Alabama’s 2020 legislative session begins Tuesday in Montgomery, where the state’s prison crisis and another effort to let Alabamians vote on a lottery promise to be must-watch issues. There’s also the state’s budgets, both with more money and more demands in 2021, and possible raises for state employees and teachers. Increased mental health services, which most agree haven’t been properly addressed in years, and legalizing medical marijuana are also on the table.
Gov. Kay Ivey will give her third State of the State speech Tuesday evening. Read more about some of the issues expected to be debated.
The Jefferson County Commission will decide Thursday whether persons and businesses doing business with the county will have to pay more for the convenience of using credit cards when paying bills at the county’s Revenue Department. The department sought a resolution during today’s committee meeting to add 1% to a transaction amount with a minimum of $1.95 for over-the-counter electronic payments. Read more.
The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority recently rejected a proposed budget that would have increased bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50. It would’ve also cut some bus service. Executive Director Frank Martin recently signed a contract to lead the transit authority. Some say he has a tough road ahead. The bus system is plagued with problems around efficiency and revenue. Martin, in part, blames the transit board, saying they’ve been unwilling to compromise. He tells WBHM’s Janae Pierre riders aren’t paying enough into the system, and neither is the city of Birmingham.
A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says Alabama’s community corrections program unfairly burdens low-income people and threatens public safety. Community corrections, operating in 51 of Alabama’s 67 counties, is overseen by the state Department of Corrections but run locally. It’s designed to be an alternative to prison. The report’s main criticism is that community corrections relies on fees as a primary revenue source. These include fees for drug testing, supervision or electronic monitoring. Read more.
Roland Washington checked off the names of his neighbors who had come to buy groceries at the mobile store that twice a month visits his apartment complex near Tarrant, an area of Birmingham that has few to no options for fresh food.
The mini crowd-control task for which Washington volunteers his time is managing the people who come to take advantage of the wholesale-priced fresh produce, meat and other food provisions sold on a first come-first serve basis. He makes sure no more than a few people enter the trailer at a time.
For Washington and his neighbors, that mobile grocery store is the difference between getting fresh vegetables and fruits or not. The Corner Market, the mobile grocery store run through a program of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, is an initiative aimed at relieving the difficulties faced by people who live in food deserts. Food deserts are defined as areas where at least 500 people live more than half a mile from a full-service grocery store.
The lack of access to fresh food is a problem faced by people across the world. About 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Nearly half of them are low-income.
Closer to home, almost 2 million people in Alabama live in food deserts, according to a 2015 report on food access by the The Food Trust. In Jefferson County, that number is 205,657.
In Birmingham, 69 percent of residents live far enough away from a grocery store to make it difficult for them to obtain fresh food, Mayor Randall Woodfin told the City Council in a meeting this spring. He said part of all nine council districts exist in a food desert.
The Corner Market and other mobile grocery stores are one way communities are trying to alleviate the difficulties for people who live in food deserts. Read more.
Voters in Alabama and across the country attended Voting Rights Vigils on Aug. 6 to mark the 54th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act and call on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Read more.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeal of Jefferson County sewer ratepayers from the 11th Circuit Court, effectively ending the county’s bankruptcy proceedings, Jefferson County Commissioners were told today.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said following the commission committee meeting.
County attorney Theo Lawson said the ratepayers who sued have 25 days from Monday to take further action. That is unlikely, he said. Read more.
When legislators adjourned sine die, they left the state in important ways as they found it at the beginning of the legislative session in March.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Bills that would have funded major prison construction, increased money for Medicaid, reduced payday loan interest rates and changed teacher tenure and evaluation laws all were introduced but died during the session.
That’s not to say legislators did nothing. Read More.