Weekend Digest – December 20, 2020

Weekend Digest – December 20, 2020
Good afternoon! Only five days ’til Christmas!!
Here’s your Daily News for Sunday, December 20.

1. Ivey study group report on expanding gambling released

  • An extensive report from Gov. Kay Ivey’s study group on gambling policy says that if all forms of gambling were allowed in the state, Alabama could see up to $700 million in annual revenue and as many as 19,000 new jobs.
  • “Gambling will work in Alabama and we feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, in that endeavor,” said former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, who chaired the study group, at a news conference announcing the report.
  • The study group was established by executive order in February to examine existing gambling policy and enforcement, as well as the potential costs and benefits of legalizing various activities, so the Legislature could use the findings in crafting proposals. Each year, lawmakers grapple over the gambling issue – from existing slot machine casinos at dog tracks and Indian land to a more expansive turn toward a lottery and table games – but never find a consensus as the disparate interests involved cannot agree.
  • Ivey said she hoped a thorough report with conclusive findings could elevate the debate.
  • “After initial discussions with them regarding their report, I believe their research will be pivotal as gambling policies are being considered, debated and potentially voted on,” Ivey said in a statement.
  • Opponents to gambling argued that the costs to legalization are underestimated and the benefits overestimated.
  • Read more including the whole report from me HERE.

 

2. Agreement could come today on nearly $1 trillion virus aid bill

  • Top Washington negotiators, propelled by a late-night agreement on the last major obstacle to a COVID-19 economic relief package, said a Sunday agreement is all but inevitable to deliver long-overdue pandemic aid of almost $1 trillion.
  • “I am very hopeful that we get this done today,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
  • The breakthrough involved a fight over Federal Reserve emergency powers that was resolved by the Senate’s top Democrat and a senior conservative Republican. Aides to lawmakers in both parties said the compromise sparked a final round of negotiations on a handful of remaining issues.
  • An aide to a key GOP lawmaker said it would likely require all of Sunday to finalize and draft the final agreement, which is already guaranteed to be the largest spending measure yet, combining COVID-19 relief with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill and reams of other unrelated legislation on taxes, health, infrastructure and education.
  • The measure is finally nearing passage amid a frightening spike in coronavirus cases and deaths and accumulating evidence that the economy is struggling. Lawmakers and aides say it would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefits and $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans. It would provide a fresh round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
  • Read more HERE.

 

3. Alabama jobless rate drops to 4.4%, still above 2019 level

  • Alabama’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in November, a big improvement from earlier in the year when it nearly hit 13% but still above last year’s level, the state said Friday.
  • The preliminary, seasonally adjust rate for last month was better than October’s revised rate of 5.7% but higher than the November 2019 level of 2.7%.
  • The rate represented 100,537 unemployed people, according to a statement from the Alabama Department of Labor.
  • Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said it was “truly great news” to see the state jobless rate below 5% after such a turbulent year. The state jobless rate in April reached 12.9%, the worst in nearly four decades.
  • “We’re not where we were prior to the pandemic, and it may take more time to get there, but we’re making progress,” he said. “We’ve got more people working now than at any time since the pandemic started.”
  • Read more HERE.

 

4. Alabama to get fewer doses of virus vaccine than expected

  • Alabama will receive almost 20,000 fewer doses of coronavirus vaccine than initially planned, reducing the number of people who can receive an initial dose in coming days, health officials said Friday.
  • While the state had expected to receive 48,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, the total allocation has been reduced to 29,250 doses, the Alabama Department of Public Health said in a statement.
  • Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, said claims by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that vaccine allotments were not being reduced were incorrect.
  • “Clearly there’s not enough product to go around. There’s not as much as they were anticipating, and no one has given us an adequate explanation,” Harris said.
  • An epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department. Dr. Rendi Murphree, called the reduction disappointing.
  • “But there are going to be ups and downs as things roll on,” she told a virtual news conference.
  • Almost 4,500 people in Alabama, mostly front-line health care workers, have received initial doses of the two-part vaccine since Tuesday, the state said, and the reduction in doses will not affect them since follow-up doses already have been allotted.
  • Read more HERE.

 

5. Infant mortality rate rises in Alabama, stays above average

  • Alabama’s infant mortality rate rose last year but remained among the lowest the state has recorded in more than 50 years, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
  • The agency, in a statement released Wednesday, said the state’s rate last year was 7.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, above the rate the year before of seven deaths for every 1,000 live births.
  • The 2019 rate was the third-lowest in more than five decades, the department said, the infant mortality rate over the last three years was the lowest ever. Still, the state’s infant mortality rate remained higher than the U.S. rate of 5.7 deaths in 2019.
  • Congenital deformities, problems related to low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome were the three leading causes of deaths among infants, accounting for about 40% of all infant deaths, the agency said.
  • Continuing a longstanding pattern, Black babies died at a disproportionate rate compared to white children, the department said. The infant death rate for Black infants was 12% last year compared to 5.6% for white children.
  • “As we work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook the need to assure access to prenatal care and address Alabama’s racial disparities in birth outcomes,” Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, said in the statement.
  • Read the full report HERE.

 

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey study group: $700 million in revenue, 19,000 new jobs if gambling expanded
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Agreement likely Sunday on nearly $1 trillion virus aid bill
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama jobless rate drops to 4.4%, still above 2019 level
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama to get fewer doses of virus vaccine than expected
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Infant mortality rate rises in Alabama, stays above average
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 18, 2020
AL.COM – Alabama just saw worst day for new COVID cases, spread now double summer peak: Week in review.
AL.COM – 4,221 new COVID cases in Alabama; latest county-by-county case totals.
AL.COM – Alabama on sidelines in Big Tech antitrust lawsuits.
AL.COM – Clotilda survivors’ descendants to Mobile: Include us in sharing Africatown’s story with world.
AL.COM – How the loss of a post office is creating unrest in one Alabama city.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – U.S. Rep. Aderholt vows to consider ‘other options’ on 2020 election after SCOTUS declines to hear TX case.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – NASA awards major contract to UAB for space cold stowage.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Joe Wheeler EMC launches ‘world-class’ fiber internet project for Morgan, Lawrence Counties.
NBC15 – Alabama senators comment on gambling study findings.
CBS42 – Proposed mega-prison in Bibb County could affect law enforcement.
DECATUR DAILY – With deadline looming, local governments struggle to spend CARES Act funds.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – COVID-19 cases remain high, but officials say they’re stabilizing.
GADSDEN TIMES – Plant supervisor arrested after winery found.
GADSDEN TIMES – Columnist Elain Harris Spearman: Young people stand up for equal rights.
ANNISTON STAR – Local ‘vaccine strike team’ preparing for Moderna distribution next week.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Restaurants across the South wonder if they can survive the winter.
WASHINGTON POST – Lawmakers reach compromise over GOP proposal to rein in Fed’s powers, clearing path for a stimulus package deal.
WASHINGTON POST – Trump contradicts Pompeo in bid to downplay massive hack of U.S. government, Russia’s role.
WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post: 20 good things that happened in 2020.
WASHINGTON POST – Inoculated health-care workers are now ambassadors for the coronavirus vaccine.
NEW YORK TIMES – A Worrisome Drop in College Aid Applications
NEW YORK TIMES – Who Gets the Vaccine First? Furious Lobbying by Interest Groups
NEW YORK TIMES – Contributor Timothy Egan: The Next 3 Months Are Going to Be Pure Hell
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: Accountability After Trump