The governor has challenged legislators to be leaders as they address the state's budget crisis next year. Robert Bentley, in a speech to first year legislators Thursday, said he wants to make significant changes instead of putting a band-aid on the state's budgets in 2015. The governor also said he is somewhat open to the idea of expanding Medicaid, but the plan would have be designed by the state and would have to participate in a job training program.
The state's graduation rate has soared to 86 percent. State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice released the new numbers Thursday, which represent a six percent increase over last year. Bice says the state is ahead of schedule with the plan 2020 standards. Bice says the record-breaking graduation rate is proof that teachers and students are working harder than ever.
Alabama's Prison Reform Task Force will discuss the state's troubled and overcrowded prison system today. Shelby County Senator Cam Ward, who chairs the panel, said the discussion will center on proposals that would reform the prison system. A federal judge in Montgomery has ordered trial to begin in March 2016 in a lawsuit involving medical care and mental health care for Alabama prisoners.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has hired a familiar face. Former Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy will now hold the position as second in command to Sheriff-elect Derrick Cunningham. Cunningham had mentioned in November that Murphy was in the running for the slot. The sheriff-elect says that he needed someone he could trust who would have his back. Several other candidates were considered, though their names were never released. Murphy retired from the police department, though he says it was not a voluntary retirement.
Alabama is one of 18 states being given federal grants to boost access to preschool programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced today that federal officials are awarding more than $226 million dollars nationally, and Alabama will be given $17.5 million in development grants. The Pre-K Task Force of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance recently announced that it's planning to ask the Legislature to increase its allocation by $13.2 million dollars to help expand preschool access.
The city of Montgomery is one step closer to naming a new police chief, this according to the city's Director of Public Safety Chris Murphy. Murphy tells WVAS News that interviews last week really narrowed the search and that an announcement could be around the corner. Murphy sat on the panel that interviewed the remaining eight candidates last Thursday and Friday.
Authorities in Perry County say criminal charges are pending against a 20-year-old woman after her newborn baby was put in a trash can. The Tuscaloosa News reports that the infant was found last Thursday in the rear of a residence in Newborn, Alabama. The baby is being treated for an infection at Children's of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham. Perry County Sheriff's investigators and District Attorney Michael Jackson said the woman, whose name was withheld, will be charged with attempted murder, when she is released from a hospital in Demopolis.
Governor Robert Bentley placed a wreath at Alabama's Fallen Heroes Memorial wall Monday in tribute to America's fallen service members. The 6th annual ceremony was held in Alabama in observance of the National Wreaths Across America Day, which falls on Saturday, December 13th this year. Bentley says he's honored to have participated in the ceremony for the past four years. Bentley encourages everyone to take a moment during the holiday season to thank veterans for their service.
Veterans Affairs statistics show new patients at the central Alabama system still have among the highest waits for mental health care. New patients seeking mental health care are waiting an average of 67 days. Only three systems in the country have higher wait times. Congresswoman Martha Roby says two months is far too long for a veterans to wait for care. She says that's longer than the 56 days reported in June audit that raised the alarm about wait times at VA facilities. Roby says she would like to see the system make better use of private health care providers.
Interviews began Thursday of the eight candidates vying to become Montgomery's next police chief. Public Safety Director for the city Chris Murphy tells the Montgomery Advertiser that four people were interviewed Thursday and another four on Friday. All of those in the running have previously held executive positions within law enforcement agencies. A four-member panel, including a retired Montgomery police officer, two local community citizens and Murphy himself, are carrying out the interviews.