August 24 Morning News

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August 24, 2012, Morning News

State officials are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Isaac in the Caribbean and will decide later if drastic measures are needed — such as reversing interstate highway lanes or ordering mass evacuations. Governor Robert Bentley says if Isaac appears to threaten Alabama he will stay in the state and cancel plans next week to go to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. The National Weather Service’s John De Block says most experts believe Isaac will likely come up the west coast of Florida and could affect the Florida Panhandle or Alabama.

Officials with Alabama’s Department of Homeland Security say the agency has been steadily losing funds during the past decade. The Anniston Star reports the department’s federal funding this year is less than one-tenth of what it was in 2003. Department officials say state funding ($374,000 this year) is used mostly to meet the demands of Alabama’s immigration law.

Some administrative employees in Alabama’s court system received big raises this year as the court system struggled with budget cuts and fewer employees. Two lawyers in the Administrative Office of Courts got 31 percent raises. One computer person got nearly a 28 percent raise. And five other employees received raises ranging from 7 to 13 percent. The raises occurred while pay increases were frozen for employees in most state agencies. The court system’s director, Alyce Spruell, says she approved the raises to keep some employees who were offered higher-paying jobs elsewhere and to compensate workers who took on extra duties due to employee cutbacks. She says it was a business decision and she has no qualms about it. She says her agency has about one-third fewer employees than it did a year ago.

Alabama lawyers who want to rake in the bucks might consider moving to Dothan. Business Insider recently named Dothan one of the five U.S. cities where lawyers make the most money. Attorneys in Dothan make a median salary of just over 170-thousand dollars. That’s more than 57-thousand dollars more than the average lawyer. The study points out that the trade group National Trial Lawyers is based in Dothan, which may be a contributing factor. San Jose, California, topped the highest paid lawyers list. Many of those attorneys work for the Silicon Valley’s thousands of technology companies.

The Alabama House’s Democratic Caucus has chosen Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden to remain as House Minority Leader. Ford has served as minority leader since the 2010 elections, when Republicans won control of the House and Senate. House Democrats announced Thursday that members had voted to keep the same leadership until the 2014 elections.