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Weekend Digest- May 17, 2020

Good afternoon and Happy Sunday!
Here’s your Daily News for May 17.

1. Prison building plans inch forward 

  • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration inched forward with a plan to lease three mega-prisons built by private companies as the Department of Corrections on Friday opened bids from two companies seeking the contracts.
  • Ivey’s office said they are now in a “confidential proposal evaluation period.” Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, a partnership of multiple companies including BL Harbert International, and CoreCivic were the two companies to submit responses.
  • The governor’s office said the successful developer team or teams will be announced this summer. Her office said financial terms will be announced in the fall regarding negotiations.
  • The Department of Corrections declined an Associated Press request to make the proposals public, saying that a “confidential evaluation period has begun.” The prison system said the successful developer team or teams will be announced this summer and the financial terms will be announced in the fall regarding negotiations.
  • Read more about the plans from Kim Chandler HERE.


2. Alabama coronavirus cases rise by nearly 300

  • Alabama’s death toll from the coronavirus neared 500 on Saturday.
  • The Alabama Department of Public Health reported there have been more than 11,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and at least 485 deaths. That’s 12 more deaths than were reported Friday.
  • Three counties — Mobile, Jefferson and Montgomery — accounted for 41% of all case growth in the last day. Mobile added 45 cases, Jefferson added 37 and Montgomery added 35.
  • Meanwhile, the annual Memorial Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa has been canceled.
  • “In light of the current COVID-19 outbreak with gatherings and social distancing guidelines and in consideration for health and safety of our veterans, our military families and loved ones, PARA and association members believe it is the right thing to do,” said Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority spokeswoman Becky Booker.
  • Read the full report HERE.


3. Group buys Tuscaloosa abortion clinic to keep it from closing 

  • Conservative lawmakers in Alabama last year tried to enact the nation’s most stringent abortion ban, but the attempt to outlaw the procedure may have had one ironic twist.
  • An Alabama-based abortion rights group used a flood of donations that poured in from across the country after the ban to purchase the state’s busiest abortion clinic to ensure it stays open.
  • Yellowhammer Fund — a group founded to help low-income women access abortion — announced the purchase of West Alabama Women’s Center on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Alabama ban.
  • “I said this a year ago. What they didn’t anticipate they would do is help us increase abortion access in Alabama,” said Amanda Reyes, executive director of Yellowhammer Fund.
  • Reyes said the flood of donations helped the group purchase the clinic from the owner who was looking to retire.
  • Read more about the clinic from Kim Chandler HERE.


4. Obama criticizes virus response in online graduation speech

  • Former President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized U.S. leaders overseeing the nation’s response to the coronavirus, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
  • Obama spoke on “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” a two-hour event for students graduating from historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
  • His remarks were unexpectedly political, given the venue, and touched on current events beyond the virus and its social and economic impacts.
  • “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama said. “A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
  • Later Saturday, during a second televised commencement address for high school seniors, Obama panned “so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs” who do “what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy.”
  • Read more about Obama’s remarks HERE.


5. With no leader, commission overseeing virus relief struggles

  • Seven weeks after Congress unleashed more than $2 trillion to deal with the coronavirus crisis, an oversight commission intended to keep track of how the money is spent remains without a leader.
  • Four of the five members of the Congressional Oversight Commission have been appointed, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have not agreed on a chair, leaving the commission rudderless as the federal government pumps unprecedented sums into the economy.
  • Without a leader, the panel’s remaining members can still do some oversight work, but cannot hire staff or set up office space. The four members have not met as a group since the economic rescue law was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in late March.
  • “If the commission is not functioning — which it is not — then there is no oversight” on a huge part of the economic rescue law, said John Coates, a professor of law and economics at Harvard Law School.
  • Read more about the commission HERE.


Week in Good News

Montgomery Man serves the unfree and unfed
  • Curtis “Chap” Browder left the South when he was a teenager, vowing never to come back after facing the hardships that come with living as a black man in Jim Crow south.
  • It would be almost a decade before he would come back and  serve as the state’s first black prison chaplain in 1978 at the call of then-Gov. George Wallace.
  • Through his experiences of praying for those in prison, it has led him to lead a life in service of others.
  • Browder created his own program to help those recently released from Prison who have no where to go and has helped feed the hungry in his community.
  • Read more about Browder’s story from the Montgomery Advertiser’s Krista Johnson.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey administration inches forward on plan to lease prisons
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama coronavirus cases rise by nearly 300
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Group buys Alabama abortion clinic to keep it from closing
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Obama criticizes virus response in online graduation speech
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – With no leader, commission overseeing virus relief struggles
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – May 15, 2020
AL.COM – Alabama adds 288 coronavirus cases, 117 from 3 counties.
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: Alabama prison plan puts public information in quarantine.
AL.COM – Can you still sue someone in Alabama if you get coronavirus?
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: Amid corona-crash, small businesses found savior in smaller banks, fund.
AL.COM – Contributor Champ Lyons: Jeff Sessions is a 21st Century profile in courage.
AL.COM – The story behind new Bernie Sanders documentary.
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: There’s the rub: We won’t know for a while if we should’ve reopened.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – State senators express concerns over being excluded from $1.8 billion CARES Act funding negotiations between governor, House of Reps.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Ivey: ‘We’re going to have to work hard to get’ $1.8 billion in CARES Act funding spent in a timely fashion.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Company creating hand sanitizer to fight pandemic.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Animal shelters feeling effects of pandemic, too.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Census response map shows lags as field operations restart.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Unemployment claims high but leveling off.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily: Embracing the ‘new norms’.
ANNISTON STAR – JSU freshman enrollment strong despite pandemic.
ANNISTON STAR – Phillip Tutor: Anniston and a little girl who came here.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – A wife says goodbye after 66 years. A daughter warns Montgomery to take the virus seriously.
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – Auburn to reopen public buildings, spaces by June 1.
WASHINGTON POST – Trump ramps up retaliatory purge with firing of State Department inspector general.
WASHINGTON POST – Crisis exposes how America has hollowed out its government.
WASHINGTON POST – Obama criticizes nation’s leaders for bungled handling of coronavirus pandemic.

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