WVAS Local

2016 Legislative Session Almost Over

Apr 26, 2016

The 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature is heading into the home stretch.  Lawmakers have five more days to decide the fate of dozens of high-profile bills.  Among those still in the mix is a gasoline tax.  The proposal would raise the state's gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge construction.  The tax would rise six cents per gallon to bring Alabama in line with neighboring states.  It would then be adjusted every four years to equal the average tax in Alabama's four border states.

Birmingham Honors Prince

Apr 22, 2016

City officials say they plan to illuminate Birmingham City Hall and surrounding city buildings in purple light as a tribute to Prince.  The city said in a statement that the lighting will begin Friday night, and that lights will remain purple for the rest of April.  The 57-year-old musician died Thursday at his home outside Minneapolis.  In Birmingham, Mayor William Bell said the lighting of city buildings "is our small way to pay tribute and say thank you for touching lives." 

Woman Charged with Raping Teenage Boy

Apr 22, 2016

A 32-year-old Tuscaloosa woman is charged with the rape of a 14-year-old boy.  The mother of the boy reported the sexual assault to Tuscaloosa police Friday, said Lt. Teena Richardson.  The department's Juvenile Division took over the investigation, and found the rape took place over a month in the 3400 block of E. University Boulevard at the victim's home.  Heather Ann Klopp is charged with second-degree rape.  She is being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bond set at $30,000.  Richardson said the investigation is ongoing, and more charges could be filed.  

No Response from Governor in State Auditor's Order

Apr 22, 2016

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says he is not responding to the state auditor's order to testify before him.  Bentley issued the statement Friday, a day after State Auditor Jim Zeigler said he was ordering Bentley to appear before him to answer questions about the use of state funds and his relationship with a former staffer.  Bentley said the appropriate legal process was through the Alabama Ethics Commission where Zeigler has already filed a complaint.  The governor said he is cooperating fully with the commission.  

2016 Alabama Book Festival

Apr 22, 2016

The Alabama Book Festival takes place this weekend in Montgomery.  More than 50 authors will be on hand at Old Alabama Town for book signings, readings and workshops.  Among those is Ross Howell Jr.  His novel "Forsaken" tells the story of a Virginia teenager who was executed in 1912 for the murder of her employer.  Howell was recently a guest on the WVAS Perspectives talk show.  Hours for the book festival are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  A full list of events and times is available at alabamabookfestival.org. 

Proposed Prison Project Clears Committee

Apr 22, 2016

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed $800 million prison construction project cleared a major hurdle Thursday, after a committee approved the bill along with a proposed $13 increase in auto title fees as a funding source.  The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee voted 7-4 for a revised bill authorizing an $800 million bond issue to build four new prisons, three regional mega-prisons for men and a new women's prison, and close most existing state facilities.  The vote came after approval of a separate bill to raise auto title fees.

State Auditor Seeks Governor's Testimony

Apr 22, 2016

State Auditor Jim Zeigler says he is ordering Gov. Robert Bentley to testify before him about state funds and if they were used to facilitate a relationship with a former top staffer.  It is unclear if the state auditor, who has often clashed with Bentley has any power to enforce such an order.  The governor's office did not have an immediate response.  Zeigler, citing a section of state code that allows him to get testimony regarding state accounts, Thursday ordered Bentley to appear before him on May 2nd.

House Budget Committee Considers Funding Source

Apr 20, 2016

A House budget committee has delayed action on a bill to use part of the state's BP money for road projects.  Committee members voted Wednesday to carry  over the proposed constitutional amendment.  The bill would have steered the largest share of projects to coastal counties.  Proponents say that would help the region hit hardest and pay for needed infrastructure across the state.  Opponents argued the money should pay back money previously borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund, a state savings account from offshore drilling royalties.

Lawmakers Delay Vote on Prison Proposal

Apr 20, 2016

The budget committee in the Alabama House Wednesday discussed but took no vote on Gov. Robert Bentley's plant to borrow $800 million to build four new state prisons and close most existing prisons.  The committee will take up the bill again at a meeting Thursday.  The plan calls for the state to issue bonds and pay off the debt with savings from consolidating most of the existing prisons.  Most of the projected savings would come from reducing staff size through attrition, reducing overtime costs and reducing inmate health care costs by consolidating care facilities.  

States Consider Opting Out of Food Stamps Ban

Apr 19, 2016

As states look to reduce spending on prison and deal with overcrowded conditions, many are opting out of a federal law that bans convicted drug felons from ever receiving food stamps.  Texas and Alabama lawmakers recently changed their laws to allow food stamps to former drug felons, and Georgia is moving toward a similar change.  The idea is to help ex-offenders stay out of prison, where they would run up a big bill for taxpayers.