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Daily News Digest – October 14, 2020

Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, October 14.


1. No drama: Barrett bats away tough questioning from Democrats

  • Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett batted away Democrats’ skeptical questions Tuesday on abortion, health care and a possible disputed-election fight over transferring presidential power, insisting in a long and lively confirmation hearing she would bring no personal agenda to the court but decide cases “as they come.”
  • The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views with often colloquial language, but refused many specifics. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving President Donald Trump, who nominated her to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is pressing to have her confirmed before the Nov. 3 election.
  • “Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion — and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee during its second day of hearings.
  • “It’s not the law of Amy,” she said. “It’s the law of the American people.”
  • Barrett returned to a Capitol Hill mostly shut down by COVID-19 protocols, the mood quickly shifting to a more confrontational tone from opening day. She was grilled by Democrats strongly opposed to Trump’s nominee yet unable to stop her. Excited by the prospect of a judge aligned with the late Antonin Scalia, Trump’s Republican allies are rushing ahead to install a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.
  • A frustrated Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, all but implored the nominee to be more specific about how she would handle landmark abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade and the follow-up Pennsylvania case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which confirmed it in large part.
  • “It’s distressing not to get a good answer,” Feinstein told the judge.
  • Barrett was unmoved. “I don’t have an agenda to try to overrule Casey,” she said. “I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come.”
  • The third and final day of the confirmation hearing begins this morning with more questions from senators and testimony from outside witnesses.
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that a floor vote on Barrett’s confirmation will occur after the Senate votes on a coronavirus relief package when it returns on Monday.
  • Read more, see photos from yesterday and watch today’s hearing live HERE.


2. Court keeps absentee ballot rules, allows curbside voting

  • A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a judge’s order that would have lifted witness and photo ID requirements for absentee voting for Alabama voters who are at high risk for contracting a severe case of COVID-19.
  • The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the order previously issued by U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon that lifted the absentee ballot rules for voters 65 and older with an underlying medical condition. The appeals court left in place an order allowing counties to offer “curbside voting” if local officials choose to do so.
  • The stay came after Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill appealed the ruling that loosened absentee ballot rules. He called the ruling a “win for the people of Alabama.”
  • “The photo ID and witness requirements are necessary deterrents for those looking to commit voter fraud, and I am glad the 11th Circuit has recognized their importance in safeguarding the elections process,” Merrill said.
  • The court left in place part of the ruling allowing curbside voting, a method plaintiffs argued would be a safer way for people with health concerns to vote.
  • “Although we are pleased that counties will be allowed to offer curbside voting on Election Day, we are deeply disappointed with the Eleventh Circuit’s reinstatement of the witness and photo ID requirements. We are still considering next steps,” Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement.
  • The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program filed the lawsuit challenging Alabama’s voting rules on behalf of older voters with health concerns.
  • Merrill said he doesn’t know any county planning to provide curbside voting for the Nov. 3 election, but he still intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court so it can’t be offered. Attorney General Steve Marshall concurred saying the state will seek a review of the curbside voting portion of the ruling.
  • “Alabama has the right and the duty to ensure that our elections are conducted with integrity, and Alabama voters deserve to know they can cast their ballots with confidence that election security safeguards will remain in place,” Marshall said in a statement.
  • Full story from Kim Chandler HERE.


3. AUM poll shows little support for prison plan

  • A new AUM poll shows that while a majority of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison system, respondents liked the plan being currently pursued by the state the least.
  • The results of the survey showed that out of the eight options given for prison reform ideas, the option to have private firms build three prisons and then lease them to the state received the least amount of approval.
  • The proposal option that got the most approval was to “reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
  • Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced three sites for mega-prisons as one of the state’s tactics in handling the overcrowding, violence and multiple other issues Alabama’s prisons have faced in recent years.
  • Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, told Alabama Daily News that Ivey supports a multifaceted approach to fixing Alabama’s prison problems. Reducing Alabama’s complex prison reform discussions into a single poll may not produce an accurate picture of the situation, she said.
  • “Prison reform is a complex issue that would be hard to appropriately define within the context of a poll, and I would be curious to see if the full scope of our prison’s complex challenges were laid before the respondents,” Maiola said.
  • Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, also took issue with the poll and thinks more context needed to be given.
  • “Without putting it all into context, the poll is misleading because it makes you think that prisons are full of non-violent people when actually the majority is not non-violent,” Ward told ADN.
  • Full story from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.


4. More students returning to classrooms in Alabama

  • Thousands of Alabama students who’ve spent the coronavirus pandemic in virtual classrooms are returning to traditional instruction despite safety concerns and continuing school shutdowns linked to COVID-19.
  • Schools in Jefferson County began allowing elementary students to return to class full-time on Monday, and additional systems that have offered only online classes or a mix of online and traditional learning will reopen buildings on a full-time basis through next week.
  • Walter Gonsoulin, the Jefferson County superintendent, said the system planned to stay open unless there is a state or national mandate requiring a shutdown.
  • “We have mixed emotions,” Gonsoulin told WBRC. “Of course, everyone is still aware that we are living in the middle of a pandemic, so people just want to make sure that we stay on top of the health guidelines.”
  • As public schools reopened Tuesday in Montgomery, a group of teachers and school workers who contend the system lacks an adequate safety plan held a small protest outside the central office.
  • The Alabama Department of Education hasn’t released a breakdown to show how the state’s roughly 725,000 public school students are being taught this year, but systems have used a mix of in-person classes and virtual instruction since the pandemic hit in March and classes resumed for the fall term.
  • Safety recommendations by the state are being used to establish rules everywhere from classrooms to lunchrooms to buses, and a mix of virtual and in-person learning will continue. But education officials also are facing the limitations of just how much can be done to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • “I’ve literally been in tears. If I have to choose my life or my job, I choose my life,” Tynisa Williams, a teacher at Brewbaker Middle School, told WSFA.
  • Full statewide story HERE.
  • Read more about the Montgomery teacher protest from the Advertiser’s Krista Johnson HERE.



5. Supreme Court halts census in latest twist of 2020 count

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Trump administration can end census field operations early, in a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally.
  • The decision was not a total loss for plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the administration’s decision to end the count early. They managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts.
  • However, the ruling increased the chances of the Trump administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets — and by extension how much voting power each state has.
  • After the Supreme Court’s decision, the Census Bureau said field operations would end on Thursday.
  • At issue was a request by the Trump administration that the Supreme Court suspend a lower court’s order extending the 2020 census through the end of October following delays caused by the pandemic. The Trump administration argued that the head count needed to end immediately to give the bureau time to meet a year-end deadline. Congress requires the bureau to turn in by Dec. 31 the figures used to decide the states’ congressional seats — a process known as apportionment.
  • Read more about the controversial case HERE.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Poll shows current prison building plan has low approval


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Court keeps absentee ballot rules, allows curbside voting


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – More Alabama students returning to classroom


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Supreme Court halts census in latest twist of 2020 count


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Tuberville charity, failed hedge fund scrutinized


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Report shows lack of health care access in Black Belt


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Port sets new record for coal export


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Austal-built USS Mobile completes acceptance trials


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – October 13, 2020


AL.COM – $53.5 million Mercedes-Benz expansion to add 373 jobs


AL.COM – Federal appeals court won’t block ruling allowing curbside voting


AL.COM – Toll opposition returns to Baldwin County over ballot initiative


AL.COM  – Supreme Court halts census in latest twist of 2020 count


AL.COM – Contributor Lynn Beshear: COVID-19: Living in a state of alert


AL.COM – Doug Jones as Joe Biden’s Attorney General? Alabama Senator’s name thrown into mix


AL.COM – Tax records not clear on Tuberville veterans charity’s spending


AL.COM – Will a flu shot protect you from coronavirus?


AL.COM – Mayor says facial recognition software not part of Birmingham police plan


Montgomery Advertiser – Federal appeals court OKs curbside voting in Alabama; upholds absentee requirements


Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery County offering one-day COVID-19 testing Wednesday


Montgomery Advertiser – Prattville police on prowl for car break-in suspects


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Here’s how to check the status of your absentee ballot


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Birmingham police investigating double homicide after landlord discovers bodies


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Health experts weigh COVID re-infection possibility


Tuscaloosa News – Brookwood honors longtime mayor Alton Hyche


Tuscaloosa News – Reform man indicted, accused of sexual assault of a developmentally disabled woman


Tuscaloosa News – Mayor: Georgia game will require patience, compliance to slow COVID-19 spread


Decatur Daily – $51.5 million investment planned for Athens facility


Decatur Daily – Attorney: State lacking evidence against Smart


Decatur Daily – Utility: High-speed internet coming in early January


Times Daily – Garbage rate could rise $4 a month


Times Daily – Still time to improve local, state 2020 U.S. Census response


Times Daily – Florence Sportsplex reopens to leagues


Anniston Star – Heflin man indicted in 2008 sex abuse case


Anniston Star – Prescription Drug Take Back drive-thru planned for Oct. 24


Anniston Star – Oxford to levy 2 percent additional tax on places selling alcohol


YellowHammer News – Pioneering new type of lightweight steel made in Alabama will be used in 2021 Ford Broncos


YellowHammer News – ‘Win for the people of Alabama’: 11th Circuit steps in to maintain ‘integrity and security of elections’


YellowHammer News – Report: Doug Jones front-runner for Biden cabinet spot


Gadsden Times – Gadsden’s Public Works Department adjusts to staffing changes


Gadsden Times – Funeral held Sunday for child who succumbed to accidental injury


Gadsden Times – Census worker tells police he was told to leave, pushed and followed from residence


Dothan Eagle – Dothan man arrested for allegedly assaulting acquaintance, stealing firearm at business


Dothan Eagle – Parts of several Houston County roads damaged by Hurricane Sally rains could be closed for months


Dothan Eagle – Dothan woman charged with using defensive spray during argument


Opelika-Auburn News – Russian-US crew launches on fast track to the space station


Opelika-Auburn News – The Latest: Germany hits 5,000 new cases, Merkel eyes action


Opelika-Auburn News – UK urged to conclude trade deal with EU to limit Brexit cost


WSFA Montgomery – COVID-19 survivor shares experience with the virus


WSFA Montgomery – Around 858 grams of marijuana seized in Alex City bust, investigators say


WSFA Montgomery – State Health Officer: ‘It’s been quite a seven months’ since the pandemic started


WAFF Huntsville – With COVID-19 measures in place, jury trials resume in Lauderdale County


WAFF Huntsville – Madison Police confirm new details in Slaughter Road murder investigation


WAFF Huntsville – Decatur Housing Authority; No Westgate Garden Apt. residents ask to join transfer waiting list


WKRG Mobile – Touchdown at a Citronelle football game touching hearts around the community


WKRG Mobile – Conchata Ferrell, ‘Two and a Half Men’ actress, dead at 77


WKRG Mobile – 10 drug arrests made in Operation Azalea Trail


WTVY Dothan – Recycle with a Purpose is preparing for upcoming projects


WTVY Dothan – The City of Ozark is preparing to celebrate Make a Difference Day


WTVY Dothan – Farm City Week set for November 18-25


WASHINGTON POST – ‘Unmasking’ probe commissioned by Barr concludes without charges or any public report


WASHINGTON POST – Supreme Court nominee Barrett says personal views will not affect her decisions on abortion, health care


WASHINGTON POST – Many Catholic women see themselves in Amy Coney Barrett. Others see an impossible standard.


NEW YORK TIMES – Amy Coney Barrett Live Updates: What to Expect in Day 3 of the Confirmation Hearings


NEW YORK TIMES – Barrett, Declining to Detail Legal Views, Says She Will Not Be ‘a Pawn’ of Trump


NEW YORK TIMES – Supreme Court Rules That Census Count Can Be Cut Short


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Bank of America Profit Falls 16%


WALL STREET JOURNAL – U.S. Stock Futures Waver as Bank Earnings Reports Roll In


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Pilgrim’s Pride Reaches Plea Deal With Justice Department on Chicken Price-Fixing Allegations



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