Good morning and Happy Friday!
Hey, how about this: Alabama’s unemployment rate fell AGAIN in November to 2.7%.
This has been a week, amirite? I think we all deserve some GIFs.
Here’s your Daily News for December 20.
1. Shelby secures key port provision, funding
- If you read yesterday’s Daily News, you saw a late-breaking scoop from Washington, D.C. that special provisions and funding that will likely complete the long-awaited expansion of the Port of Mobile were included in the domestic government spending bill Congress has been working to pass this week.
- It’s true, and now that bill has passed and is on its way to the president’s desk.
- U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, secured $378 million for a Regional Dredge Demonstration Program in the central Gulf of Mexico. Though not a direct appropriation, Mobile Harbor will be eligible for the funds, which means the deepening and widening of Mobile’s shipping channel could very well be on its way to completion.
- This is a project Shelby has been working on for at least a decade because of the uniquely powerful impact expanded port capacity can have on the whole state’s economy.
- Shelby noted that he was “exceptionally proud” that the funding was included and said the port project “has the ability to transform Alabama’s economy for generations to come.”
- If you remember, the gas tax and infrastructure plan passed during the last legislative session steered some revenue toward floating bonds for port improvements. That was noted by the state’s political and business leaders in reaction to this “terrific news.”
- Read the full story HERE.
2. Birmingham Beltline work to continue
- Also included in the domestic appropriations bill is funding to get construction on the Birmingham Northern Beltline moving again.
- According to Shelby’s office, $30 million was included in the funding bill for Alabama’s Appalachian Development Highway System, of which the Beltline is a key component.
- Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that construction would now continue, crediting Shelby with yet another appropriations win for the state.
- “We thank Sen. Shelby for his leadership and are pleased to announce that this funding is going to enable the state to resume construction of the Birmingham Northern Beltline,” Ivey said. “This is very exciting news for the Birmingham region and our entire state due to the enormous benefits this corridor will bring to our state and the nation.”
- Shelby said completing the Appalachian Development Highway System is a priority for Alabama and the millions of people throughout the Appalachian region in other states.
- “Investing in this transportation program will help generate economic development opportunities across numerous areas throughout Appalachia — especially at home in Alabama,” he said.
- Full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
3. Agencies spar over parolee training program
- Those leading the state’s community colleges and the pardons and paroles bureau don’t seem to see eye to eye on the future of an inmate job training center. And the two recently met with the governor’s office to sort it all out.
- LifeTech, a job-training center for people recently paroled from state prisons, is in a “phase of uncertainty,” Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker said recently.
- Subscribers to Inside Alabama Politics first saw this story on Monday.
- At an ACCS board meeting last week, Baker said leadership at Pardons and Paroles is reconsidering its involvement with the facility.
- “Without any consultation on the part of Pardons and Parole, with either us or (the Alabama Department of Corrections) — I’m not even sure they consulted with the Governor’s Office — Pardons and Parole leadership made the decision that (operating LifeTech) was not something they were suppose to be doing,” Baker told the board.
- The ACCS oversees the educational aspect of the site and provides instructors.
- Pardons and Paroles spokesman Terry Abbott told ADN that when agency executive director Charlie Graddick, a former district judge and Alabama Attorney General, met with a group of stakeholders about LifeTech, he did express serious concern that Pardons and Paroles may not be authorized under state law to operate it.
- “We will continue to explore that issue and others as we all work together to determine the best way for the state to properly operate such a facility,” Abbott said.
- Read the full story from ADN’s Mary Sell and Caroline Beck HERE.
4. New trade deal passes House
- A new trade deal with Canada and Mexico is now all but sealed, after the U.S. House of Representatives gave passage to the plan Thursday.
- The renegotiated trade agreement replaces the 90s era NATFA that grew unpopular over the years. Trump made replacing NAFTA and other trade deals a centerpiece of his campaign for president in 2016.
- The vote was overwhelming and bipartisan, passing 385-41. Each member of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the bill and many spoke effusively of its potential positive impact on Alabama’s economy.
- Of particular importance to Alabama are provisions that seek to improve production and trade rules for agriculture and new regulations that could benefit the automotive industry.
- Read more about the bill HERE.
5. Impeachment trial plans in disarray
- Congress has headed home for the holidays leaving plans and a possible timeline for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in disarray.
- Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Thursday that Senate Republicans must provide details on witnesses and testimony before she would send over the charges for Trump’s trial. No deal, replied Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after meeting with his Senate Democratic counterpart.
- “We remain at an impasse,” he said.
- McConnell and the Democrats’ Senate leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, met for about 20 minutes in their first attempt to negotiate the contours of an agreement on running the rare Senate impeachment trial that was expected to start in January.
- McConnell favors a swift trial, without the new witnesses Democrats want, and he holds a clear tactical advantage if he can keep his 53-member Senate majority united. Schumer, who also met privately with Pelosi, has to bet that GOP senators won’t hold the line and Republicans will peel away as public pressure mounts for a fuller trial.
- Public opinion could also backfire on Democrats, with Pelosi and Co. getting blamed for dragging out the process for political purposes.
- The “X Factor” here is Trump himself. If he lets it all get to him and lashes out – like he did against Rep. Debbie Dingle and her late husband the night of impeachment – that could hurt his approval numbers and make negotiations more difficult for Republicans.
- Read more HERE.
AP News Briefs
Man pleads not guilty in shooting death of officer
- MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A 20-year-old man pleaded not guilty to charges including capital murder in the death of an Alabama police officer.
- Marco Perez entered the pleas Wednesday after being denied youthful offender status in the case, news outlets report. Perez was 19 years old when Mobile police Officer Sean Tuder was shot and killed outside a hotel in January.
- Authorities have said Perez shot the 30-year-old Tuder in the hotel’s parking lot with a gun stolen from an unlocked car. The state has argued Perez was previously granted youthful offender status for previous charges of burglary and breaking and entering into vehicles.
- Perez’s attorney, Dennis Knizley, said his client deserved youthful offender status because surveillance video showed him backing away from the officer and surrendering. He said Tuder was undercover at the time and didn’t reveal himself to be a police officer, leading his client to believe his life was in danger. There’s no body camera video of the shooting, according to WKRG-TV.
- Perez is scheduled to appear in court in January 2020. State prosecutors have filed court documents saying they intend to seek the death penalty in the case.
Man pleads guilty in boat crash that killed 2 in Alabama
- WETUMPKA, Ala. (AP) — A man pleaded guilty to reckless murder on Thursday in a boat crash that killed two people on a central Alabama lake on July 4.
- The Montgomery Advertiser reported that Damion Bruno, 41, of Clanton, entered the plea in Elmore County, where he was charged in a crash that killed a man and a teenager on Lake Jordan on Independence Day.
- Court records show he was over the state’s legal limit for intoxication after the crash. The state recommended a prison term of 30 years on two counts of reckless murder, but no sentencing date was set.
- Bruno was driving a boat that collided with another boat that was carrying Devin Clay Jackson, 26, of Deatsville and Travis Lee House, 17, of Marbury, who died in the crash. Five other people were injured in the crash, which happened after a fireworks show.
- “It was a very crowded night on Lake Jordan, maybe the most crowded night of the year,” said Assistant District Attorney Mandy Johnson.
- Bruno, who has been in jail since shortly after the crash, did not comment when offered a chance by District Judge Glenn Goggans.
- The crash was among a dozen boating collisions that occurred over the Independence Day holiday that resulted in six deaths, Marine Police figures show.
US marshals arrest man wanted in Georgia slaying
- PHENIX CITY, Ala. (AP) — U.S. marshals have arrested an Alabama man accused of fatally shooting a woman after being robbed by her boyfriend at a Georgia gas station.
- News outlets report Tierre Tyrell Williams was arrested Wednesday night in Phenix City, Alabama, on charges including murder and aggravated assault.
- LaGrange, Georgia, police said Da’Jai Green, 22, and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Deangelo Finley, stopped at an area gas station on Sunday and got into an argument with Williams.
- “The two of them had some sort of a grudge over a sale and a belief that there had been some kind of scam involved, and they just happened to run into each other,” LaGrange police Chief Lou Dekmar said Thursday, according to the LaGrange Daily News.
- Finley then snatched Williams’ necklace, got into the car with Green and tried to flee, but Williams opened fire, fatally striking Green, according to police.
- Finley was later arrested and jailed on a robbery charge.
- Williams previously was sought by Columbus police on burglary charges. The department posted his mugshot on Facebook and identified him as a suspect in commercial burglaries in Columbus and Alabama, and Williams responded to the post with his phone number.
- He told authorities that he wasn’t avoiding them, they just hadn’t told him about the case. The department publicly disputed that in another post and challenged him to surrender. Authorities said that he never did surrender, despite promising to do so.
- A man claiming to be Williams told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer earlier on Wednesday that he planned to surrender to authorities in Columbus on Thursday.
- It’s unclear if Williams has a lawyer in either case.
Trust buys land to protect fish near north Alabama car plant
- HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A state trust is purchasing a nearly 500-acre tract in north Alabama for $10 million to protect the habitat of a tiny fish that had endangered work on a $1.6 billion car plant.
- The Forever Wild Land Trust bought land where the rare spring pygmy sunfish lives near the Mazda Toyota plant being built in Limestone County, news outlets reported.
- The fish is listed as a federally threatened species and is known to exist in only two locations in Alabama, including the Beaverdam Spring area near the factory.
- The Center for Biological Diversity and Tennessee Riverkeeper had threatened to sue to protect the sunfish and its habitat before reaching a deal to protect the fish a year ago. The land purchase was part of that agreement.
- The car factory is projected to begin production in 2021 with as many as 4,000 employees.
Photo of couple killed in tornado found day after storm
- ARDMORE, Ala. (AP) — A photo of a couple who died in a tornado in Alabama was found on a farm roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) away.
- Kent and Sherry Dutton, of Ardmore, found the photo of Justin and Keisha Godsey on Tuesday morning, news outlets reported. The Godseys were pronounced dead after a tornado ripped through their Town Creek home Monday.
- The photo was found on farmland, the Duttons told news outlets. They said they’ve been in contact with members of the couple’s family to return the photo.
- The couple’s elementary-school-aged son was hospitalized after the tornado.
- Read/watch more from WAFF HERE.
After ‘flash drought,’ only sliver of Southeast too dry
- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A drought that threatened crops and helped spark wildfires in the Southeast has receded across most of the region, according to a federal report released Thursday.
- A new assessment from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed only tiny portions of Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina were still too dry after weeks of regular rainfall.
- But conditions are worse in Georgia and Louisiana, where about 1.4 million people are still experiencing drought conditions, including part of the heavily populated greater Atlanta area. Northern Florida and southwestern Georgia also are in a moderate drought.
- Heavy rains predicted in the region for this weekend could break records and help further alleviate remaining drought conditions, forecasters said. Southern portions of Alabama and Georgia could receive as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain by Christmas Eve, projections showed, and isolated areas could get even more.
- A fast-developing “flash drought” choked the region earlier this fall, drying out crops and creating conditions that caused wildfires. At one point, nearly 56 million people in 16 Southern states were living in drought conditions.
- Drought conditions are worse in southern Texas, the West and the Pacific Northwest.
INSIDE ALABAMA POLITICS – December 16, 2019
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump impeached on charges of abuse of power, obstruction
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Birmingham Northern Beltline construction to continue
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Agencies spar over parolee training program
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House bestows big trade victory on Trump
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Impeachment trial plans in disarray as Congress heads home
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Court: Part of ‘Obamacare’ invalid, more review needed
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama, other states file lawsuit seeking to block ERA ratification
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bond revoked for teen charged in death of Auburn announcer
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama, other states file lawsuit seeking to block ERA ratification
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 19, 2019
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest- December 17, 2019
AL.COM – Global civil rights center envisioned for Birmingham
AL.COM – Northern Beltline to resume construction after $30 million approved in Senate funding bills
AL.COM – Alabama to get billions from spending bills that avert government shutdown
AL.COM – Alabama gets $33 million to support learning from birth to age 5
AL.COM – ‘Unanswered questions’ linger over Mobile’s Amtrak commitment
AL.COM – Attorney general fights against bond for Lowndes County sheriff’s accused killer
AL.COM – Alabama lawmaker wants judges to have more leeway to deny bail
AL.COM – I-59/20 bridges could open by Jan. 21
AL.COM – How Birmingham has changed as a result of UAB’s 50-year legacy
AL.COM – Deadly house party underscores rising concern in Alabama over Airbnb, short-term rentals
AL.COM – Contributor Terri Sewell: The president left Congress no choice — We must impeach
Montgomery Advertiser – Man convicted again after 2014 murder conviction overturned to serve more time in prison
Montgomery Advertiser – 2019 Camellia Bowl: All the parking, traffic and ticket information you need is right here
City of Montgomery
Montgomery Advertiser – Contest offers $1,000 for best video about downtown Montgomery
YellowHammer News – Shelby’s leadership will allow Birmingham Northern Beltline construction to resume
YellowHammer News – Ivey commends Shelby for securing potential funds to complete Mobile Harbor improvements
YellowHammer News – Byrne: House Dems holding articles of impeachment ‘shows that they’ve got cold feet’
Dothan Eagle – Heroic fallen Naval officer’s memorial set for Enterprise Saturday
Dothan Eagle – Bond hearing set for Dothan man accused of beating, holding girlfriend against her will
Dothan Eagle – Unexpected gifts warm hearts of couple in Dothan rehab
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa Police warn of new phone scam
Tuscaloosa News – Driver in fatal DUI crash to serve five years in prison
Tuscaloosa News – Man pleads guilty in boat crash that killed 2 in Alabama
Decatur Daily – Turtles installed, scavenger hunt questions will be available soon
Decatur Daily – Boy injured in Lawrence tornado remains in ICU at Birmingham hospital
Decatur Daily – Study of Alabama 67, Upper River Road intersections includes possible new I-65 interchange
Times Daily – Most debris from ECM being recycled
Times Daily – $1.8M Norton Auditorium improvement project underway
Times Daily – Colbert Heights tornado packed peak winds of 115 mph
Gadsden Times – Barrie Center adds facility dog to staff
Gadsden Times – Live Nativity on tap in Rainbow City
Gadsden Times – Two convicted in Etowah County among 18 who were denied parole
Anniston Star – SBI: Jacksonville man shared obscene images of minor
Anniston Star – Anniston man pleads guilty to murder in 2015 nightclub
Anniston Star – Judge stops supervision of Calhoun County Schools in desegregation case
Troy Messenger – Woods bakes cakes for ‘Turkeys from Heaven’
Troy Messenger – Troy professor explains Trump impeachment’s impact
Troy Messenger – Xtreme Athletics raising funds for Children’s of Alabama
Andalusia Star News – Walt Massey delivers 2,500+ toys to DHR
Andalusia Star News – Local woman: Be wary of Verizon scam this season
Andalusia Star News – Developer partners with city to bring workforce housing
Opelika-Auburn News – Gogue says he’ll stay at Auburn ‘as long as they need me’
Opelika-Auburn News – Facebook will bar posts, ads that spread disinformation about the US Census
Opelika-Auburn News – Photos: Scenes from Wednesday’s historic impeachment vote
Daily Mountain Eagle – Arrest made in motorcycle theft
Daily Mountain Eagle – Oakman High holds second serve day
Daily Mountain Eagle – State examiners have come to Carbon Hill
Trussville Tribune – Birmingham Police searching for missing man
Trussville Tribune – La Cazuela Mexican Cuisine now open in Trussville
Trussville Tribune – Man pleads guilty in boat crash that killed 2 on Lake Jordan
Athens News Courier – Suspects in multistate toy resale scheme arrested
Athens News Courier – UPDATED: 2 arrested for promoting prostitution in Athens
Athens News Courier – Calhoun to offer free industrial training
Sand Mountain Reporter – Marshall Technical teacher selected for ALFA program
Sand Mountain Reporter – Marshall County Schools teachers receive grants
Sand Mountain Reporter – Beloved science teacher retires at Boaz
WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery doctor convicted on 101 counts in pill mill case
WSFA Montgomery – Man retried for 2012 Montgomery murder sentenced to life in prison
WSFA Montgomery – 2 adults, 3 children killed in DeKalb County mobile home fire
Fox 6 Birmingham – Fultondale residents upset over proposed QuikTrip travel center
Fox 6 Birmingham – Jefferson County Sheriff looking to add more live cameras
Fox 6 Birmingham – UAB awarded grant to use herpes virus as treatment for tumors in new area of brain
WAFF Huntsville – 2 adults, 3 children killed in DeKalb County mobile home fire
WAFF Huntsville – Accused Huntsville cop-killer’s truck seized, request to see crime scene denied
WAFF Huntsville – Tornado research program based in Alabama gets budget doubled
WKRG Mobile – News 5 Investigates: Officers shoot woman after computer glitch during narcotics round-up
WKRG Mobile – Nexstar launches Remarkable Woman initiative
WKRG Mobile – Help identify suspect believed responsible for several Orange Beach condo burglaries
WTVY Dothan – Alabama works to keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of the state as numbers rise in TN
WTVY Dothan – Ala. delegation Trump impeachment vote splits on party lines
WTVY Dothan – Georgia Power increasing monthly bills starting January 2020
WASHINGTON POST – Former White House officials say they feared Putin influenced the president’s views on Ukraine and 2016 campaign
WASHINGTON POST – Democrats spar over how to combat Trump, a roaring economy and impeachment
WASHINGTON POST – What the $1.4 trillion budget deal has in store for education
WASHINGTON POST – House narrowly passes bill that would restore SALT tax benefits to higher-income Americans
NEW YORK TIMES – HUD Reporting 2.7% Percent Uptick in Homeless Population
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump Impeachment Trial in Doubt as Democrats Weigh Withholding Articles
NEW YORK TIMES – 3 Legal Experts on What the Obamacare Ruling Really Means
Front Pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)