75 and first responders, but others in the 1b group — such as teachers — would have to wait.
  • AEA said that four educators in the Montgomery County Schools system died within 48 hours and a total of seven have died. Following the string of deaths, Montgomery Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore announced Monday that the county school system is switching to all virtual learning beginning Feb. 1 and will remain virtual until vaccinations are available to educators.
  • Harris, who heads the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the supply of vaccine is the chief barrier to getting more groups vaccinated.
  • “We believe every one of those people deserves a vaccine and needs to get it as fast as possible. Yet at the same time adding hundreds of thousands of people to the lines we have right now, without any more vaccine, is going to be a difficult situation for everyone,” Harris said.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.



4. Biden wants to up goal for vaccine distribution

  • President Joe Biden has received some criticism during his first week in office for sticking with his goal of accomplishing 100 million vaccinations nationwide in his first 100 days.
  • Why? Because the nation was already on pace – or ahead of it – to administer 1 million vaccines a day as former President Donald Trump was leaving office, so it didn’t seem all that ambitious.
  • On Monday, Biden signaled that he wanted to up that goal by 50% to administering 1.5 million vaccines daily.
  • “I think we may be able to get that to … 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day,” Biden said, “but we have to meet that goal of a million a day.”
  • Biden added that he expects widespread availability of the vaccines for Americans by spring, with the U.S. “well on our way to herd immunity” necessary to end the pandemic by summer. Even so, he warned the nation was going to be “in this for a while, and could see between “600,000 and 660,000 deaths before we begin to turn the corner in a major way.”
  • As of Sunday, the federal government had distributed 41.4 million vaccine doses to states and other jurisdictions. Of that, 21.8 million doses had been administered, or about 53%. About 3.2 million people had received their full two-dose vaccination, a little less than 1% of the population. That’s according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Already, more than 420,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.
  • In Alabama, 255,291 vaccine doses have been administered, meaning roughly 5% of the state’s population has received at least its first dose of vaccine. Currently, there are more than 600,000 people eligible for vaccinations in Alabama, including 325,000 health care workers and 350,000 people who are 75 or older.
  • Read more HERE.


5. The latest from Congress

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is ready to finalize a power sharing arrangement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that would see equal representation of Republicans and Democrats on committees in the 50-50 divided Senate.
  • McConnell had been negotiating to try to win a commitment from Schumer that Democrats would not attempt the so-called “nuclear option” and end the filibuster – a commitment Schumer never made.
  • So why did McConnell relent? Because two other Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – said they will not support ending the filibuster, making it all but impossible for Schumer to try that option.
  • Read more on that from Politico HERE.
  • This means Senate committees should get populated soon and we’ll learn where new Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville will land.
  • As we reported in the last edition of Inside Alabama Politics, Tuberville has discussed an interest in Agriculture, Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs.
  • The committee picture in the House is getting clearer by the day as the House Republican Steering Committee met Monday.
  • Freshman Congressman Jerry Carl learned he will serve on House Armed Services, a big get, and Natural Resources, a nice fit for the environmentally diverse 1st District.
  • Fellow freshman Barry Moore learned he won a seat on the House Agriculture Committee, which is important to the farming-heavy 2nd District.
  • Expect a few more announcements in the coming days.
  • A more thorough explanation of the committee slots can be read in the most recent IAP.



News Briefs

Lawsuit filed in Democratic Party leadership battle

  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A new federal lawsuit is challenging bylaws changes at the Alabama Democratic Party that led to the installment of new leadership.
  • Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference — the state’s oldest Black political organization — announced the lawsuit last week.
  • The lawsuit contends that the changes violated a decades-old consent decree meant to ensure Blacks are represented on the party’s executive committee in numbers that reflect their percentages in the Democratic electorate. The lawsuit contends that the new bylaws which sought to nominate Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals and young people diluted the influence of Black committee members.
  • “When whites deserted the Alabama Democratic Party, Blacks embraced it and held it together,” Reed wrote in a letter announcing the lawsuit. Reed said the changes sought to “weaken Blacks’ influence and give control of the party to whites.”
  • Full story HERE.

Georgia signs contract to pull disputed water from lake

  • GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Georgia has signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that for the first time formally ratifies the rights of two suburban Atlanta counties to use Lake Lanier for drinking water.
  • The lake northeast of Atlanta, formed by damming the Chattahoochee River, has been used for drinking water for decades. But federal litigation among Georgia, Alabama and Florida over who gets to use water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system had questioned that use.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear more arguments in that case on Feb. 22. But the agreements signed Wednesday date back to a previous Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that ruled that water supply was an authorized purpose of Lake Lanier. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed its rules in 2017 to let the lake be used for drinking water.
  • The $70-million-plus water storage contract allows Gwinnett and Forsyth counties along with Buford, Gainesville and Cumming to pull drinking water from Lake Lanier as long as the lake exists.
  • Full story HERE.

Trump agreements could tie Biden’s hands on immigration

  • SAN DIEGO (AP) — During the Trump administration’s final weeks, the Department of Homeland Security quietly signed agreements with at least four states that threaten to temporarily derail President Joe Biden’s efforts to undo his predecessor’s immigration policies.
  • The agreements say Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas are entitled to a 180-day consultation period before executive branch policy changes take effect. The Biden administration rejects that argument on grounds that immigration is solely the federal government’s responsibility under the Constitution.
  • Former President Donald Trump relied heavily on executive powers for his immigration agenda because he was unable to build enough support for his policies in Congress. Now some of his supporters say Biden is going too far in doing the same to reverse them.
  • The first legal test is in Texas, where the Republican governor and attorney general are challenging the Democratic president’s 100-day moratorium on deportations, which took effect Friday.
  • The Homeland Security Department told lawmakers shortly before Biden’s inauguration last week that it reached nine agreements, mostly with states, according to a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss information that is not yet publicly available.
  • Full story HERE.




A message from

Auburn University

  • Auburn is proud to celebrate the recent confirmation of Auburn alumnus Gen. Lloyd Austin as our nation’s secretary of defense.
  • We applaud your incredible achievement, and thank you for your continued service to protect our country.





ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 1 dead, at least 17 injured after tornado in Alabama


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Legislative budget hearings begin today


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AEA: ‘Education employees are dying,’ seeks vaccinations


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Supply issues hinder Alabama COVID-19 vaccination efforts


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Biden more bullish on vaccines, open to 1.5M daily shot goal


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawsuit filed in Democratic Party leadership battle


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Georgia signs contract to pull disputed water from lake


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump agreements could tie Biden’s hands on immigration


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – White House begins talks with lawmakers on COVID-19 relief


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State launches Alabama Family Central website


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Report: Improvements needed in state’s suicide prevention efforts


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – January 25, 2021


AL.COM – Fultondale tornado kills 1, critically injures several others: ‘Like a bomb went off’


AL.COM – Alabama’s online COVID-19 vaccine website launching in February


AL.COM – Amazon union efforts in Alabama gain support from NFL players


AL.COM – Drug overdoses climbed in Alabama during pandemic


AL.COM – Dominion Voting Systems sues Rudy Giuliani for $1.3 billion in defamation case


AL.COM – Wanted: Volunteers to administer Alabama’s COVID vaccine


AL.COM – Trump 2021 impeachment trial: GOP senators might kill effort


AL.COM – Stimulus payments: $300 per month per child payments part of Biden plan


Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery schools move to all virtual learning as COVID-19 continues to impact learning


Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery to offer COVID-19 vaccines Saturday to adults 75 and older, first responders


Montgomery Advertiser – Who killed Brandon Harris? His 2014 death is unsolved. Police offer $15K for clues


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Wes Wyatt captures moments before possible tornado forms in Jefferson County


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – ‘We do have possible fatalities’: Possible tornado damage in northern Jefferson County


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – PHOTOS: Northern Jefferson Co. hit hard by overnight severe storms


Tuscaloosa News – More customers buy Alabama championship merchandise online, retailers say


Tuscaloosa News – Suspect surrenders after officer shot, another injured at apartment complex


Tuscaloosa News – Police: Suspect said she set fire to man’s clothes because he was ‘seeing another woman’


Times Daily – What you need to know if you’re scheduled for a second COVID shot in February


Times Daily – Number of new COVID-19 cases is dropping


Times Daily – United Way offering free tax preparation in Calhoun County


Anniston Star – What you need to know if you’re scheduled for a second COVID shot in February


Anniston Star – Number of new COVID-19 cases is dropping


Anniston Star – United Way offering free tax preparation in Calhoun County


YellowHammer News – Construction completed on Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater in Albertville


YellowHammer News – U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl to serve on House Armed Services Committee


YellowHammer News – State Rep. Chip Brown to sponsor bill establishing ‘Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights’


Gadsden Times – Leaders of Gangster Disciples sentenced in federal court


Gadsden Times – GFD’s retiring chief says department is better trained, better equipped than in the past


Gadsden Times – Terrell remembered as pioneer, public servant, political mentor and devoted friend


Dothan Eagle – How and where to get COVID-19 vaccinations in Wiregrass


Dothan Eagle – Dothan Area Chamber joins U.S. Chamber urging Congress to rebuild infrastructure


Dothan Eagle – Where in the Wiregrass can I get tested for COVID-19?


Opelika-Auburn News – Local COVID-19 death toll rises during weekend


Opelika-Auburn News – Global shares gain on recovery hopes, earnings outlook


Opelika-Auburn News – Protest erupts over police car driving through crowd


WSFA Montgomery – MPS returns to virtual only until COVID-19 vaccine becomes available


WSFA Montgomery – Suspect surrenders after Tuscaloosa police officer shot in bulletproof vest


WSFA Montgomery – COVID-19 vaccine clinic being held in Montgomery on Saturday


WAFF Huntsville – Jeffco EMA: PLEASE stay out of Fultondale, multiple people injured


WAFF Huntsville – ‘We do have possible fatalities’: Possible tornado damage in northern Jefferson County


WAFF Huntsville – Marshall County Commission to discuss new radio system


WKRG Mobile – People trapped, roads impassable after Alabama tornado


WKRG Mobile – Alabama last voted on gambling in 1999. Will voters get another chance in 2021?


WKRG Mobile – “I have no idea what to expect.” Downtown Mobile businesses hope for sales as Senior Bowl week starts slowly


WTVY Dothan – Cultural Arts Center seeking youth talent for annual competition


WTVY Dothan – Gardening and astronomy highlight upcoming Landmark Park events


WTVY Dothan – Inmate dies at Houston County Jail


WASHINGTON POST – House Democrats plan to focus impeachment trial on how rioters reacted to Trump’s remarks


WASHINGTON POST – Biden now hopes for 1.5 million vaccinations a day, a big jump from earlier comments


WASHINGTON POST – McConnell relents on Senate rules, signals power-sharing deal with Democrats


NEW YORK TIMES – McConnell Relents in First Filibuster Skirmish, but the War Rages On


NEW YORK TIMES – Biden Sets in Motion Plan to Ban New Oil and Gas Leases on Federal Land


NEW YORK TIMES – As Virus Grows Stealthier, Vaccine Makers Reconsider Battle Plans


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Apollo CEO Leon Black to Step Down Following Review of Jeffrey Epstein Ties


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Moderna Developing Vaccine Booster Shot for Virus Strain Identified in South Africa


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Ricchetti Brothers Rise in D.C., One a Lobbyist, the Other in the White House



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