Category: Government

Trump’s State of the Union Address

WBHM

President Trump delivered his State of the Union address, which the White House said would outline a “policy agenda both parties can rally behind.” Yet the speech follows the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and the deadline to avoid another one is in less than two weeks. NPR reporters covering the White House, Congress, immigration, national security and more annotatedhis remarks live, adding context and analysis. Read more.

State of the Union: Democrats’ Response, annotated.

Sewer Rate Town Hall Postponed, Despite Protests, Because of Lawsuit

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Jefferson County Commission as it assembled for its committee meeting today, announcing that it’s postponing a scheduled town hall meeting on sewer rate increases because of pending litigation.

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, accused commissioners of being cowards by putting off the event that had been set for 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at Regions Field.

“The County Commission is running like scalded dogs,” Rogers said following the commission’s committee meeting. “Sewer rates are going to go up anyway and (residents) don’t know why and they’re concerned. They’ve got a right to know.”

Rogers said he may host his own town hall meeting. Read more.

Druid Hills Renewal Plan Expanded, Now Includes Carraway, McArthur School Properties

Birmingham is expanding its plans for the Druid Hills neighborhood. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to amend the Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan by 104 acres to include blighted areas such as the vacant Carraway Hospital and F.D. McArthur School campuses.

Inclusion in DHURP is intended to make the area more conducive to potential developers, Michael Ward, a senior planner at City Hall, told the council. It gives the city authority to provide incentives for projects located in urban renewal districts, such as clearing land, constructing or reconstructing streets, installing utilities, assisting with property acquisition and selling property it owns for below market value. Read more.

Jefferson County’s New Sheriff Redesigns Star on Badges to Mark Change. Cost, $27,500.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway is putting his mark on his department, beginning by changing the star that he and his deputies wear and that is the centerpiece of signs in offices and on the sides of vehicles.

“We went to a 6-pointed star (because) we wanted to make changes throughout the whole department,” Pettway said. “We want to put my mark on everything, so we changed the star from a 5-pointed star to a 6-pointed star.”

Pettway, who unseated 20-year Sheriff Mike Hale in November, has a badge that has his name on the front. Hale’s star also had his name on the star. Changing the star is customary when a new sheriff is elected.

Captain David Agee, the department’s public information officer, said each new badge costs $50. With 550 sworn deputies, that brings the cost to $27,500. “We will have the money to cover it with the adjustments that the sheriff has made to our current budget,” Agee said. “We also have as an alternative a discretionary fund if we need to cover it with it.”

The painting of signs on buildings and vehicles is covered under a preexisting maintenance contract, Agee said.

Doug Jones Plans Summit to Explore HBCU Challenges

By WBHM, 90.3

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones will host the first annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit Friday at Lawson State Community College. There, Jones says, educators, administrators, and students will discuss factors that pose the greatest threat to HBCUs, and opportunities ahead, specifically in terms of funding. Read more.

Alabama’s Federal Employees Return to Work as Federal Shutdown Is Temporarily Ended

Federal employees in Birmingham and across the state returned to work Monday after a record-setting, five-week partial federal shutdown that affected about 5,500 workers, almost 10 percent of the state’s 50,000 federal employees.

About 120 of these federal employees work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown Birmingham, where most of the workers had been furloughed.

A first priority at the office Monday morning was getting employees’ time recorded and approved quickly “so folks can get the past two paychecks,” said U.S. Attorney Jay Towns.

Another priority for employees back at their desks after five weeks was checking and responding to weeks of voice mails and emails. Employees are prohibited from responding to messages or doing any government business while on furlough.

“Folks are happy to be back at work and that the funding lapse is over for now,” Town said. Read more.

Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Jan. 25

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House and Senate last week voted for a continuing resolution that reopened federal government operations through Feb. 15.

However, there were no roll-call votes on the final version of HJ Res 28, so the votes of senators and representatives were not recorded.

The House and Senate approved the measure Jan. 25 and President Trump signed it into law the same day, ending a 35-day government shutdown.

There were votes last week on other unsuccessful bills aimed at reopening the federal government. Here’s how area members of Congress voted on those and other bills during the legislative week ending Jan. 25. Read more.

State Asks Judge to Protect Confederate Monument While Lawsuit Appealed

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall fired the latest salvo in the battle over historical monuments in the state, filing a motion to stay a Jefferson County judge’s ruling that the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act is unconstitutional.

Then-Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Graffeo said in his Jan. 14 ruling that the law essentially forced a pro-Confederacy message on the city of Birmingham. Read more.