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Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, April 21.
1. COVID-19 hospitalizations up 20% in Alabama in 10 days
- Hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 have jumped about 20% in less than two weeks in Alabama, a trend that health officials said Tuesday they were monitoring but don’t consider a sign of another coming crisis in the pandemic.
- Statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health showed 362 people were hospitalized Monday for the illness caused by the coronavirus. Though up from the 301 patients just 10 days earlier, the total was still just a fraction of the 3,070 patients who pushed the state’s intensive care wards to near capacity in mid-January.
- The increase in cases is concerning but doesn’t immediately threaten the state’s health care system because the number of people being treated remains far below levels from earlier this year, said Dr. Don Williamson, chief executive of the Alabama Hospital Association.
- “It’s nothing dramatic, but it’s something we need to be aware is happening,” said Williamson, who previously served as state health officer. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has gone up by 163, an increase of about 50%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
- Dr. Scott Harris, who followed Williamson at Public Health, said officials were monitoring the increase in hospitalizations but aren’t yet sure of the cause. The bump follows spring break, Easter gatherings and the end of the state’s mandatory face mask rule on April 9, any of which could be a factor.
- Read more from Jay Reeves HERE.
2. Civil asset forfeiture compromise clears Senate
- The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved legislation changing the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, putting new rules on what law enforcement can take from those charged with low-level drug offenses.
- Advocacy groups have argued for years that current law allows police to seize property even without a conviction, which they say disproportionately hurts low-income individuals and minorities.
- “This will put better boundaries around the property of people and raise the bar for the government seizing it and forfeiting it for low-level charges,” Sen. Arthur Orr told Alabama Daily News.
- As originally written, Orr’s Senate Bill 210 would have ended civil forfeiture for criminal drug offenses and instead make the forfeiture process part of the criminal court. Orr on Tuesday substituted his Senate Bill 210 with what he said was a compromise with district attorneys, sheriffs and other involved groups.
- It passed 28-0.
- Read more from Mary Sell HERE.
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3. State House: What happened, what’s next.
- A bill requiring hospitals and nursing homes to allow at least one caregiver or family member to visit loved ones in times of emergency passed the Senate Tuesday and now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. House Bill 521, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, says that visitation should happen “consistent with all applicable federal laws and regulations of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or any limitations set by a state or federal public health order.”
- The Senate approved legislation to require police agencies to record racial data during traffic stops. Senators approved Senate Bill 91 on a 19-7 vote. It moves to the Alabama House. State Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham said his bill is intended to prevent the targeting of motorists based on their race or ethnicity.
- The Senate Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday advanced Senate Bill 377 to add prison identifications to the list of valid identifications for absentee voting. Bill sponsor Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said inmates may not have other valid forms of identification in which to get an absentee ballot.
- The House Urban and Rural Development Committee voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 215, which seeks to expand high-speed broadband internet service throughout the state.The bill passed on a voice vote and now heads to the full House. Some changes in the bill include reserving 70% of the first three years of funding for the program to build last-mile infrastructure in unserved rural areas.
- A bill that would allow drive-through or walk-up purchases of beer and wine for off-site consumption passed the Alabama House of Representatives. House Bill 560 is sponsored by Rep. Gill Isbell, R-Gadsden, who said his intent was to offer more convenience to Alabama consumers and that all state, local and federal laws that currently apply to purchasing alcohol would still apply. The final vote on the bill was 67-20 with seven abstentions.
- A bill that would require local school boards to provide menstrual products in schools at no cost to students passed its first vote on Tuesday. House Bill 88 from Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, would require public schools to provide female hygiene products, such as tampons and sanitary napkins, to schools for grades 5-12. The bill passed on a voice vote in the House Ways and Means Education Committee and now goes to the full House.
- Read about all these in Caroline & Mary Legislative Briefs package HERE.
- The House Ways and Means Education Committee has the $7.6 billion 2022 education budget and related budget bills. Votes seem unlikely today as the bills are slated to be back in committee on Thursday.
- The never-dull House Judiciary Committee meets at 1:30 and has legislation to prohibit state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal restrictions on firearms. There’s a public hearing on that one.
- Judiciary will also take up Rep. Chris England’s, D-Tuscaloosa, proposals to revise criteria for parole consideration and medical parole.
- And Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, has a bill to allow the reduction of prisoners’ sentences if they complete academic or risk-reducing curriculum.
- House Education Policy has two bills from Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, that would give people more choice with public school dollars. House Bill 559 would increase the allowable tax credit for individuals and corporations that donate to private school scholarships through the Alabama Accountability Act. And the recently filed House Bill 633 would create the Education Savings Account program which would allow parents to use the funds in the account which would have been allocated to their child at their resident school district for private school tuition and related costs.
- The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee is expected in its 11 a.m. meeting to vote on Rep. Mike Jones’ House Bill 392. It would require any state agency or department planning to spend more than $10 million or 5% of their annual appropriation from the General Fund, whichever is less, to first be approved by the oversight committee on obligation transparency.
4. Report: Child abuse costs Alabama billions
- A new report from the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention says that the cost of child maltreatment, abuse or neglect has cost the state around $3.7 billion.
- Various community organizers and state agencies that work to prevent child abuse gathered at the State House Tuesday to present the report and stress to legislators the importance of investing in child maltreatment prevention.
- “You can pay now or you can pay later; you can’t do more with less,” Sallye Longshore, Director of the ADCANP, said on Tuesday.
- The report was developed in collaboration with the University of Alabama and analyzes first-time victims of child maltreatment from 2018. It includes the cost of various categories associated with child abuse such as low birth weight, chronic illness, childhood mental health care, child welfare systems, law enforcement intervention, special education and juvenile delinquency, among others.
- Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she expects the cost to be even greater after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- “This [report] is all pre-COVID, and when I look back at the things we’ve lost: the loss of life, the loss of learning, the sickness, the fear – we don’t really know what’s happened to some of these families and to these children,” Collins said. “So some of the things we are about to hear have been made worse over the last year.”
- Last year, Alabama Daily News reported that the number of child abuse and neglect reports to the state dropped significantly in the spring when the coronavirus outbreak abruptly closed schools and child care centers and fewer eyes were on children.
- Information provided to ADN on Tuesday showed a total of 26,313 abuse and neglect reports to DHR in fiscal 2020, down from 28,470 in fiscal 2019.
- Sen. Clyde Chambliss recently filed Senate Bill 393 to require mandatory reporters, including teachers, daycare workers and medical professionals, to contact both DHR and local law enforcement.
- “The hope there is that there’s not anybody that’s left in the cracks,” Chambliss, R-Prattville, told Alabama Daily News this week.
- Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.
5. Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death
- Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
- Chauvin, 45, was immediately led away with his hands cuffed behind his back and could be sent to prison for decades.
- The verdict — guilty as charged on all counts, in a relatively swift, across-the-board victory for Floyd’s supporters — set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.
- “Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.
- President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.
- But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”
- Read more HERE.
Two injured in Army helicopter training crash in Alabama
- NEW BROCTON, Ala. (AP) — Two people were hurt Tuesday when an Army helicopter crashed at a training base in south Alabama, military officials said.
- Fort Rucker officials said in a news release that the “aviation mishap” involved a UH-72 Lakota helicopter. The two-person crew on board were conducting flight training. The incident occurred at Ft. Rucker’s Brown Stagefield heliport near New Brockton.
- Officials at Fort Rucker did not immediately release information about a potential cause of the accident.
- The two people on board were evacuated for medical treatment. No fatalities were reported. The helicopter was damaged.
- Fort Rucker is the Army’s primary training facility for helicopter pilots.
Officer wounded, driver killed in Dothan shooting
- DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A confrontation that began with a routine traffic stop ended with a motorist dead and a police officer wounded with a gunshot in a leg, authorities said.
- A Dothan police officer stopped a car in a neighborhood around noon Monday because it didn’t have a license plate, Police Chief Will Benny told a news conference. The officer saw a gun in the vehicle and the driver pulled away without permission, he said.
- The officer followed a short distance until the vehicle stopped at an intersection and the driver got out with a pistol, Benny said.
- “Officers attempted to use a Taser to incapacitate the suspect. The suspect began firing at an officer and struck him in the left leg,” Benny said. “The officer and his backup fired at the suspect, ending the confrontation.”
- Police didn’t release the name of the officer, who was doing well after surgery, or the man who was killed.
- State police will investigate, but Benny said he was “confident in our actions and our response.”
Alabama inmate captured hours after escape from work center
- MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate is back in custody less than a day after he escaped from a prison facility in southeast of Birmingham.
- The Department of Corrections says 47-year-old Tracy Obrian Blackburn was arrested Monday night by sheriff’s deputies in the Coosa County community of Weogufka. An update from the agency says Blackburn surrendered without violence.
- Blackburn was arrested about 19 hours after he escaped from a work release center early Monday in Childersburg, located about 35 miles (56 kilometers) outside Birmingham.
- The prison system didn’t say how the Jemison man got out or provide details on his arrest.
- Blackburn was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 in Shelby County after being accused of beating another man the year before.
Birmingham to pardon 15,000 with marijuana convictions
- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s largest city will issue blanket pardons for more than 15,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1990, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday.
- The pardons, linked to city court cases, are automatic, Woodfin said in an announcement made on April 20, a day that many associate with marijuana use.
- Many people have a hard time finding work because of drug convictions, and Woodfin said the move would allow them to rejoin the workforce and provide for their families.
- “Here’s why we’re doing this – no one should be held up by a single past mistake. No one should be denied job opportunities or freedoms due to missteps from the past,” he said in a statement.
- The pardons will eliminate convictions for marijuana possession from criminal records from 1990 through 2020 but do not affect pending cases, said a news release. A pardon also does not cancel fines, fees or other costs linked to a marijuana conviction.
- The announcement by Woodfin, a Democrat, came as the Alabama Democratic Party said it would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use in the state.
- Legislative committees have approved a Republican-backed bill allowing marijuana for medical uses, putting the measure in line for a key vote in the Alabama House.
- Rep. Chris England, the chair of the state Democratic Party, said thousands of people have been “trapped” in the state’s criminal justice system because of laws against marijuana.
- “Reforming policy surrounding cannabis not only serves our state in producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, but is an important step in reducing arrests and expunging records. Nobody should be sitting in jail for carrying a little bit of weed,” he said in a statement.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – COVID-19 hospitalizations up 20% in Alabama in 10 days
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Civil asset forfeiture compromise clears Senate
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Legislative briefs – Tuesday, April 20
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Child abuse cost Alabama $3.7 billion in 2018, new report says
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – April 20, 2021
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Underwriter withdraws from Alabama prison lease project
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Union accuses Amazon of illegally interfering with vote
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Civilian board formed to review Birmingham police actions
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama ranked No. 8 for economic momentum
AL.COM – Alabama transgender treatment ban ‘putting kids in danger,’ opponents say
AL.COM – Mo Brooks to hold Senate campaign reception at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club
AL.COM – Mo Brooks ‘has clear sailing,’ Trump says of Alabama Senate race
AL.COM – Trump ‘very seriously’ considering 2024 presidential run
AL.COM – ‘Not full justice’: Black Alabama leaders on Derek Chauvin guilty verdict
AL.COM – Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill allowing college athletes to be paid for use of name, image, likeness
AL.COM – Alabama wineries might soon be able to sell directly to public at wine festivals, special events
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: We breathed again, again, and again. Like George Floyd could not
AL.COM – Bill to combat ‘period poverty’ in Alabama receives public hearing
AL.COM – Birmingham to pardon 15,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions
AL.COM – Alabama’s House delegation pushes for Amtrak to finish study before restarting Mobile service
AL.COM – Alabama Democratic Party favors legalizing recreational, medical marijuana
Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery council supports renaming street for Fred Gray, with a caveat
Montgomery Advertiser – No falling back: Alabama Senate approves permanent daylight saving time bill
Montgomery Advertiser – Transgender youth, advocates urge rejection of bill banning medical treatments
Decatur Daily – Morgan jailer out of hospital; inmate charged with assault
Decatur Daily – Second round of city paving almost finished
Decatur Daily – Civil asset forfeiture compromise clears Senate
Times Daily – Colbert County Commission tables garbage rate increase until May
Times Daily – Clearing, utilities work should start in May
Times Daily – Smoke on the Water barbecue competition moves to St. Florian Park
Anniston Star – Ranburne Town Council names Taylor police chief
Anniston Star – Calhoun Theater is sold to Birmingham developer
Anniston Star – JSU pandemic professor, COVID-19 task force leader retiring in June
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Hospitalizations tick up slightly in Alabama after Easter and spring break
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Pardons for Progress initiative relaunched in Birmingham
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death
Tuscaloosa News – No falling back: Alabama Senate approves permanent daylight saving time bill
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa runoff election results certified as District 7 election challenge remains
Tuscaloosa News – Gov. Kay Ivey urges Alabamians to get COVID-19 vaccines at Auburn stops
YellowHammer News – Alabama Senate passes civil asset forfeiture reform bill, which now heads to the House
YellowHammer News – Community college presidents: Job training enhanced if education construction process streamlined
YellowHammer News – New member appointed to Conservation Advisory Board
Gadsden Times – No falling back: Alabama Senate approves permanent daylight saving time bill
Gadsden Times – Etowah County commissioners discuss garbage issues
Gadsden Times – City reiterates response to attorney’s allegations
Dothan Eagle – EU agency links J&J shot to rare clots, says odds favor use
Dothan Eagle – The Latest: Hawaii eases virus rules for inter-island travel
Dothan Eagle – Countries worldwide hit new records for virus cases, deaths
Opelika-Auburn News – Mrs. Ireland named new Mrs. World after on-stage fracas
Opelika-Auburn News – Australia plans to spend $417M on hydrogen, carbon capture
Opelika-Auburn News – Dems push $25B to electrify school buses, a Biden priority
WSFA Montgomery – Ivy Classical Academy location presented before Prattville City Council
WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery City Council suspends license for pallet company in 2018 fire
WSFA Montgomery – Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death
WAFF Huntsville – Here’s how to get the all-new WAFF 48 news app
WAFF Huntsville – Alabama NAACP president, local activists react to Derek Chauvin verdict
WAFF Huntsville – Hartselle community unsatisfied with school board response to softball coach
WKRG Mobile – Derek Chauvin convicted in death of George Floyd
WKRG Mobile – People in Downtown Mobile react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict
WKRG Mobile – Shooting victim found on I-65N near Moffett Road exit in Mobile
WTVY Dothan – Gantt Pierece running for Dothan commission
WTVY Dothan – Suspect shot by resident during Coffee County home invasion
WTVY Dothan – Charges: Man killed by officers previously confronted police
WASHINGTON POST – Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd
WASHINGTON POST – How Derek Chauvin became the rare police officer convicted of murder
WASHINGTON POST – The Chauvin verdict had cities nationwide braced for unrest. Instead, they got a celebration.
NEW YORK TIMES – Derek Chauvin Verdict Brings a Rare Rebuke of Police Conduct
NEW YORK TIMES – ‘We Matter’: A Moment of Catharsis After the Derek Chauvin Verdict
NEW YORK TIMES – Biden Calls Chauvin Verdict a ‘Much Too Rare’ Moment of Justice
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Artificial Intelligence, Facial Recognition Face Curbs in New EU Proposal
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Snarled Supply Chain Trips Up Small Businesses
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Black Americans Greet Derek Chauvin Conviction With Relief, Caution
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