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Daily News Digest – May 20, 2021

Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, May 20.

1. State lawmakers expect special sessions

  • Alabama lawmakers could be called back to the State House this year for multiple special sessions on multiple issues, but the likely first topic will be the distribution of billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
  • That American Rescue Plan money will start flowing to the state as soon as this month, but the state’s share can’t be distributed to agencies or dedicated to specific causes until it goes through an allocation process similar to the annual General Fund budgets. Alabama Daily News previously reported the state, including local governments, will receive more than $4 billion in this round of relief approved in March.
  • Ivey’s office this week referred questions about a possible federal funds-related special session to the Alabama Department of Finance. Finance confirmed the need for lawmakers to act, but said the timing is still not known.
  • Finance Deputy Director Susan Wilhelm recently told ADN the department is going through a voluminous amount of material and guidance from the U.S. Treasury on how the money can be spent and more information is still pending.
  • “We are closely reading them now and look forward to the additional information promised by the Treasury to help us make recommendations on how to best utilize these funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the betterment of the State of Alabama,” Wilhelm said.
  • Senate General Fund budget committee chairman Sen. Greg Albritton said special session dates haven’t been discussed. He said theoretically the distribution could wait until the 2022 regular session in January.
  • “But money laying in the bank with state agencies after every penny, I just don’t think that’s politically feasible,” he said.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck and Mary Sell HERE.



2. Amazon announces new Alabama warehouse

  • Amazon announced plans for a new warehouse that will bring more than 500 jobs to north Alabama just weeks after workers at another company facility in the state soundly defeated a push for unionization.
  • The company said the 1 million-square-foot order fulfillment center would be built near a new Mazda Toyota vehicle factory that’s being constructed west of Huntsville in Limestone County.
  • “Amazon employees will pick, pack, and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment, or rugs,” Owen Torres, a company spokesperson, said in a statement.
  • Amazon already has warehouses near Mobile and in suburban Birmingham, where employees last month voted decisively against forming a union to cut off a drive that labor activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company.
  • The union push at Bessemer, located just west of Birmingham, was the biggest in the 26-year history of the online seller and only the second time that an organizing move from within the company had come to a vote.
  • Story link.


3. Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4M to hackers

  • The operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline confirmed it paid $4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems.
  • Colonial Pipeline said Wednesday that after it learned of the May 7 ransomware attack, the company took its pipeline system offline and needed to do everything in its power to restart it quickly and safely, and made the decision then to pay the ransom.
  • “This decision was not made lightly,” but it was one that had to be made, a company spokesman said. “Tens of millions of Americans rely on Colonial – hospitals, emergency medical services, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, airports, truck drivers and the traveling public.”
  • Colonial Pipeline’s CEO, Joseph Blount, told The Wall Street Journal he authorized the payment because the company didn’t know the extent of the damage and wasn’t sure how long it would take to bring the pipeline’s systems back.
  • The FBI discourages making ransom payments to ransomware attackers, because paying encourages criminal networks around the globe who have hit thousands of businesses and health care systems in the U.S. in the past year alone. But many victims of ransomware attacks, where hackers demand large sums of money to decrypt stolen data or to prevent it from being leaked online, opt to pay.
  • Read more HERE.


4. Fed officials cautioned about inflation pressures

  • The U.S. economy’s faster-than-expected awakening from its pandemic-induced slumber had some Federal Reserve officials last month discussing whether it might be time to start planning for easing back on one of the central bank’s levers for keeping interest rates low.
  • The discussions, revealed in the minutes of the Fed’s April meeting released Wednesday, marked the first time the central bank has even hinted that the time could be approaching to consider reducing the Fed’s $120 billion monthly bond purchases. The purchases have the effect of putting downward pressure on long-term interest rates.
  • Officials have been wary about broaching the subject given painful memories of the “taper tantrum” of 2013, when remarks by then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about trimming bond purchases roiled financial markets and sent market interest rates briefly surging.
  • The minutes of the April meeting said, “A number of participants suggested that if the economy continued to make rapid progress toward the committee’s goals, it might be appropriate at some point in upcoming meetings to begin discussing a plan for adjusting the pace of asset purchases.”
  • The Fed has been so cautious that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at his April news conference that the Fed was not even “thinking about thinking about” trimming its bond purchases.
  • Read more HERE.



5. Stacy Column: Ivey should veto Literacy Act delay

  • I don’t frequently opine on legislative issues. I believe in the value of scarcity, only lending my name to weigh in on issues that really matter.
  • This one really matters.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey should veto Senate Bill 94, legislation that would delay for two years the accountability component of the Alabama Literacy Act.
  • Here’s an excerpt from my column explaining why:
“Convincing data shows that students who do not learn to read by third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school. That statistic jumps to 13 times less likely to graduate for poor students who don’t learn to read by third grade. And even the ones who do graduate stand to be less prepared for work and life as adults. That affects people’s quality of life and it affects our state’s workforce.
“The tools the state is now implementing – reading coaches, early intervention, teacher preparation, parental communication – are badly needed but incomplete without a strong accountability component. That’s why the holdback provision is critical.
“It’s true that students have experienced varying levels of learning loss over the course of the pandemic and it’s understandable that some would want to delay the law’s impact accordingly. But, when offered a compromise amendment to reduce the delay from two years to one, lawmakers roundly rejected it. If this was truly about accounting for school closures, why insist on two years of delay when most schools were reopened last fall?”
  • Read the full column HERE.


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State lawmakers expect special sessions


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Stacy Column: Ivey should veto Literacy Act delay


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Amazon announces new Alabama warehouse after union defeat


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4M to hackers


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Fed officials cautioned about inflation pressures


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey taking ‘hard look’ at Literacy Act delay bill


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Reed: ‘I feel great’ about session’s productivity


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Charles Barkley gives money to employees at his high school


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – White House tries to calm economic fears


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Conservatives push big issues to fore at Supreme Court


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – In last move of session, Legislature removes state income tax on restaurants’ federal rescue money


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – May 19, 2021


AL.COM – Rep. Mike Rogers opposes having National Guard protect Capitol


AL.COM – Tuberville: I’m getting ‘chewed up’ in Alabama ‘because we’re up here giving money out’


AL.COM – Sen. Richard Shelby proposes 17% flat tax


AL.COM – Nick Saban: ‘Please get your COVID-19 vaccine’


AL.COM – Alabama raises minimum age to 21 to purchase vaping devices, tobacco


AL.COM – Gas prices expected to reach highest levels since 2014


AL.COM – Sen. Tuberville skeptical of commission to review storming of Capitol


AL.COM – Alabamians were less likely to use the internet to respond to 2020 Census


AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: Imagine if lawmakers actually tried to make all Alabamians’ lives better; I’m still imagining


AL.COM – Columnist Cameron Smith: Will Liz Cheney pull a John Boehner in 2022?


Montgomery Advertiser – 25-year-old charged with murder after 26-year-old gunned down in city’s 29th homicide of 2021


Montgomery Advertiser – Tributes to Bud Skinner left at Jubilee Seafood and Bud’s Bar


Montgomery Advertiser – Community center to be renamed for late Councilman Tracy Larkin


Decatur Daily – Decatur company gets $17M Air Force cargo pallet contract


Decatur Daily – Ivey taking ‘hard look’ at Literacy Act delay


Decatur Daily – Pandemic hasn’t derailed Decatur budget, per mid-year review


Times Daily – Ivey taking ‘hard look’ at Literacy Act delay


Times Daily – Tax on restaurants’ rescue money removed


Times Daily – Muscle Shoals will advertise for a golf pro at Cypress Lakes


Anniston Star – Ivey taking ‘hard look’ at Literacy Act delay


Anniston Star – Cleburne County Commission hears arguments against herbicide use


Anniston Star – Heflin’s financial condition improves


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Military dad surprises daughter for her high school graduation


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Why are some people hesitant to get vaccinated?


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Man hospitalized after early morning shooting in Birmingham


Tuscaloosa News – Lady A, Carly Pearce and Niko Moon to play Tuscaloosa Amphitheater Aug. 28


Tuscaloosa News – Alabama adds 135 First Class Pre-K classrooms, Tuscaloosa gets 3


Tuscaloosa News – @thetuscaloosanews is on Instagram: See our latest stories from around Alabama here!


YellowHammer News – Mike Rogers: Political bias within DoD must be addressed by Congress


YellowHammer News – Nick Saban: ‘Please get your COVID-19 vaccine’ — ‘Want full stadiums this fall’


YellowHammer News – Chief of staff of the Air Force visits MGMWERX innovation hub


Gadsden Times – EYO shifts rock with orchestra show to outdoor concert Friday


Gadsden Times – Gadsden man charged with sex offenses


Gadsden Times – Alabama adds 135 First Class Pre-K classrooms


Dothan Eagle – Can monthly cash payments cut child poverty by nearly half?


Dothan Eagle – Queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice expecting a baby


Dothan Eagle – Uncertainty greets weary migrants in Spain’s African enclave


Opelika-Auburn News – Turkey bans polyethylene plastic imports


Opelika-Auburn News – Israel’s Netanyahu ‘determined’ to continue Gaza operation


Opelika-Auburn News – House backs commission on Jan. 6 riot over GOP objections


WSFA Montgomery – Ride of Silence event honors cyclists injured or killed by motorists


WSFA Montgomery – Alabama representatives vote along party lines in Jan. 6 commission


WSFA Montgomery – Rescue chief offers outdoor water safety tips


WAFF Huntsville – 8K new apartment units under construction in Madison County as occupancy rates are record high


WAFF Huntsville – Rosa Parks Day Committee calls for Mayor Battle’s resignation again


WAFF Huntsville – Hazel Green community lifting up family after 13-year-old dies


WKRG Mobile – 2 workers found dead in Alabama car dealership storage room


WKRG Mobile – Three local teams bring home big state titles


WKRG Mobile – Recently recaptured Clarke County inmate a person of interest in murder investigation of HoneyKomb Brazy’s grandparents


WTVY Dothan – Home builder encourages buying homes while interest rates are low


WASHINGTON POST – Biden’s warning to Israel shakes up diplomacy — and politics


WASHINGTON POST – House Democrats, in disarray over arms sale to Israel, take complaints to Biden administration


WASHINGTON POST – Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce resolution of disapproval on $735 million U.S. arms sale to Israel


NEW YORK TIMES – Live Updates: Hopes for Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Build as International Pressure Grows


NEW YORK TIMES – Supreme Court Case Throws Abortion Into 2022 Election Picture


NEW YORK TIMES – Covid Live Updates: Global Vaccination Effort Faces New Challenge


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Asia Suffers Outbreaks Where Covid-19 Had Seemed Beaten


WALL STREET JOURNAL – U.S. Stock Futures Point to Fourth Day of Losses


WALL STREET JOURNAL – More Republican States Cut $300 Benefits, as Jobless Claims Fall



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