Alabama's governor has signed legislation meant to reduce severe overcrowding in state prisons. Legislators joined Robert Bentley at a bill signing ceremony Thursday. Alabama prisons house nearly twice the number of inmates they were designed to hold. Mobile state Senator Vivian Figures is a member of the prison reform task force, which crafted the legislation.
Today, the Montgomery Police Department will pay tribute to 28 fallen police officers and recognize the service of current officers at the annual Police Memorial Day Service. Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley and Mayor Todd Strange will place a wreath on the Police Memorial. An awards luncheon will be held this afternoon at the Renaissance Convention Center.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is raiding pain clinics, pharmacies and other locations in four southern states as part of a crackdown on prescription pain drug abuse. A federal law enforcement official says the early morning raids in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are the final states of a nearly yearlong operation by the DEA's drug diversion unit. Since last July about 140 people have been arrested, and agents expect as many as 170 more Wednesday.
It's the Alabama Senate's turn to consider a General Fund budget that would make deep cuts of about nine percent or more to state agencies. The Alabama House, voting along party lines, approved the budget on a 66-36 vote Tuesday. Democrat Patricia Todd of Birmingham was vocal about her opposition. But the legislator who helped to write the General Fund budget, Steve Clouse, said there's a chance that additional revenue will be found. Governor Bentley has called the budget cuts irresponsible and vows to use his veto pen and call lawmakers into a special session.
Alabama's second of two budgets has made its way out of committee and will move on to the full House. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved the Education Trust Fund's nearly $6 billion budget for 2016. Committee Chairman Bill Poole says he expects the budget will be debated on the House floor Thursday. A substitute budget adopted by the House committee would increase funding for the state's school transportation program by $4.5 million. The House version would increase funding for the state's pre-kindergarten program by $10 million.
The House Black Caucus is proposing an alternative General Fund budget that would shift funding to critical state services that includes Medicaid, prisons, public health and law enforcement. Caucus chair, Montgomery Representative John Knight, will hold a news conference today to discuss the budget proposals. Legislators are struggling to find revenue to cover a $200 million shortfall in the General Fund.
Increasingly, young people in the U.S. and particularly Alabama are too overweight for military service. To combat this reality, updated nutrition standards have been implemented in schools since 2010 to encourage healthier eating habit. Mission: Readiness, a group of retired senior military leaders says recent efforts to back off of those standards are misguided. Retired Master Chief Petty officer of the Navy, Jim Herdt says they are beginning to make a difference.
An African-American attorney and former state Senator has sparked a debate by removing Confederate battle flags from the graves of Civil War veterans. Myron Penn said he and his family removed the flags and brought them to the city in Union Springs. Penn said the stars and bars battle flag is a divisive symbol that represents oppression. Since removing the flags, some have called for Penn to be arrested and disbarred. The cemetery is owned and maintained by the Union Springs city government. Mayor Saint Thomas Jr.
Alabama lawmakers could consider a bill that would remove the state Board of Education from the process of confirming a commission that will oversee new charter schools. Republican Representative Terri Collins filed the bill Thursday after several board members declined to confirm a number of nominees. Collins says the bill is necessary to make sure the commission is in place by the June 1st deadline.
Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby of Montgomery said she's troubled after hearing a senior official at the Department of Veterans Affair says the agency is improperly spending at least $5 billion a year for medical care and supplies that are being purchased outside of required practices for competitive bidding and written contracts. Roby, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Oversight committee, said she is preparing legislation that would compel the VA secretary to take VA systems, including the Central Alabama Health Care Facility that fail to meet basic standards.