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Weekend Digest – December 29, 2019

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Good afternoon!
Caroline is off today enjoying a much-deserved holiday break, so you’re stuck with me.
Here’s your Weekend Digest for Sunday, December 28.


1. Alabama leads the nation in declining unemployment.


  • Alabama led the nation in lowering unemployment over the last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Based on workforce data recently released by BLS, Alabama’s unemployment rate drop from 3.8% in November 2018 to 2.7% in November 2019 is the largest of any state in the nation. Workforce statistics for December won’t be available until late January.
  • Colorado was only a tenth of a point worse, while South Carolina and Utah weren’t far behind.
  • Read more HERE.



2. $100 million wood pellet plant coming to West Alabama

  • A nearly $100 million wood pellet factory will soon locate in Marengo County in West Alabama, creating as many as 80 jobs.
  • The Tuscaloosa-based Westervelt Co. is partnering with Canadian Pinnacle Renewable Energy to build a facility in Demopolis. The plant is set to start production in the first half of 2021.
  • Pinnacle already operates a wood pellet production facility in Aliceville, which is 50 miles up river in Pickens County.
  • Two months ago, Enviva announced plans to build a $175 million wood pellet plant in neighboring Sumter County. All facilities will use the Tombigbee River to ship product to the Port of Mobile for export.
  • The material is primarily used as fuel for heating sources in Europe, where wood is steadily being used as an alternative to coal for producing heat and electricity.
  • Read more HERE.









A message from


Success Plus is Alabama’s program for improving the statewide level of education beyond high school.
Whether it’s a degree earned in a four-year or community college, a professional certification or a credential, this additional preparation creates improved opportunities for Alabamians to better their lives by participating in the workforce.
It also ensures that Alabama businesses can continue to grow with the highly-skilled workforce they need.
Learn more  at









3. Rewards offered in case of missing woman

  • There is another missing person alert in Alabama, and rewards are now being offered for information on the case.
  • Paighton Laine Houston, 29, of Trussville was last seen on Dec. 20 leaving the Tin Roof bar, which is located in the popular Lakeview entertainment district in Southside Birmingham. She was spotted with what has been described as two heavyset men.
  • Houston later sent a message to a friend saying she felt like she was in trouble, and she hasn’t been in contact with her family since then, with calls to her cellphone going straight to voicemail.
  • Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama has issued a $5,000 reward, and Gov. Kay Ivey has issued an additional $5,000 reward through her office, both in exchange for information that leads authorities to find Houston.
  • “Unfortunately, another female is missing in the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. “In the midst of the busy holiday season, it is critical that we support Paighton, her family and law enforcement to ensure we do everything possible to bring her home. I am issuing a $5,000 reward to help encourage anyone with credible information to contact the appropriate authorities and help make that happen.”
  • Full story HERE.



4. Five stabbed at rabbi’s house on Hanukkah

  • A man stabbed five people as they gathered to celebrate Hanukkah at a rabbi’s home in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City, an ambush that is being called an act of domestic terrorism.
  • Police arrested a suspect in Manhattan within hours of Saturday night’s attack in Monsey. Grafton E. Thomas, 37, had blood all over his clothing and smelled of bleach, according to prosecutors.
  • The stabbings on the seventh night of Hanukkah left one person critically wounded, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The rabbi’s son was also injured.
  • The attack was the latest in a string of violence targeting Jews in the region, including a Dec. 10 massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey. Last month in Monsey, a man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue.
  • Rabbi Motti Seligson said witnesses told him that people fled the house and went to the synagogue where they locked themselves in.
  • Read more HERE.




5. New fees for electric cars to go into effect

  • Alabama is one of eight states in which new fees for electric vehicles will go into effect in the new year.
  • For the first time, a majority of U.S. states will impose special fees on gas-free cars, SUVs and trucks — a significant milestone as the trend toward green technology intersects with the mounting need to pay for upgrades and repairs to the nation’s infrastructure.
  • In Alabama, the new fees were part of the gas tax and infrastructure passed last legislative session. The new law puts a $200-a-year fee on electric vehicles and a $100-a-year fee on plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Electric vehicle owners use infrastructure, but don’t contribute to the gas tax revenue most states, including Alabama, rely on to fund road and bridge construction and maintenance. Thus, the push for more fees.
  • Some electric vehicle advocates in other states have criticized the new fees. But in Alabama, the plan was supported by Conservation Alabama after lawmakers included provisions that would benefit the electric vehicle market in the state. Part of the fees will go toward an electric transportation grant program that will be used to build a network of electric charging stations throughout the state.
  • State Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, described the system as “more than just a fairness relative to maintenance and construction of infrastructure… I think it went further in terms of planning for the future.”
  • That is part of a larger story about new state laws from around the country going into effect in January. It’s worth a read, partly because some of the issues other states are dealing with could make their way to Alabama before long.
  • Full story HERE.



This Week in Good News

  • Continuing Caroline’s Sunday tradition, there is some good news out of Washington, D.C. to share: Alabama politicos Seth Morrow and Hannah Strub got engaged over the weekend.
  • Both work for Congressman Bradley Byrne, Seth as Campaign Manager for Byrne’s Senate bid and Hannah as Military Legislative Assistant in the Capitol Hill office.
  • This was one of a handful of great photos from their picturesque East Capitol proposal. Well done, Mr. Morrow.
  • Congratulations and best wishes to you both! Couldn’t be happier for you.





ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama shows largest unemployment drop in the nation
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – States charge more for electric cars as new laws take effect
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 5 stabbed at rabbi’s house on Hanukkah; suspect arrested
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS  – Rewards offered in case of missing Trussville woman
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – New $100M wood pellet factory planned in west Alabama
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – FDA: New tobacco law in effect
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Military widow’s tax repealed with passage of defense bill
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama police deaths rise; 5 of 6 killed with stolen guns
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 3 teens killed in Christmas night crash
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – States are on front lines of 2020 election-security efforts
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge orders Alabama city to pay legal fees in school fight
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 27, 2019
AL.COM  – Christmas deaths of 3 teens rock tiny Alabama town: ‘This isn’t supposed to happen to us’
AL.COM  – Alabama National Guardsman kicked out over white supremacist ties
AL.COM  – Governor offers reward in disappearance of Paighton Houston, last seen leaving Lakeview bar
AL.COM  – $99 million wood pellet plant planned for Demopolis
AL.COM  – Baptist minister and lobbyist Dan Ireland has died
AL.COM  – Rural disconnect: Majority in some Alabama counties don’t have internet access
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER  – Demoralized and disconnected: Black girls are being pushed out of schools. Here’s how
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER  – Neighbors complain pallet company has caused health and safety hazard for years
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER  – Top 10 Alabama political stories of 2019: Questions of control
YellowHammer News – Alabama native, former Troy WR John Johnson dies in motorcycle accident
YellowHammer News – Books-A-Million gathers more than $110,000 in books and toys for Children’s of Alabama
YellowHammer News – AmeriCorps volunteers make improvements at Lakepoint State Park
Times Daily – Is Northwest-Shoals Community College Headed in the Right Direction? Opinions Vary.
Times Daily – Flu activity ‘significant’ in Alabama
Times Daily – 810,075 gallons of untreated Decatur sewage released last week
Anniston Star  – Honda Manufacturing of Alabama enjoys banner year in 2019
Dothan Eagle – What are the biggest challenges facing emerging business in Dothan? Space and capital.
WASHINGTON POST – Paul Kane: A bipartisan committee has ideas to make Congress more bipartisan — and lawmakers are listening
WASHINGTON POST – U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria target Iran-backed militia, Pentagon says
WASHINGTON POST  – Federal judge upholds Georgia’s decision to purge 100,000 voters
NEW YORK TIMES  – Hanukkah Stabbing called act of terror
NEW YORK TIMES  – Dismayed by nation’s politics, fans of ‘the West Wing’ return to find solace
NEW YORK TIMES  – How a Chase Bank Chairman Helped the Deposed Shah of Iran Enter the U.S.

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