The Justice Department is establishing a civil rights unit in Alabama after the state’s crackdown on illegal immigration raised broader concerns about compliance with federal laws. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Perez (pictured above) says fewer than 10 such units are located around the country. The nearest is in Memphis, Tennessee. Perez says the move is meant to ensure the federal government has a continuing eye on civil rights issues in Alabama.
Day laborers in Hoover are hoping to put pressure on their landlords to improve their living and working conditions. Around 100 laborers, tenants and supporters gathered in Hoover yesterday protesting for the right to assemble as they look for work. Nadia Marin-Molina of the National Day Laborer Network helped organize the demonstration. Marin-Molina says day laborers have been harassed and told they can’t stand outside the Lorna Road apartments looking for work or waiting for employers to pick them up. The Birmingham News reports that a spokesman for the apartment complex says having people congregate on the property looking for work presents safety problems because of excess traffic.
Governor Robert Bentley says he and legislative leaders are committed to paying back the nearly half billion dollars they want to take from a state trust fund to balance the state General Fund budget. Voters will go to the polls Sept. 18 to decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment taking nearly $146 million a year for three years from the Alabama Trust Fund. The amendment doesn’t provide for repayment, but Bentley says state leaders are committed to seeing that it happens. He says the payback will probably go beyond his current four-year term.
Attorneys generals from Alabama and Georgia are applauding a 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that overturns a regulation clamping down on power plant pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states. Alabama and Georgia joined with 13 other states in challenging the rule. The EPA had adopted the rule in an attempt to cut down on downwind air pollution from power plants. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says the appeals court ruling gives states the opportunity to propose their own plans to control air emissions before the EPA “forces a federal government plan upon the state.”
Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman is appealing the prison sentence that will put him behind bars for more than five years. Siegelman’s attorney filed a notice of appeal yesterday in Montgomery federal court. Siegelman is scheduled to report to prison next month for his 2006 conviction in a bribery case. He’s already lost an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review his conviction; but he’s collecting signatures on a petition urging President Obama to pardon him.
There’s new evidence that many incoming freshman at Alabama’s colleges are likely to struggle in first-year college courses. A new report finds that nearly a third of Alabama’s recent high school grads who took the ACT test did not meet any of the four ACT Colleges Readiness Benchmarks for English, math, reading or science. Another 19 percent met only one benchmark. Just 18 percent of those who took the test in Alabama met all four benchmarks, compared with 25 percent nationally. Officials with the ACT says “far too many high school graduates are still falling short academically”, but they praised Alabama for taking steps to address deficiencies in college readiness.
A business that has been a staple in the college town of Tuscaloosa is opening 16 months after being destroyed by a tornado that ravaged much of the city. Dozens of customers were lined up and wrapped around Krispy Kreme building on McFarland Boulevard when the store reopened at 5 a.m. yesterday by switching on of the “Hot Now” light. The store is located near the intersection of McFarland and 15th Street, considered ground zero for the storm.