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Daily News Digest – January 27, 2021

Presented by the

Alabama Municipal Electric Authority

Good morning!

Lots of news today, so strap in.

Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, January 27.


1. Images, stories tell of tornado’s destructive path

  • The terrifying nighttime tornado that blasted through suburban Birmingham late Monday left a trail of destruction that stunned even longtime residents used to Alabama’s violent weather.
  • At least 30 people were injured as the tornado carved a 10-mile path through Fultondale, an area severely damaged by a much larger tornado a decade ago.
  • Ninth-grader Elliott Hernandez, 14, was killed and several relatives were critically injured when their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement, Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said.
  • “They were doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Smith said.
  • Search efforts continued for hours in neighborhoods where it was difficult to tell where houses had stood. Across the wrecked landscape, every visible structure was damaged or destroyed. Pieces of children’s toys and clothing were scattered across the terrain littered with broken trees. Fallen utility lines crisscrossed roads.
  • The National Weather Service said the twister was at least a strong EF-2 with 135 mph winds based on initial surveys.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey is scheduled to visit the area today along with emergency management officials.
  • Read more from Jay Reeves and see photos of the devastation HERE.



2. At education budget hearing, talk of pay raises, focus on literacy, COVID-19 fallout

  • Legislative budget hearings kicked off Tuesday tackling the biggest of fiscal gorillas: the more than $7 billion Education Trust Fund.
  • Lawmakers heard from education agency leaders about their budget requests, including State Superintendent Eric Mackey for the Department of Education, whose $5.1 billion request is the largest ETF share by far.
  • Among the priorities discussed for the next budget year were fulfilling the Alabama Literacy Act requirements, combatting learning loss that has happened as a result of more students staying at home and having the proper personnel in public schools, to include school nurses.
  • Pay raises are on the table this year, according to Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who chairs the Senate education budget committee. That could mean something targeted toward teachers who pursue or attain professional development accolades for priority areas.
  • Read more about the budget basics, including for community colleges and higher education, from Caroline and Mary HERE.
  • One particular budget reality the education world is facing this year is the decline in enrollment in K-12 public schools due to the pandemic.
  • Alabama’s public schools saw a decrease in enrollment of about 9,700 students this year. That’s problematic in a state that bases school funding on the previous year’s enrollment.
  • “(Enrollment) does go up and down but we’ve never had a drop like 9,700 students in one year,” Mackey told lawmakers.
  • He is proposing a one-year change in the state’s school funding formula so that systems aren’t significantly hurt by what could be COVID-caused dips in enrollment. The proposal will cost the state $95.3 million in the 2022 education budget.
  • It’s especially a problem in the lower grades. Some estimates show that if not addressed, the issue would lead to as many as 467 K-3 teachers statewide being laid off.
  • That’s bad enough, but it would exacerbate the aforementioned learning loss problem by creating overcrowded classrooms as most of these students are expected to reenroll in the fall.
  • Orr said the Legislature plans to do a “hold harmless” for school funding to make sure schools that have seen a drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic are not unfairly penalized.
  • Read more about this issue from Caroline and Mary HERE.
Next up at budget hearings today are the state’s public safety leaders: Pardons and Paroles Bureau Director Cam Ward at 1:30, ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor at 2:00, and Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn at 2:30. You can watch live at





A message from the

Alabama Municipal Electric Authority

  • One million Alabamians depend on reliable, affordable, innovative public power.
  • Public utilities employ 93,000 people in local jobs across the U.S.
  • 5.6 % of electric operating revenues go back into the community.
  • 2,000 communities large and small across the U.S. trust public power.
  • To learn more about AMEA and public power, visit





3. Long-awaited incentives package to be filed as session nears

  • In covering last year’s COVID-shortened legislative session, we reported several times about how one priority that went by the wayside was reauthorizing two of the state’s key economic development laws.
  • One nugget you may have missed in our ad nauseam coverage of the issue was a comment by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, that the state didn’t want to just reauthorize the laws, but revamp them to meet the modern realities of economic development.
  • With the session less than a week away, that effort is now in full force.
  • After lengthy discussions between the Department of Commerce and key lawmakers, a legislative package could be filed within the next few days.
  • ADN’s Mary Sell spoke to Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield about the legislation and she has the scoop on the details.
  • ADN Insiders can read her full story HERE.
  • Not an ADN Insider? It’s our premium subscription service for those who need to be in the know. See rates HERE.



4. Feds boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

  • Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.
  • Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said Tuesday the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next.
  • Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.
  • “This is unacceptable,” Biden said. “Lives are at stake.”
  • He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks.
  • Read more on the national front from Jonathan Drew and Zeke Miller HERE.
  • Here in Alabama, where vaccine supply has been a real problem, officials say the state will see a slight increase in COVID-19-vaccine doses coming in federal shipments, but the ongoing shortage remains the chief obstacle to getting more people vaccinated.
  • State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said he was informed Tuesday that Alabama will receive an additional 10,000 first doses in its upcoming delivery. The state had been receiving about 50,000 to 60,000 first doses each week but will see that jump to 70,000 doses in coming weeks, according to numbers supplied by Harris. The number does not include second doses. Harris said it is unclear if the increase will be sustained longer than three weeks.
  • “Along with Dr. Harris, I’ll continue to advocate to our federal partners that we must be more efficient in shipping these to the states in order for us to get shots in arms,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.
  • Read more on the state front from Kim Chandler HERE.


5. The latest from Washington

The nation’s capital is buzzing with activity as a new Congress and a new administration settle in. Here’s the latest on what you need to know…


  • As the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump officially moved to the Senate, all but five Senate Republicans voted in favor of an effort to dismiss a trial, making clear that chances of a conviction of Trump for “incitement of insurrection” are all but dead.
  • While the Republicans did not succeed in ending the trial before it began, the test vote made clear that Trump still has enormous sway over his party as he becomes the first former president to be tried for impeachment. Many Republicans have criticized Trump’s role in the attack — before which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat — but most of them have rushed to defend him in the trial on the grounds that the effort is unconstitutional.
  • “I think this was indicative of where a lot of people’s heads are,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, after the vote.
  • Read more on that HERE.

COVID relief

  • Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden’s administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president’s promise of a “unity” agenda.
  • “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators.
  • Separately, the dozen senators who emerged from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own about trying to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan group of senators assembled privately again Monday evening.
  • Read more HERE.

Biden / DOJ

  • The Justice Department rescinded a Trump-era memo that established a “zero tolerance” enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations.
  • Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memo to federal prosecutors across the nation on Tuesday, saying the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases.
  • The “zero tolerance” policy meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border.
  • Most families have not been prosecuted under zero tolerance since 2018, when the separations were halted, though separations have continued on a smaller scale.
  • Read more 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 – Images, stories tell of Fultondale tornado’s destructive path


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama schools ask for COVID-19 enrollment funding fix in 2022


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers discuss education pay raises, a focus on literacy and learning loss


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Long-awaited incentives package to be filed as session nears


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama to see small increase in vaccine delivery to state


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Democrats prep Biden’s virus aid package with or without GOP


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – GOP largely sides against holding Trump impeachment trial


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AP Exclusive: DOJ rescinds ‘zero tolerance’ immigration rule


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


AL.COM – Alabama adds record number of COVID deaths Tuesday, more than 2,000 added so far this year


AL.COM – 6 ways the feds slowed Alabama’s COVID vaccine rollout


AL.COM – COVID education funds aimed at extra classroom time help offset learning disruptions


AL.COM – Ivey to tour Fultondale, Alabama tornado damage Wednesday morning


AL.COM – Joshua Black, Alabama man arrested and shot in D.C. riot, ordered held until trial


AL.COM – JSU removes Bibb Graves’ name from building 


AL.COM – Home of Lonnie Coffman, Alabama man arrested at DC riot, being searched by multiple agencies


AL.COM – Colorado lawmakers ask Biden to stop Space Command move to Alabama


AL.COM – Alabama to give spring standardized tests in person


Montgomery Advertiser – Furlesia Bell is the Community Hero for October 2020


Montgomery Advertiser – Woman rushed to hospital with life-threatening injury following an afternoon shooting


Montgomery Advertiser – Deadly Alabama tornado: Preliminary survey indicates ‘High-End EF-2 tornado’ in Fultondale


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – No huge spike in COVID-19 cases after national title celebration


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – State redistributing vaccines to speed up process


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Fultondale planning more storm shelters to protect citizens from severe weather


Tuscaloosa News – Northport man charged with disseminating child pornography


Tuscaloosa News – Deadly Alabama tornado: Preliminary survey indicates ‘High-End EF-2 tornado’ in Fultondale


Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa-area COVID-19 trends are improving, Mayor Walt Maddox says


Decatur Daily – Lawmakers discuss education pay raises, a focus on literacy and learning loss



Decatur Daily – Authorities: Falkville victim shot once in face


Decatur Daily – Problems in state’s vaccine hotline lead Morgan health department to take walk-ins


Times Daily – Schools seek enrollment funding fix


Times Daily – Church, family, community members honor 101-year-old Morgan with drive-by birthday parade


Times Daily – Artist wants his busts moved out of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame


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 – Alabama’s Jessica Taylor launches NextGen Conservatives PAC to help Republicans retake U.S. House in 2022


YellowHammer News – Mobile unveils plans for ‘Hall of Fame Courtyard’ to honor Hank Aaron and four other local MLB greats


YellowHammer News – Gary Palmer: Left again showing ‘complete disregard for the Constitution’ with impeachment trial of private citizen Trump


Gadsden Times – JSU Board of Trustees votes to rename Bibb Graves Hall


Gadsden Times – Deadly Alabama tornado: Preliminary survey indicates ‘High-End EF-2 tornado’ in Fultondale


Gadsden Times – No drive-thru COVID vaccine clinic Thursday; state listing in error


Dothan Eagle – Rain ends Wednesday, temps dip to freezing by Thursday


Dothan Eagle – US says Eritrean forces should leave Tigray immediately


Dothan Eagle – Auschwitz survivors mark anniversary online amid pandemic


Opelika-Auburn News – Tornado leaves path of destruction in Alabama, killing 1


Opelika-Auburn News – Officials: Florida panther struck and killed by vehicle


WSFA Montgomery – YMCA of Greater Montgomery bringing back its Learning Academy


WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery school board denies charter school’s application


WSFA Montgomery – Lee and Russell County health departments providing COVID-19 vaccine clinics


WAFF Huntsville – Two Alabama men are walking across the country for unity


WAFF Huntsville – Good To Go Ammo in Madison responds to high demand


WAFF Huntsville – When will there be a weather gate at Buck’s Pocket State Park?


WKRG Mobile – Man charged with Christmas day sexual assault pleads not guilty in first court appearance


WKRG Mobile – MPD: Traffic stop turns deadly after man armed with knife runs from police


WKRG Mobile – Man charged with Christmas day sexual assault pleads not guilty in first court appearance


WTVY Dothan – COVID-19 vaccine and what to expect with it.


WTVY Dothan – Small town Samson girl takes on Washington D.C. pursuing her dreams in political communication


WTVY Dothan – Performing arts directors eager for concerts, shows


WASHINGTON POST – Democrats turn to quick action on Biden covid relief bill after power-sharing deal in Senate


WASHINGTON POST – Nearly all GOP senators vote against impeachment trial for Trump, signaling likely acquittal


WASHINGTON POST – In first call with Putin, Biden marks a return to skepticism from the top


NEW YORK TIMES – The Battle Lines Are Forming in Biden’s Climate Push


NEW YORK TIMES – Republicans Rally Against Impeachment Trial, Signaling Likely Acquittal for Trump


NEW YORK TIMES – Rioters Followed a Long Conspiratorial Road to the Capitol


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Most Republican Senators Reject Constitutionality of Trump Impeachment


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Microsoft Earnings Jump on Pandemic-Driven Cloud, Videogame Demand


WALL STREET JOURNAL – New Playbook for Covid-19 Protection Emerges After Year of Study, Missteps



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