the Alabama Accountability Act Coalition
1. Tobacco age restrictions changing
- Starting Jan. 1, the minimum age to buy tobacco products nationwide is 21.
- The new age restriction is part of a nearly $1.4 trillion spending package recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump.
- The restriction also applies to e-cigarettes and other vaping devices that are extremely popular with teens right now.
- During the 2019 legislative session, state lawmakers passed new restrictions on vaping products, essentially making their sales fall in line with other nicotine products.
- Health advocates have long sought the change to 21 for tobacco sales, but the interesting thing about this latest occurrence is how the largest e-cigarette maker – Juul, along with its biggest investor Altria – were supportive of the effort and flooded the halls on Congress trying to get it passed.
- That has some people skeptical of their intentions.
- Read more about that and the reactions from Alabama officials from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
2. Interstate 59/20 project near completion
- They really moved fast on that Birmingham bridge project, huh?
- Less than a year ago, we were watching the demolition of Interstate 59/20 through downtown Birmingham. Now, the structures replacing Alabama’s busiest roadway are almost complete.
- “I have been on the bridge and I’ve driven it and it’s magnificent. We are excited. This will change the landscape of Birmingham forever,” DeJarvis Leonard with the Alabama Department of Transportation said in a recent news briefing.
- If the contractor finishes the project by Jan. 21, it gets a $15 million bonus worked into the deal as an incentive. Conversely, it would have to pay $250,000 a day if construction goes past March 21.
- It looks like they will hit that bonus mark, but state officials are being cautious to make sure the work is done right.
- After the project is complete, work will begin on developing a new park to go underneath and alongside the bridge called Citywalk Birmingham.
- Read more and see the latest photos from the ALDOT briefing video HERE.
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3. Alabama ups deer checks as disease spreads in neighboring states
- Alabama is increasing checks for a lethal deer disease because Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in neighboring Mississippi and Tennessee.
- The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is asking hunters to submit harvested deer for chronic wasting disease tests at check stations, freezer drop-off locations, or offices of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
- The state has been working for years to keep Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, out of Alabama.
- During the 2019 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a long-debated measure allowing licensed sportsmen to use bait to hunt deer and feral hogs. Those opposed to the bill, including the Alabama Wildlife Federation, said deer baiting increases the chances of CWD spreading.
- The Alabama Department of Conservation negotiated changes to the bill that allowed the agency to end baiting if diseases are found in the state’s deer population.
- Full story HERE.
4. Vulnerable Dems test impeachment issue
- For many members of Congress, the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump were easy votes, at least in terms of pleasing their constituencies.
- As the country further polarizes, left-leaning districts put a lot of pressure on Democrats to push the process through and impeach Trump, while right-leaning districts were lock-step behind the president and wanted their representatives to be as well.
- But, there are still swing districts (albeit fewer and fewer of them) where a vote on impeachment wasn’t easy at all, and may not be going forward.
- AP’s Alexandra Jaffe takes a look at Iowa freshman Congresswoman Cindy Axne, who is facing questions from voters back home about “getting things done” rather than pushing impeachment.
- She’s an impeachment-supporting Democrat representing a district that Trump carried in 2016, making her one of Republicans’ main targets in 2020.
- While the articles of impeachment have not yet reached the U.S. Senate, the issue certainly has, including for perhaps the most vulnerable upper chamber Democrat: Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.
- Jones told CNN that he is undecided on his impeachment vote, saying the allegations are serious but adding that there are “gaps” in the case coming from the House.
- Jones later clarified on Twitter that he blames the gaps on the White House withholding witnesses from testifying. He added that he wants a “fair trial with witnesses and documents,” which aligns with the rhetoric from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is attempting to negotiate a more robust Senate impeachment trial.
- Read more about all that HERE.
5. After Christmas surge
- Are you planning on taking advantage of the after Christmas sales this year?
- I certainly am. Like many, I’ve been waiting to see if prices might drop after the holidays, in my case on equipment.
- We are not alone! According to the National Retail Federation, 68% of holiday consumers will likely shop the week after Christmas. Nearly 50% plan to take advantage of post-holiday sales and promotions, and 27% plan to use gift cards. And more than half of shoppers say they will return or exchange any unwanted gifts or holiday items within the first month after receiving them.
- But, just as shoppers should scrutinize the bargains on Black Friday, they need to do the same for post-Christmas deals.
- “Don’t assume that a sale is a good deal,” said Julie Ramhold, of DealNews.com, a deal comparison website. “Do price comparisons.”
- Read more about tips for post-Christmas shopping from Anne D’innocenzio HERE.
Air ambulance flips while landing at Alabama airport
- A helicopter ambulance flipped onto its side while landing at an airport in Alabama.
- The Survival Flight helicopter wasn’t carrying any patients when it flipped during the Christmas evening landing, The Dothan Eagle reported. The pilot was hospitalized after the crash at Headland Municipal Airport and two other crew members escaped serious injury, Headland police Chief Mark Jones said.
- The pilot, 61-year-old Douglas Davis, later died. Henry County Coroner Derek Wright told WTVY-TV that Davis most likely suffered a heart attack. An autopsy is pending.
- Read more HERE.
Trumps wish Americans ‘Merry Christmas’ as they mark holiday
- PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are wishing Americans a Merry Christmas as they celebrate the holiday with their family in Florida.
- “The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas,” the first lady said in a video message recorded at the White House and released Wednesday. “We say a special prayer for those military service members stationed far from home and we renew our hope for peace among nations and joy to the world,” Trump said in the message.
- The first family is spending the holiday at the president’s private club in Palm Beach, attending a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church
- Trump was seen briefly speaking to attorney Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Trump defender on cable news who was dining in the ballroom. The Harvard Law School professor emeritus has been the subject of discussions about joining the president’s impeachment legal team.
- Read more HERE.
Notre Dame rector: Fragile cathedral might not be saved
- PARIS (AP) — The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says the Paris landmark is still so fragile that there’s a “50% chance” the structure might not be saved, because scaffolding installed before this year’s fire is threatening the vaults of the Gothic monument.
- “Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he said.
- The 12th-century cathedral was under renovation at the time of the accidental April fire, which destroyed its roof and collapsed its spire. With no more roof to keep the massive stone structure stable, the cathedral’s surviving vaults are crucial to keeping it standing, but they are vulnerable.
- Some 50,000 tubes of scaffolding crisscrossed the back of the edifice at the time of the fire, and some were damaged. Removing them without causing further problems is one of the toughest parts of the cleanup effort.
- Full story HERE.
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