Presented by the
Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition
“Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today…
“That’s right woodchuckers, it’s Groundhog Day!“
Here’s your Daily News for Tuesday, February 2.
1. Session begins
- As prescribed by the state constitution, members of the House and Senate will convene today to begin the 2021 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature.
- I’ll state the obvious: it’s going to be weird.
- I remember being in the State House last year on Friday, March 13 as the Legislature was trying to adjourn for Spring Break when the coronavirus was becoming a real concern. It was that day when everyone started looking at each other differently and washing their hands a lot. Things haven’t been the same since and won’t be for a while.
- Passing the state’s two budgets is the Legislature’s only constitutionally required action each year. But in a COVID-19-altered session that will be anything but regular, even the most basic of tasks could prove to be a challenge.
- “Hopefully we can keep the budgets on the fast track, but when you look at the budgets and the work that needs to be done, it’s probably middle to end of March, preferably the first of April, before we could get budgets out,” Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told Alabama Daily News.
- The current General Fund budget is $2.39 billion; the education budget is $7.2 billion.
- Lawmakers will know more when January revenue reports and 2022 projections are released this morning from the state’s budget experts.
- Let’s go over today’s schedule…
- At 9:30 a.m., Deputy Legislative Services Agency Director Kirk Fulford will give a briefing on state revenue projections.
- At 10:15, State Finance Director Kelly Butler will offer his thoughts and presumably take some questions about the governor’s budgets (but don’t expect too much information until his more thorough presentation on Wednesday).
- At noon, the House and Senate will gavel into session.
- At 2:00 p.m., Rep. Bill Poole will hold a work session to go over the economic development proposals that are before the Legislature.
- And at 6:30 p.m., Gov. Kay Ivey will deliver her State of the State address, this time a solo event live from the Capitol rotunda.
- You can watch/listen to legislative action HERE. The governor’s address will be streamed HERE.
- And, while you might not be in the State House, we will be and we have you covered.
- Read more about the budget situation and the uncertainty therein HERE.
- Read a thorough preview story about the legislative session at large HERE.
- Read more about the COVID-19 access restrictions HERE.
- Read more about Ivey’s pay raise proposals HERE.
- Read more about the economic development proposals HERE.
2. Prison leases signed
- Gov. Kay Ivey signed lease agreements for two men’s prisons on Monday, part of her plan for three new facilities the state will lease for 30 years at an estimated total cost of about $3 billion.
- Construction for the two facilities is expected to begin later this year or the beginning of 2022.
- “I am pleased that we have reached this important milestone in the Alabama Prison Program, the cornerstone of a multifaceted strategy to address the ADOC’s longstanding challenges and failing prison infrastructure,” Ivey said in a statement. “ADOC’s existing dilapidated infrastructure is failing at a rate of one facility every two years, exorbitant deferred maintenance costs are rising by the day, and the Courts may act imminently if real progress is not made soon – given all these risks, there is not one minute to spare.”
- The two lease agreements are with entities of prison builder CoreCivic. They will construct, own and maintain the facilities. It will be the Alabama Department of Corrections that staffs and administers the prisons.
- A fact sheet from the governor’s office says the leases, maintenance agreements, are subject to an “affordability limit” of $88.6 million as indexed to fiscal year 2022. The first payment in 2025 will be about $94 million and will increase from there.
- The governor’s office did not release financial details of the agreements saying those would become available “once financial close is achieved with CoreCivic.” Alabama Daily News reported over the weekend that the total lease cost for the three prisons is estimated at slightly more than $3 billion.
- The plans are not without controversy and criticism. Many on the left are decrying the building of more prisons to begin with instead of first addressing the systemic violence that the state is currently being sued for by DOJ. Some on the right are questioning the cost, especially since it seemed to go up suddenly over the weekend.
- Read about all that from Caroline Beck HERE.
A message from the
Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition
- Access to fast, reliable internet is something all Alabamians should have.
- It’s good for business, offers our students more educational opportunities and gives us all a better quality of life.
- Too many places in our state remain disconnected from this game-changing technology. The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition is working to change that, and we want you to be a part of it.
- We’ve launched the first installment of a new video series that tells our story and why it matters.
- Click HERE to learn more about the work and growth of the ARBC as well as the proactive policy solutions that are helping to bridge the digital divide in Alabama.
3. Alabama debuts online scheduler for COVID-19 vaccinations
- Alabama on Monday launched an online portal for people to check their eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations and make appointments.
- The Alabama Department of Public Health said the site at https://www.alcovidvaccine.gov/ will allow those eligible to make an appointment if shots are available in the person’s county of choice. The portal also provides information about additional drive-through and walk-in clinics being offered.
- Starting Feb. 8, Alabama will expand who is eligible for the vaccine to: everyone 65 and older; educators; court officials; corrections officers; postal employees; grocery store workers; some manufacturing workers; public transit workers; agriculture employees; state legislators and constitutional officers.
- Read more HERE.
4. Biden meets with GOP senators
- President Joe Biden met for two hours late Monday with a group of Republican senators who have proposed a slimmed down $618 billion coronavirus aid package that is only a fraction of the $1.9 trillion he is seeking. Skeptical Democrats vowed to push ahead in Congress with or without GOP support.
- No compromise was reached from the lengthy session, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House. But the Republicans said there was agreement to keep discussions going over their smaller, more targeted package that would do away with Democratic priorities but might win GOP support and appeal to Biden’s hopes to unify the country.
- “All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses and an overwhelmed health care system,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a leader of the effort, flanked by the other GOP senators outside the White House.
- She called it a “frank and very useful” conversation, noting that the president also filled in some details on his proposal.
- The two sides are wide apart, with Republicans focused primarily on the health care crisis, tapping into bipartisan urgency to shore up the nation’s vaccine distribution and vastly expand virus testing with $160 billion in aid. That is similar to what Biden has proposed. But from there, the two plans drastically diverge. With less economic aid, the GOP’s $1,000 direct payments would go to fewer households than the $1,400 Biden has proposed, and the Republicans offer only a fraction of what he wants to reopen schools.
- They also would give nothing to states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with $350 billion in Biden’s plan to keep police, fire and other workers on the job.
- Read more HERE.
5. For GameStop day traders, the moment they’ve dreamed about
- They’ve endured a financial crisis. Two deep recessions. Mounds of student debt. Stagnant pay. Costly health care. Dim job prospects.
- They’ve seen the uber-rich grow richer while a pandemic threw tens of millions of people out of work and left many more isolated and vulnerable at home.
- Now, they feel, it’s payback time.
- Nearly a decade after the Occupy protest movement left Wall Street more or less unscathed, the citadel of financial might faces a new assault.
- Day traders, mobilized on a subreddit page, have poured about all the money they can find into the stocks of a struggling video game retailer called GameStop and a few other beaten-down companies. Their buying has swollen those companies’ share prices beyond anyone’s imagination — and, not coincidentally, inflicted huge losses on the hedge funds of the super-rich, who had placed bets that the stocks would drop.
- Their strategy, of course, is freighted with risk. The prices of the stocks they’ve bought are now multiples above any level justified by revenue, earnings or future prospects. The danger is that at any time, the stocks could collapse.
- Maybe so. But as one Reddit user wrote Friday, asserting that hedge fund financiers would drink Champagne as they looked down upon Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2011:
- “I’d rather lose it all than give them what they need to destroy me … I’ll burn it all down just to spite them.’’
- Read more from Paul Wiseman HERE.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers cautious of ‘uncertain environment’ for 2022 budgets
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama’s 2021 session starts with two-week focus
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lottery, virus liability, prisons before lawmakers in 2021
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – COVID-19 protocols limiting public access to legislative session
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey signs leases for two prisons
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama debuts online scheduler for COVID-19 vaccinations
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AEA selects Amy Marlowe as executive director
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Biden meets with Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – For GameStop day traders, the moment they’ve dreamed about
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Broadband expansion to underserved areas could cost $4B-$6B
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama Farmers Federation celebrates 100 years
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Weekend Digest – February 1, 2021
AL.COM – Only 37.5% of nursing home workers are getting COVID vaccine
AL.COM – State probing stabbings of corrections officers in clash that injured 2 inmates
AL.COM – Dauphin Island Sea Lab facing long recovery from Hurricane Sally
AL.COM – A week after Fultondale tornado: Supplies still needed as county seeks federal aid
AL.COM – Alabama Attorney General: Execution can go forward with COVID precautions
AL.COM – Alabama lawmaker wants to raise penalty for removing historical monuments
AL.COM – Ivey signs leases for 2 new prisons; costs not released
AL.COM – Alabama GOP lawmakers push back against gun, security restrictions at Capitol following riot
AL.COM – Contributor State Rep. Mike Ball: Politics, not the pandemic, is holding up the Alabama Legislature
Montgomery Advertiser – Dreamland to open second Montgomery location out east and reopen Tuesday in downtown
Montgomery Advertiser – Alabama COVID-19 vaccine phases: Here’s what you should know
Montgomery Advertiser – Eclectic woman killed Saturday in 3-vehicle wreck near Wetumpka
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama COVID-19 vaccine phases: Here’s what you should know
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa officials: Utility work will limit Jack Warner Parkway traffic into spring
Tuscaloosa News – Gov. Ivey signs two Alabama prison leases; long-term project costs could be $3 billion
Anniston Star – Ivey signs leases for two prisons
Anniston Star – Calhoun County officials still hammering out plan for expanded COVID vaccines
Anniston Star – Broadband expansion to underserved areas could cost $4B-$6B
YellowHammer News – Birmingham-based Coca-Cola UNITED accepting applications for sixth annual internship program for HBCU students
YellowHammer News – Website launched for Alabamians to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments, check eligibility
YellowHammer News – Monday is Unclaimed Property Day — State of Alabama currently holding $1B+ worth
Gadsden Times – Two killed in Jackson County crash
Gadsden Times – Deadline to apply for Community Development grants extended
Gadsden Times – Alabama COVID-19 vaccine phases: Here’s what you should know
Dothan Eagle – Alabama health department launches online portal for COVID-19 vaccinations
Dothan Eagle – Dothan leaders to decide funding priorities for 2021 capital projects this week
Dothan Eagle – Wiregrass United Way exceeds 2020 goal, over $3 million raised
Opelika-Auburn News – B. Turner’s to replace another family-owned department store at Auburn Mall
Opelika-Auburn News – Alabama health department rolls out new online COVID-19 vaccine tool
Opelika-Auburn News – Lanett High School athletic director: ‘It looks like we’re going to have to start over as a program’
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – How some people are skipping the line and getting the COVID vaccine even though they are not yet eligible
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – COVID-19 variants: Will tests be affected?
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as good as the others and will you get to choose which one you take?
WSFA Montgomery – ADOC investigating ‘use of force’ incident between officers and inmates at Donaldson Correctional Facility
WSFA Montgomery – One person injured in shooting outside manufacturing company in Opelika
WSFA Montgomery – ADPH launches COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, scheduling portal
WAFF Huntsville – Bill in consideration to fine violators $10K daily after a monument is moved
WAFF Huntsville – Senators from other states not giving up Space Command fight
WAFF Huntsville – Morgan County man facing charges of corpse abuse
WKRG Mobile – Bill introduced to provide PTSD-related coverage to first responders
WKRG Mobile – Mobile police chief responds to video of weekend fight downtown
WKRG Mobile – Some Fultondale tornado victims still need help finding permanent housing
WTVY Dothan – Wiregrass United Way meets 2020 fundraising goal of $2.9 million
WTVY Dothan – Wiregrass youth prepare for state-wide theatre competition
WTVY Dothan – Enterprise High School band member lands spot on national ensemble
WASHINGTON POST – Biden, Senate Republicans hold lengthy meeting on coronavirus relief bill
WASHINGTON POST – As House GOP faces decision on its future, McConnell defends Cheney, rebukes Greene in rare set of statements
WASHINGTON POST – The danger of right-wing mobs is real. Fencing at the U.S. Capitol won’t help.
NEW YORK TIMES – Republicans Pitch Biden on Smaller Aid Plan as Democrats Prepare to Act Alone
NEW YORK TIMES – 77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump’s Sleight of Hand: Shouting Fraud, Pocketing Donors’ Cash for Future
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Robinhood Raises Another $2.4 Billion From Shareholders
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Facebook to Counter Apple Privacy Update With Its Own Prompt
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Biden Meets Republicans to Discuss Their Covid-19 Stimulus Plan
Front Pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)