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Weekend Digest- December 15, 2019

Good afternoon!
Did any of ya’ll attend yesterday’s celebrations?
Here’s your Weekend Digest for December 15.

1. Alabama turns 200

  • Alabama blew out 200 candles on its birthday cake Saturday, as officials and residents gathered to celebrate the state’s bicentennial in Montgomery.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey spoke and a series of monuments picturing the state’s history were unveiled in a park across the street from the state capitol.
  • “It’s such a brief time in the history of the world,” the Republican Ivey told those gathered outside the capitol. “And yet, during these many years that parallel the life of our great state, Alabamians have been at the forefront of so many pivotal events that have shaped not only America, but also the world.”
  • The 16 bronze plaques, each on a base of Alabama granite, depict scenes from the state’s history. State Sen. Arthur Orr, a Decatur Republican who has chaired the bicentennial celebration, said the bronze reliefs focus on ordinary people, showing “history is made every day by people like us.
  • You can read more about the parade and the speeches given HERE.


2. Workers can’t sue AG, court rules

  • Fast food workers can’t sue the Alabama attorney general over a 2016 state law that blocked a minimum wage increase in the state’s largest city, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
  • The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state of Alabama, saying the workers do not have standing to sue over the 2016 state law that prohibited cities from setting their own minimum wage.
  • The lawsuit centers on a 2016 state law passed in response to Birmingham’s attempts to raise the hourly minimum wage. The city of Birmingham planned to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Alabama lawmakers responded by swiftly passing a state law that prevented cities from doing so.
  • Fast food workers, the Alabama Chapter of the NAACP and others sued state officials, saying the state law violated the voting rights and civil rights of Birmingham residents. They contended it was racially discriminatory and another example of the majority-white Legislature exerting control over majority-black cities such as Birmingham.
  • Read the whole report from Kim Chandler HERE.


3.  $226M to restore Gulf after BP oil spill

  • Federal agencies have approved nearly $226 million for 18 projects to restore open ocean and marine habitats that were decimated in the Gulf of Mexico by the 2010 BP oil spill.
  • The projects range from $52.6 million to study deep-sea habitats to $290,000 to find ways to keep sea turtles from swallowing or getting snagged on hooks or tangled in lines set out for miles along reefs.
  • They are described in a 490-page report released Tuesday.
  • The nonprofit Ocean Conservancy said it’s “the world’s first plan to restore the open ocean and deep-sea environment from a major oil disaster.”
  • The plan includes $126.2 million to study habitats in deep water and water between 100 feet (30 meters) and more than 490 feet (150 meters) deep.
  • Read more about the projects HERE.


4. Impeachment underscores harshly partisan time

  • This coming week’s virtually certain House impeachment of President Donald Trump will underscore how Democrats and Republicans have morphed into fiercely divided camps since lawmakers impeached President Bill Clinton.
  • Twenty-one years ago this Thursday, a Republican-led House approved two impeachment articles against Democrat Clinton. While that battle was bitterly partisan, it was blurrier than the near party-line votes expected this week when the House, now run by Democrats, is poised to impeach Republican Trump.
  • Two of the four Clinton impeachment articles were killed — something party leaders today would jump through hoops to avoid for fear of highlighting divisions. All four Clinton articles drew GOP opposition, peaking at 81 on one vote. That’s an unthinkable number of defections today.
  • Read more about what today’s impeachment proceedings say about today’s political climate HERE.


5. News Briefs

Lawsuit filed after recording banned at utility rate hearing
  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the Alabama Public Service Commission of violating the Open Meetings Act by preventing audience members from recording a recent hearing.
  • The lawsuit was filed by Laura Casey, a Democratic candidate for PSC president. Casey was one of three people ejected from the hearing last month for recording or live-streaming. The case asks for a court declaration that the utility regulatory commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Act which allows the recording of public meetings. It also asks for a fine.
  • The hearing centered on a challenge to fees charged by Alabama Power on customers who use solar panels, or other means, to generate part of their own electricity. The meeting was open to the public as the three PSC members sat and heard testimony about why they thought the fees were or weren’t justified. The commission has not announced a decision.
  • Administrative Law Judge John Garner told audience members during the hearing that they couldn’t record because it was a legal proceeding. The ejected audience members were told they could return only if they agreed to stop recording.
  • The lawsuit names the commissioners as defendants.
South Alabama researchers to aid in study of West Nile virus
  • MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Researchers from the University of South Alabama are working on a study to learn more about deadly West Nile virus.
  • Genetic material from infected mosquitoes will be sent to Yale University, according to a statement from South Alabama. Workers at Yale’s public health school will sequence DNA to help understand how the virus and spread over the last two decades in the United States.
  • “They are looking at how the virus has evolved over time by sequencing genomes,” said Jonathan Rayner, who works in infectious diseases at the South Alabama medical school.
  • South Alabama said it is the first school in the state to join in the project.
  • West Nile virus killed nearly 170 people nationwide last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2,647 cases of West Nile virus were reported last year, which was 550 more cases than in 2017.
DA asks to revoke bond of teen charged in fatal Auburn crash
  • OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama prosecutor asked a judge Friday to revoke the bond of a teenager charged in the crash that killed Auburn University broadcaster Rod Bramblett and his wife earlier this year.
  • The Lee County district attorney’s office alleged continued unsafe driving as it asked a court to jail Johnston Edward Taylor, 16, of Auburn, news outlets reported.
  • Taylor is out on bond while charged with reckless manslaughter in the death of Bramblett and his wife, Paula, in May.
  • Authorities allege Taylor was driving around 90 mph (145 kph) in a 55 mph (89 kph) zone when he rear-ended the Bramblett s’ vehicle in Auburn. Documents filed by prosecutors said Taylor received at least three tickets in November for speeding and reckless driving.
  • Officers smelled marijuana and found marijuana residue in Taylor’s vehicle during one stop, the request said.
  • Defense attorney Tommy Spina said Taylor is “a very troubled young man” who needs help. Spina said he wasn’t aware of the additional traffic tickets until prosecutors asked to revoke his bond.
  • “There are no excuses or blame shifting that would condone this behavior. I believe the DA is doing exactly what he should do under the circumstances,” Spina said in a statement.
  • Rod Bramblett had been Auburn’s football and men’s basketball announcer since 2003, and had called baseball games since 1993.


Week in Good News

White drum major leading an all-black marching band responds to going viral
  • Justin Heideman is known as “Vanilla Funk” for not only his incredible moves and talent as a drum major, but because he is a white student leading an all-black marching band at Jeff Davis High School.
  • Heideman became a viral sensation back in October when a tweet of Heideman leading the band went viral, which inevitably lead to backlash from online haters.
  • But Heideman tries to look past that and is only focused on supporting his fellow drum majors, his band and representing his school.
  • It’s a really great profile highlighting a unique story in Alabama and I highly recommend reading the profile from Montgomery Advertiser’s Andre Toran today.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – With focus on past and future, Alabama wraps up bicentennial
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Court says workers can’t sue over blocked minimum wage boost
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Nearly $226M to restore open Gulf after 2010 BP oil spill
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump impeachment vote underscores a harshly partisan era
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS– Daily News Digest – December 13, 2019
AL.COM – Land Trust buys sunfish habitat near Mazda Toyota plant.
AL.COM – South Alabama research to aid study of West Nile virus.
AL.COM – Kyle Whitmire: The Alabama PSC kicked her out for live-streaming. Now she’s suing.
AL.COM – Space Command HQ decision drawing near, Sen. Jones says.
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: Instead of belittling them, why not listen to young people?
AL.COM – Columnist Amanda Walker: Will America feel the spirit of Christmas this year?
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama bicentennial finale honors history, looks towards future.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Sessions explains balance of promoting Alabama, adherence to conservative values — ‘You cannot tilt at windmills and ignore bread-and-butter issues’.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily: Real-time data is needed in opioid battle.
ANNISTON STAR – AT A LATER DATE: For years after Alabama’s statehood, Native Americans held on to sovereignty in the east.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama Bicentennial Monuments unveiled.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Christopher West succeeds ‘Big John’ Williams as Lowndes County sheriff.
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle: The worst outcome.
WASHINGTON POST – ‘The grand finale’: Inside Trump’s push to rack up political victories as impeachment looms.
WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post: Be skeptical of Trump’s new trade deal with China.
WASHINGTON POST – Trump, allies target vulnerable Democrats ahead of House impeachment vote.
NEW YORK TIMES – Reparations Mark New Front for US Colleges Tied to Slavery
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: Impeach
NEW YORK TIMES – We Just Got a Rare Look at National Security Surveillance. It Was Ugly.
NEW YORK TIMES – Contributor Molly Worthen: What Would Jesus Do About Inequality?: The faith and work movement wants to bend the gospel back toward economic justice.

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