August 23 Morning News

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August 22, 2012, Morning News

State Treasurer Young Boozer says Alabama’s prepaid college tuition plan will pay full tuition for the fall semester while it waits for a court to rule on the legality of making reduced payments. Alabama’s plan currently has more than 36,000 participants, and more than 19,000 of them are eligible to attend college this fall. The financially troubled program reached a settlement with most participants in 2010 to pay tuition in future years at fall 2010 rates to keep the program afloat. The Alabama Supreme Court struck down that settlement, saying state law didn’t permit reduced payments. The Legislature changed the law in May, and now a judge is considering whether the change can be applied retroactively.

A lawyer representing the University of Alabama fan accused of poisoning Auburn University’s oak trees wants to leave the case before his client stands trial. Birmingham Attorney Louis Willie III filed a request saying he was asked to represent Harvey Updyke for free, yet he’s had to travel to meetings on the case for months and it’s a burden. He says he needs to step aside given the uncertainty over Updyke’s trial date in Opelika. Willie says another lawyer who’s acting as the lead defense attorney can represent Updyke without problem.
A former State senator is suing in state court in Montgomery claiming that legislators violated the Alabama Constitution earlier this year by passing a 2013 budget that was not balanced. The 2013 General Fund budget relies on a transfer of approximately $467 million from the Alabama Trust Fund into state coffers over the next three years. Voters must approve the transfer in a constitutional amendment on the ballot September 18. If the amendment is rejected, the state budget would have to be cut significantly. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by former state Senator John Rice, names Governor Robert Bentley, Finance Director Marquita Davis and Comptroller Thomas White as defendants. Rice wants the court to block use of General Fund money.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. is the only Democrat to sign up to run for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The deadline to sign up was yesterday. The Democratic Party began seeking a new candidate after a party committee disqualified the original Democratic nominee, Pelham attorney Harry Lyon. Lyon says he plans to vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore as a matter of principle. A write-in candidate for chief justice, Mobile attorney Melinda Lee Maddox, says she’s dropping her campaign and supporting Vance.

Alabama has a new state archivist. After a nationwide search, the board of trustees elected Steve Murray to be the director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Murray has been assistant director of the department for six years.

Governor Robert Bentley has set a special election schedule to fill the seat of Republican Representative Elwyn Thomas of Oneonta before the Legislature’s next regular session. Last week, Bentley selected Thomas to become executive director of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Commission effective September 1st. Candidates for the District 34 seat have until September 7 to qualify with their parties. A primary election will be October 23 and the general election will be January 29th, just days before the legislature’s next regular session begins. House District 34 covers much of Blount County and part of northern Jefferson County.