Daily News Digest – January 1, 2021

Daily News Digest – January 1, 2021

Presented by the

Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition

Good morning and Happy New Year!

I hope you and your family have a blessed and prosperous 2021.

Today marks not only a much-needed restart after a tumultuous year, it also marks three years of operation for Alabama Daily News. We’ve grown since then, both in number and output, and we’re having fun reporting What Happened, Why it Matters and What’s Next.

A special thank you to all who have supported our work financially through advertisements, promotions and ADN Insider subscriptions. We are grateful for your trust.

It feels good to write this: Here’s your Daily News for Friday, January 1, 2021.

1. Baker bringing bill to fix teacher retirement imbalances

  • Some lawmakers will try again in 2021 to change the retirement benefits for newer teachers in an effort to attract and retain more educators.
  • Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, said House Bill 93 focuses on correcting some of the imbalances between Tier I and Tier II benefits, but it doesn’t create a Tier III as legislation he proposed in 2019 and 2020 did.
  • House Bill 93 would allow Tier II teachers to collect their retirement after 30 years of service, as opposed to waiting until age 62 under current rules, and allow them to rollover unused leave each year, which isn’t currently allowed under Tier II but is under the older Tier I.
  • “Those were two of the overarching disparities that needed to be addressed given that you have educators in the same line of work and performing the same essential duties, but yet on two different tracks in regards to their retirement,” Baker told Alabama Daily News.
  • Unlike his previous bills, HB93 does not increase the 1.65 multiplier, which determines how much retirees earn. The legislation does increase teachers’ contributions to their retirement from 6% to 6.75%.
  • The bill also changes the beneficiary benefit of retirement-eligible teachers in active service to “Option 2,” allowing the beneficiary to receive 100% of the teacher’s salary should he or she die. Currently, beneficiaries receive 50% under Tier II.
  • “This can help retain retirement-eligible education employees that want to continue working but are worried about not being able to provide for their families if something happens to them prior to retirement,” David Bronner, RSA’s chief executive officer, said in the December issue of RSA’s monthly newsletter. “With the health uncertainties for many older employees, this change would be extremely important.”
  • Full story from Mary Sell HERE.




2. Pelosi likely speaker again, but vote will be ‘tricky’

  • There’s little doubt that Nancy Pelosi will be reelected House speaker when the new Congress convenes Sunday. It could take a high-wire act for her to get there, largely thanks to the pandemic.
  • The only woman in history to serve as speaker, the California Democrat has a reputation as a formidable vote-counter and wily deal-cutter. Those skills have helped her fend off threats and cement her as leader of her party in the House since 2003, and seem likely to carry the day on Jan. 3, when the Constitution requires the new Congress to begin.
  • The full House elects the speaker, and Democrats will have the chamber’s smallest majority in 20 years in a vote in which Republicans are certain to vote unanimously against her, joined by Democratic defectors. Democrats will have a 222-211 edge, with one race still undecided and one vacancy after Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, R-La., died Tuesday after battling COVID-19.
  • To avoid risks of exposure to COVID-19, the House altered its rules this year to let its members vote by proxy from their homes, but that change dies with the old Congress.
  • “I still have people come up to me who say, ‘Well, I can vote remotely, right?’” House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said earlier this month of his colleagues. “No, you can’t.”
  • “It’s extraordinarily tricky” for Pelosi, said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., an 18-year congressional veteran. Still, he said, he expects her to prevail “because I don’t see what the alternative is” for Democrats.
  • Full story HERE.





A message from the

Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted Alabama’s digital divide and the significant need for the expansion of rural broadband all across our state.
  • High-speed broadband is a basic personal necessity in today’s society and will bring an array of benefits related to education, telemedicine, economic development and agriculture.
  • Currently, Alabama ranks 38th in the nation in terms of broadband access, but for Alabama to thrive in a 21st century economy every Alabamian should have access to a reliable internet connection.






3. Restoring longleaf pines, keystone of once vast ecosystems


  • When European settlers came to North America, fire-dependent savannas anchored by lofty pines with footlong needles covered much of what became the southern United States.
  • Yet by the 1990s, logging and clear-cutting for farms and development had all but eliminated longleaf pines and the grasslands beneath where hundreds of plant and animal species flourished.
  • Now, thanks to a pair of modern day Johnny Appleseeds, landowners, government agencies and nonprofits are working in nine coastal states from Virginia to Texas to bring back pines named for the long needles prized by Native Americans for weaving baskets.
  • Longleaf pines now cover as much as 7,300 square miles — and more than one-quarter of that has been planted since 2010.
  • “I like to say we rescued longleaf from the dustbin. I don’t think we had any idea how successful we’d be,” said Rhett Johnson, who founded The Longleaf Alliance in 1995 with another Auburn University forestry professor.
  • Scientists estimate that longleaf savannas once covered up to 143,750 square miles, an area bigger than Germany. By the 1990s, less than 3% remained in scattered patches. Most are in areas too wet or dry to farm.
  • Johnson and alliance cofounder Dean Gjerstad spread the word about the tree’s importance. “We were like Johnny Appleseed — we were on the road all the time,” said Johnson, who retired from the alliance in 2012.
  • Full story HERE.



4. Nashville bombing spotlights vulnerable voice, data networks

  • The Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville led to phone and data service outages and disruptions over hundreds of miles in the southern U.S., raising new concerns about the vulnerability of U.S. communications.
  • The blast seriously damaged a key AT&T network facility, an important hub that provides local wireless, internet and video service and connects to regional networks. Backup generators went down, which took service out hours after the blast. A fire broke out and forced an evacuation. The building flooded, with more than three feet of water later pumped out of the basement; AT&T said there was still water on the second floor as of Monday.
  • The immediate repercussions were surprisingly widespread. AT&T customers lost service — phones, internet or video — across large parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. There were 911 centers in the region that couldn’t take calls; others didn’t receive crucial data associated with callers, such as their locations. The Nashville police department’s phones and internet failed. Stores went cash-only.
  • At some hospitals, electronic medical records, internet service or phones stopped working. The Nashville airport halted flights for about three hours on Christmas. Rival carrier T-Mobile also had service issues as far away as Atlanta, 250 miles away, because the company uses AT&T equipment for moving customer data from towers to the T-Mobile network.
  • “People didn’t even realize their dependencies until it failed,” said Doug Schmidt, a Vanderbilt University computer science professor. “I don’t think anyone recognized the crucial role that particular building played” in the region’s telecom infrastructure, he said.
  • Full story HERE.



5. Auburn ignoring upheaval, hoping to beat No. 15 Northwestern

  • It’s been a whirlwind three weeks for Auburn, given longtime coach Gus Malzahn getting fired on Dec. 13, new coach Bryan Harsin being introduced 11 days later, several players opting out of the Citrus Bowl and the Tigers hurriedly trying to prepare for a showdown against a stout Northwestern defense.
  • The dizzying stretch, Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris said with a shrug and a sigh, has been something of a microcosm of how the unpredictable and disappointing 2020 season has gone for the Tigers (6-4).
  • “It’s kind of been the norm. It’s what we have had to deal with all year long,” said Morris, who will work alongside interim head coach and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in Friday’s game at Camping World Stadium. “You don’t know one day to the next or one game to the next who is going to be out there with all the uncertainties that we’ve had to deal with. So really, it’s business as usual.”
  • It’s unclear how much of the Auburn team interim coach Steele will have at his disposal against Northwestern. Steele said his team found out Thursday morning — just hours before leaving for Orlando — that an unidentified player had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be available. Standout running back Tank Bigsby is questionable because of injuries, while wideout Anthony Schwartz, safety Jamien Sherwood and defensive back Christian Tutt opted out because of either injuries or hopes of avoiding them ahead of the NFL draft.
  • Read more HERE.





A message from

Alabama Daily News

  • Don’t get left out!
  • The legislative session is only 32 days away and, while we don’t yet know what exactly the schedule will look like, it’s a good bet that access to the State House will be limited due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • Not to worry. You can still reach lawmakers by advertising with Alabama Daily News! In fact, there is no better way to put your company or organization’s message directly in front of the Legislature, constitutional officers, congressional delegation and associated staff than through a promotion in the Daily News Digest.
  • Reserve your space today!



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill would ‘modify’ teachers’ retirement benefits
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pelosi likely speaker again, but might require high-wire act
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Restoring longleaf pines, keystone of once vast ecosystems
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Nashville bombing spotlights vulnerable voice, data networks
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Auburn ignoring upheaval, hoping to beat No. 15 Northwestern
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump push on $2K checks flops as GOP-led Senate won’t vote
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Missouri senator to join Brooks in contesting Biden’s Electoral College win
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Jones in quarantine after wife tests positive for COVID-19
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pandemic, economic fallout, elections: the stories that defined 2020 in Alabama
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Will Whatley: To Better Days Ahead
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 31, 2020
AL.COM – ‘My whole world went away’: 2020 through the eyes of Alabamians
AL.COM – 2020 refuses to concede
AL.COM – 2020 hindsight: Drawing this year of chaos to a close
AL.COM – New Alabama parole system head is a reformer: Q&A with Cam Ward
AL.COM – What will Alabama’s economy look like in 2021?
Montgomery Advertiser – LifeSouth blood drive planned for Jan. 8 in Pike Road
Montgomery Advertiser – Vintage Cafe in Cloverdale temporarily closes after worker tests positive for COVID-19
Montgomery Advertiser – Bad New Year’s Day weather for Alabama? System could bring storms
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Local bars prepare for New Year’s Eve celebrations
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Red Cross officials say Alabama is in critical need of convalescent plasma
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Causey Middle School teacher charged with rape
Tuscaloosa News – Two people die in head-on collision in Tuscaloosa County
Tuscaloosa News – Kids welcome 2021 during celebration at Children’s Hands-On Museum
Decatur Daily – Good Deeds Person of 2020: Kenya Congress, the funnel cake queen
Decatur Daily – Despite pandemic, business expansion continues
Decatur Daily – Ready to Work an option for seniors without a plan after high school
Times Daily – 2 schools to operate with hybrid schedule in January
Times Daily – “Plunge into New Year” marks fifth year
Times Daily – Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign surpasses goal
Anniston Star – NobleBank golf tourney raises $75,000 for local charities
YellowHammer News – Two CWD cases suspected in NE Mississippi, first ever within 25 miles of Alabama border
YellowHammer News – Alabama hospitals’ lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, pharmacies to remain in Conecuh County
YellowHammer News – South Alabama conservation group changes name
Gadsden Times – Boaz woman dies in New Mexico crash
Gadsden Times – Gadsden Airport Authority to meet
Gadsden Times – Unity in the Community/MLK Day Parade canceled for 2021
Dothan Eagle – The Latest: Bangkok shuts down venues as virus spreads
Dothan Eagle – Florida crime dropped, murder rose in first 6 months of 2020
Dothan Eagle – ‘Our children die in our hands’: Floods ravage South Sudan
Opelika-Auburn News – Which restaurants are open on New Year’s Day?
Opelika-Auburn News – Remembrance project works bring to light Lee County’s history of racial violence
Opelika-Auburn News – Black players bemoan loss of community basketball courts
WSFA Montgomery – Judson College to stay open for spring semester
WSFA Montgomery – State superintendent gives update on teacher vaccination plan
WSFA Montgomery – COVID-19 vaccine trial at UAB only requires one shot
WAFF Huntsville – Distilleries, breweries that helped make hand sanitizer could now face a fee
WAFF Huntsville – Red Cross officials say Alabama is in critical need of convalescent plasma
WAFF Huntsville – COVID-19 numbers at all time high in Lauderdale, Colbert county going into the new year
WKRG Mobile – Causey Middle School softball coach charged with rape, sodomy in Tuscaloosa
WKRG Mobile – More than 40 people given coronavirus treatment instead of vaccine
WKRG Mobile – Crime map: Mobile police respond to shooting near Gorgas Park
WTVY Dothan – Alabama actively remains in phase 1A of vaccine distribution
WTVY Dothan – The City of Ozark is ready to ring in the New Year
WTVY Dothan – COVID-19 testing offered in Enterprise and Dothan in January
WASHINGTON POST – The stock market is ending 2020 at record highs, even as the virus surges and millions go hungry
WASHINGTON POST – Only one covid-19 treatment is designed to keep people out of the hospital. Many overburdened hospitals are not offering it.
WASHINGTON POST – Wisconsin pharmacist who ‘intentionally’ spoiled more than 500 vaccine doses is arrested, police say
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump’s Focus as the Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him?
NEW YORK TIMES – Sasse Slams G.O.P. Effort to Challenge Election Results as a ‘Dangerous Ploy’
NEW YORK TIMES – Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Toss Election Lawsuit Against Pence
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Lessons From a Crazy Year in Financial Markets
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Year Ends With Record-Breaking Month in U.S. for Covid-19
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Covid-19 Stalked Nursing Homes Around the World

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