July 27 Morning Newscast

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July 27, 2012 Morning Edition News

After weeks of silence, Governor Robert Bentley is finally commenting on the situation at Alabama Public Television. Last month, the Alabama Educational Television Commission – which oversees APT — unexpectedly fired the television network’s executive director and chief financial officer. The commission said it wanted to take APT in a new direction, but the executives maintain they were fired because they protested a suggestion to air a controversial documentary series from a conservative, religious activist. Earlier this week, another APT executive sent a letter to Governor Robert Bentley expressing concerns about the agenda of commission members appointed by the governor. At an economic development event in Cullman, Governor Bentley told Huntsville public radio station WLRH what he thinks the commission’s role should be in overseeing APT.

Yesterday – About a dozen people including religious leaders, Alabama Public Television employees and community members delivered thousands of petition signatures to the APT headquarters in Birmingham. They called on the Alabama Educational Television Commission to not air a controversial documentary series and to reinstate the former executive director and chief financial officer. We’ve got extensive coverage of this issue, including video of the documentary series and photos from yesterday’s petition delivery.

The judge who presided over Alabama’s two gambling corruption trials says the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clear up when a campaign contribution constitutes a bribe. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an opinion saying there is “considerable confusion” about how federal corruption laws apply to campaign contributions. He says a precise definition of bribery would help. The two trials before Thompson involved legislators and lobbyists accused of promising campaign contributions in return for votes on pro-gambling legislation. No one was convicted.

Alabama is asking a federal court to rule that its redistricting plan for the state Legislature does not violate the Voting Rights Act. The state filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking a declaratory judgment. It argues the redistricting plan does not deny the right to vote based on race or color. Democrats in the Legislature have complained the plan was written to favor Republicans and packed black voters in some districts while leaving them with little influence in other districts. Alabama and several other Southern states or counties need federal approval for election changes under the 1965 Voting Rights Act because of their histories of voter discrimination.

A Republican leader in the Alabama Legislature is resigning his seat to go to work for Governor Robert Bentley. Blaine Galliher represents House District 30, which includes Etowah and St. Clair counties. But effective August first he’ll become to the governor’s legislative director. The 63-year-old Galliher is chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. The panel determines the chamber’s daily work calendar and as chairman, Galliher plays a major role in setting the agenda. Galliher was first elected in 1994 as a Democrat. He switched to the Republican Party in 2001. Bentley will set a date for a special election to fill Galliher’s seat. (a side note: Blaine Galliher is the lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would allow students to get high school credit for taking creationism classes from private groups. WBHM’s Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen has an extensive interview with Galliger on this subject.