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Daily News Digest – March 17, 2021

Presented by

the Poarch Band of Creek Indians



Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, March 17.


1. There’s going to be weather

  • Southern states are bracing for a day of severe weather as a spring squall moves across the region today.
  • Some schools are closing as residents prepare for the possibility of intense tornadoes that travel for miles and hail the size of tennis balls.
  • The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center shows parts of west Alabama are in the “high risk” category, with most of central Alabama in the “enhanced risk” category and the rest of the state in the “moderate risk” category.
  • Any storm cell that develops Wednesday afternoon “could quickly become a supercell capable of producing strong tornadoes,” the SPC said.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency for all 67 counties in anticipation of responding to storm damage.
  • “Projections are showing that this will likely be a widespread event, with some of the most severe weather anticipated late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning,” Ivey said in a statement. “Please make preparations now in the event your area is impacted in some way. I will continue keeping a close eye on the system and encourage every Alabamian to do the same.”
  • Read more and watch the latest from James Spann HERE.



2. What happened at the State House


It was a busy start to the week along South Union Street as the House and Senate met for the 15th legislative day of the 2021 Regular Session.
That means we are at our halfway point, at least in terms of meeting days. The session could stretch out to May 17.
Here’s what happened at the State House.


  • The Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee approved the $7.67 billion Education Trust Fund budget, teeing it up for a Senate vote as soon as Thursday.
  • Notable in the budget is lawmakers’ attempt to recruit and retain quality teachers through targeted raises. In addition to the 2% base pay raise proposed by Gov. Kay Ivey, the committee approved budget includes $30 million for increasing step raises for teachers more advanced in their careers.
  • A supplemental bill would also include $100 million worth pay incentives for teachers in hard-to-fill STEM fields and rural and inner-city schools.
  • Read more from Mary Sell and Caroline Beck HERE.

Riot bill

  • A bill that would increase penalties for those who participate in riots passed out of committee on Tuesday with several changes.
  • House Bill 445 is sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, a retired Birmingham assistant police chief, who said the changes to the bill did not alter his intended goal of stopping violent protests.
  • An amendment was approved which changes the definition of a riot to “the assemblage of five or more persons resulting in conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons.”
  • This new definition takes out any mention of protestors obstructing law enforcement or other government functions. Treadaway said obstructing governmental functions is punishable by state law.
  • The substitute bill also says that if a person receives an order to disperse or is in violation of a curfew, the person is intentionally participating in a riot.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

Trans treatment bill

  • A divided House Health Committee advanced a bill that would make it a felony to use puberty-blocking drugs, hormonal therapy and surgery to treat transgender minors. The legislation already cleared the Alabama Senate and now moves to the full House.
  • “The bottom line is we have a responsibility to protect Alabama’s children. Minors are not mentally capable to make a decision of this caliber,” bill sponsor Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R- Trussville, told committee members.
  • The measure drew pushback from some lawmakers in both parties who expressed concern about lawmakers inserting themselves into medical and parental decisions.
  • “What this bill in my opinion does is take all of us here in this room and puts us in the middle of that doctor’s office and tells those parents, ‘they don’t know their children. They don’t love their children, they don’t know what is best for their children,’” said Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.

Voting bills

  • The House worked through bills related to voting and election procedures.
  • House Bill 123 from Rep. David Faulkner, R-Homewood, would allow a federal or state prosecutor, federal, state, probate, or municipal judge, or law enforcement officer to have their information omitted.
  • “The idea is that people who are making arrests, judges, prosecutors or someone who is taking someone’s civil liberties away and putting them in jail or prison, to protect them from any kind of violent actor,” Faulkner said.
  • An amendment from Rep. Sam Jones, R-Mobile, would have added state lawmakers to that protected list, but it failed in a 31-64 vote.
  • The bill passed on a final vote of 72-12. Secretary of State John Merrill supports this bill.
  • A bill that would make it a Class A misdemeanor to vote twice in the same election in or outside of Alabama passed the House late Tuesday night.
  • The bill from Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Smiths Station, drew sharp criticism and delaying tactics from Democrats.
  • Many democratic members spoke in opposition of the bill for over an hour saying this is an overblown reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist in the state and is going to end up hurting or suppressing minority votes.
  • “We’re creating laws to prevent something that’s not happening,” Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, said during debate on the bill.
  • Blackshear said five people were found to be guilty of double voting in 2018.
  • “When it comes to voter fraud, one is too many and when it comes to the citizens of Alabama I think we should get it to as close to perfect as we can,” Blackshear said.
  • The bill passed 76-12.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

COVID cases

  • Three House members tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to legislative officials, but they are at home and not at the State House.
  • House Speaker Mac McCutcheon confirmed Tuesday that said Reps. Wes Allen, R-Troy, Tommy Hanes, R-Bryant and Ritchie Whorton, R-Scottsboro, had tested positive and were isolating at home.
  • Lawmakers and legislative staff have been receiving regular COVID-19 tests since the session began. They have been taking precautions such as wearing masks, limiting access to the building and spreading out the 105 House members over two floors.
  • Story link.







A message from

the Poarch Band of Creek Indians

Improving the quality of life for Alabamians has been a long-standing priority for the Poarch Creek Indians.
One of our many businesses, Muskogee Technology, responded to the pandemic by shifting production to critical PPE including isolation gowns, tablet stands, Lexan sneeze guards and isolation shields to keep healthcare heroes as healthy as possible.
We also prioritized giving in 2020, donating $500,000 to acquire RAPID tests and vaccine refrigerators for every county. We also donated $1,000,000 to Atmore Community Hospital and $150,000 to the American Red Cross for a new bloodmobile to serve Alabama.
Find out more about our tribe and its many industries here.







3. What’s on tap

It’s another Wednesday committee day, and it will probably go fast with members wanting to avoid getting stuck in the weather. Here’s what’s on tap.
  • The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections meets at 9 a.m. and has several election-related bills and Rep. Becky Nordgren’s second attempt at legislation to allow the Legislature to call itself into a special session. The same committee voted down the bill earlier in the session.
  • Senate Education Policy meets at 9:30 am and its agenda includes House bills to require kindergarten or an equivalency assessment before public school students go on to first grade and to revise the sex ed curriculum in public schools.
  • Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee meets 11 a.m. and has a public hearing on Rep. Mike Jones’ House Bill 392. It would require any state agency or department planning to spend more than $10 million or 5% of their annual appropriation from the General Fund, whichever is less, to first be approved by the oversight committee on obligation transparency.
  • The Senate Health Committee’s noon meeting includes Sen. Garlan Gudger’s Senate Bill 307 to allow patients in health care facilities to have visitors during pandemics. The bill says facilities have to follow federal recommendations and guidelines, which they say they already do.
  • The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee meets at 1 p.m. and has public hearings on the two lottery bills that were filed last week on the same day the larger lottery and gaming bill from Sen. Del Marsh died. Senate Bill 318 is from Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, and Senate Bill 319 is from Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.
  • Senate Veterans and Military Affairs meets at 9:30 a.m.; Senate Government Affairs meets at 10 a.m. Senate Children, Youth and Human Services meets at 2:30 p.m.; Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development meets at 3 p.m.
  • House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure meets at 9 a.m.; House Ways and Means General Fund is at 1:30 p.m.; House Ways and Means Education meets at 9 a.m. and County and Municipal Governments meets at 1:30 p.m.
  • See the full rundown HERE.




4. Border mess: children and teen crossings surge

  • A surge of migrants on the Southwest border has the Biden administration on the defensive, with the head of Homeland Security acknowledging the depth of the problem but insisting it’s under control and saying he won’t revive a Trump-era practice of immediately expelling teens and children.
  • More than 4,000 migrant children were being held by the Border Patrol as of Sunday, including at least 3,000 in custody longer than the 72-hour limit set by a court order, according to a U.S. official. The agency took in an additional 561 on Monday, twice the recent average, according to a second official.
  • It has put President Joe Biden in a difficult spot, blasted by Republicans for what they view as encouragement to illegal border crossers and by some Democrats over the prolonged detention of minors. It’s also a challenge to his effort to overhaul the broader Trump policies that sought to curtail both legal and illegal immigration.
  • “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over,” Biden said in an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a delegation of a dozen Republican lawmakers on Monday to the border in Texas and blamed the Biden administration for driving an increase in migrants by actions that include halting border wall construction and supporting legislation in Congress that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people now in the country.
  • “The sad part about all of this is it didn’t have to happen. This crisis was created by the presidential policies of this new administration,” McCarthy said.
  • Read more HERE.



5. McConnell vows ‘scorched earth’ if Senate ends filibuster

  • Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned ominously of a “scorched earth” landscape if Democrats use their new majority to bring an end to the Senate filibuster in hopes of muscling legislation supporting President Joe Biden’s agenda past GOP opposition.
  • McConnell unleashed the dire forecast of a Senate that would all but cease to function, implying that Republicans would grind business to a halt by refusing to give consent for routine operations — from the start time for sessions, to the reading of long legislative texts, to quorum call votes.
  • “Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said Tuesday in a Senate speech.
  • McConnell said the partisan gridlock of the Trump and Obama eras would look like “child’s play” compared to what’s to come.
  • The GOP leader’s stark remarks landed as the Biden administration is taking a victory lap over the just-passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the big COVID-19 relief package that was approved by Congress without a single Republican vote. Republicans acknowledged privately they are struggling to pry attention away from the bill, which appears to be popular among Americans benefitting from $1,400 cash payments, vaccine distribution and other aid, as the GOP focuses on future battles.
  • With the Senate evenly divided, 50-50, the rest of Biden’s priorities face a tougher climb in Congress.
  • Read more from Lisa Mascaro HERE.






A message from the

Safe Surgery Coalition


  • Would you allow someone who is not a highly trained surgeon to operate on your brain, heart, kidneys or lungs? Of course not.
  • Yet some legislators are trying to change the law in Alabama to allow people who are not trained surgeons – in fact they are not even medical doctors – to operate on your eyes.








ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama, neighbors brace for possible tornado outbreak


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – What’s on tap today at the State House – March 17, 2021


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Committee-approved $7.6B education budget includes multiple pay raises


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Anti-riot bill passes committee with changes


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House debates, passes election bills


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House committee advances treatment ban for trans kids


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – McConnell vows ‘scorched earth’ if Senate ends filibuster


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Child, teen border crossings are surging, straining US facilities


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Take a breath and start planning: Alabama cities, counties to receive millions in federal aid


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama unemployment was 4.3% in January


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Immigrant teens to be housed at Dallas convention center


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Stacy Column: Permanent reminder of a temporary feeling


AL.COM – ‘We could call it KayCare’: Alabama Democrats push governor for Medicaid expansion


AL.COM – 3 Alabama lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19


AL.COM – Amtrak requests federal ruling requiring freight operators to allow Gulf Coast service


AL.COM – Alabama lawmakers aim to boost pay for math, science teachers


AL.COM – As teacher morale hit bottom, these Alabama districts looked for ways to ease workload


AL.COM – Alabama ban on transgender treatments for minors moves closer to becoming law


AL.COM – The next battle in Alabama: equalizing the vaccine


AL.COM – Dining with dogs: Alabama bill would let restaurants with outdoor dining go ‘dog friendly’


Montgomery Advertiser – Council approves $50M Montgomery improvement plan


Montgomery Advertiser – Historian Dr. Richard Bailey is honored as Community Hero at City Hall


Montgomery Advertiser – Storm closings: At least one school plans early dismissal Wednesday, others delay school Thursday


Decatur Daily – ‘Most impressive storm system’ in recent years headed this way


Decatur Daily – State bans over-the-counter sales of ‘gas station dope’


Decatur Daily – Committee-approved $7.6B education budget includes multiple pay raises


Times Daily – Panel approves $7.6B education budget


Times Daily – Shoals to receive more than $42M in federal aid


Times Daily – Commissioner seeking resolution concerning Norfolk Southern request


Anniston Star – Anniston Changers to take on Golden Springs Saturday


Anniston Star – Anti-riot bill passes committee with changes


Anniston Star – Committee-approved $7.6B education budget includes multiple pay raises


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Vaccine eligibility opens for more people March 22nd


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – UAB opening additional COVID vaccine clinic at Cathedral of the Cross starting Friday


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Vaccine Clinic organizers monitoring severe weather threat


Tuscaloosa News – Bill that bans transgender youth treatments heads to House floor


Tuscaloosa News – Alabama House committee approves bill changing rioting definition


Tuscaloosa News – University of Alabama spring graduation to follow COVID-19 safety protocols


YellowHammer News – Alabama Dems renew call for Medicaid expansion amid federal cash infusion from stimulus bill


YellowHammer News – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issues state of emergency for all 67 counties ahead of severe weather threat


YellowHammer News – Alabama’s Robins & Morton receives national honors from Associated Builders and Contractors


Gadsden Times – Council ignores calls to wait, names Billingsley to Gadsden Airport Authority


Gadsden Times – Bill that bans transgender youth treatments heads to House floor


Gadsden Times – Alabama House committee approves bill changing rioting definition


Dothan Eagle – Syrian president decrees financial stimulus amid crisis


Dothan Eagle – In Pennsylvania, Biden showcases aid to small businesses


Dothan Eagle – Martin Luther King’s traffic ticket changed history’s course


Opelika-Auburn News – Biden to join road show promoting relief plan with Pa. visit


Opelika-Auburn News – Martin Luther King’s traffic ticket changed history’s course


Opelika-Auburn News – The Latest: Sweden pauses use of AstraZeneca vaccine


WSFA Montgomery – House passes bill criminalizing voting in Alabama, another state in same election


WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery City Council approves $50M capital improvement plan


WSFA Montgomery – Capri Theatre raising money for new marquee


WAFF Huntsville – Jackson County EMA officials discuss storm shelter preparations


WAFF Huntsville – Marshall County EMA Director discusses weather radios, alert systems


WAFF Huntsville – Albertville woman encourages neighbors in mobile homes to seek shelter if needed


WKRG Mobile – 2 killed after ‘commercial-grade’ fireworks explode at California home


WKRG Mobile – Tiger Woods returns home to continue post-surgery recovery


WKRG Mobile – Organization coming to Mobile is concerned racism is holding up Mobile Fire-Rescue promotions


WTVY Dothan – Local businesses are bouncing back a year after the pandemic started


WTVY Dothan – 3 Alabama lawmakers now positive for COVID-19


WTVY Dothan – SE Health is ready for phase 1C of the vaccine rollout


WASHINGTON POST – Republican attorneys general threaten key element of the $1.9 trillion stimulus


WASHINGTON POST – Biden, for the first time, says he wants to overhaul the filibuster


WASHINGTON POST – House Democrats bring back Medicare-for-all, seeking to push Biden left


NEW YORK TIMES – 8 People Killed in Atlanta-Area Massage Parlor Shootings


NEW YORK TIMES – Surge in Migrants Defies Easy or Quick Solutions for Biden


NEW YORK TIMES – Russian Interference in 2020 Included Influencing Trump Associates, Report Says


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Uber Grants Vacation Pay, Pensions to U.K. Drivers in Change of Job Status


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Stock Futures Signal a Pause Ahead of Fed Meeting


WALL STREET JOURNAL – American Airlines Joins Debt-Market Behemoths



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