August 9 Morning Newscast

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August 9, 2012, Morning Newscast

A judge says a fired network executive can go ahead with his lawsuit claiming Alabama Public Television commissioners violated the state’s open meetings law by holding a closed-door session to discuss his firing. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker issued the ruling Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by Allan Pizzato over his dismissal as executive director of the state’s public television network. Pizzato sued after commissioners fired him and another executive. The judge says lawyers can continue collecting evidence, and he scheduled another hearing for September 4. More than a half-dozen members of a board linked to the network and another public television official have quit since the firings. Some commissioners are pushing for Christian-themed programs on the network, and leaders eliminated a diversity clause from its mission statement. Read extensive coverage of this case here.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says the state asked a federal court to approve a redistricting plan for the Alabama Legislature because it’s legal and possibly quicker than seeking preclearance from the U.S. Justice Department. Strange told reporters Wednesday that assertions by Democratic legislative leaders are untrue that the Republican AG is asking a federal court in Washington to review the plan because he believes it will lead to the election of more Republicans. He said last year the state filed suit asking the courts to approve Congressional and state school board lines, but the U.S. Justice Department went ahead and pre-cleared the districts. Asked if going to court was a way to get the justice Department to act quicker on preclearance, Strange said, “It’s worked out that way.”

The Democratic nominee for Alabama chief justice says he will file monthly reports of his campaign contributions to keep his spot on the November ballot. The Democratic Party received a petition Tuesday from a Huntsville voter seeking to have Pelham attorney Harry Lyon disqualified for not filing campaign finance reports. Lyon said he was following advice from the state attorney general that he didn’t have to file as long as he had not raised or spent $25,000, but party Chairman Mark Kennedy disagreed and told him to file. Kennedy said Wednesday he will review Lyon’s campaign finance reports next week and then decide on his status. Lyon is running against Republican Roy Moore.

State officials say an online hoax is spreading untrue rumors about voting registration in Alabama. Secretary of State Beth Chapman says email messages and Facebook posts are claiming people need to re-register to vote in the upcoming election if they haven’t voted since 2008. But Chapman says the messages aren’t true. She says voters’ names will still be on the voter lists regardless of whether they voted in past elections. Chapman says federal law specifically prohibits states from removing people from voter rolls for failing to cast ballots.

A job fair featuring more than 100 employers drew an estimated 5,000 people seeking work in Birmingham. People began lining up three hours before the event began Wednesday at the city’s convention center. The job fair was put together by the office of Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes part of metro Birmingham and much of the state’s impoverished Black Belt region. Sewell says the unemployment rate in her district is 18.8 percent, or more than 10 percentage points above the national level. She says the high rate is based on an insufficient number of jobs, not on an unwillingness to work. Companies participating in the job fair had to be hiring for positions that are currently open.

The state environmental agency is awarding $2 million in grants to promote recycling in Alabama. The city of Troy will receive the largest amount, $292,000. The second-largest amount, $248.000, goes to Dothan. In the Birmingham-metro area awards range from $7,246 for recycling in Columbiana to the $246,800 awarded to Jefferson County’s health department. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management says the grant money can be used to begin recycling programs or enhance existing ones. The funds can also go toward educational and outreach programs to promote recycling. The money comes from a $1-a-ton fee imposed on all solid wastes disposed of in Alabama landfills.

Old-fashioned textbooks are becoming a thing of the past for public school students in Huntsville. The city school system is passing out laptop computers to students in grades four through 12 as it converts from paper texts to digital curriculum. WAFF-TV reports that the switch is making Huntsville the largest school district in the United States to convert to digital texts all at once. Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system has been spending about $100 per textbook, and students get about five books each. The computers will cost the district around $3.2 million the first year. Dozens of parents and student lined up for early registration Tuesday. They signed a contract and paid a $35 fee for a laptop, but students on free or reduced lunch were exempt.

Auburn University officials say the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner that were poisoned are now being pruned significantly for safety reasons. The university said in a statement that a tree service contractor is removing weakened branches above the plaza and streets at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue. The work is being done now because there are fewer pedestrians on campus and less vehicle traffic.


Secretary of State investigating Bessemer for potential voter fraud

While rumors of election fraud or irregularities have lingered in the city for years, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill confirmed to WBHM his office is looking into allegations of voter fraud in Bessemer this election cycle.

Local health officials plan to increase monkeypox vaccinations

Health officials will soon begin offering intradermal vaccinations, reaching more people with less vaccine.

Some 3rd graders in local schools could be held back under new law 

This is the first school year that third graders who do not read at grade level by the end of the school year must be held back in that grade, rather than passed on to fourth grade. The Alabama Literacy Act was passed several years ago, but its implementation was delayed because of the pandemic.

How one Birmingham custodian preps for the first day of school

When the kids are away, the custodial and maintenance staff in schools work all summer long. One custodian told WBHM about what it takes to keep the kids happy and healthy as they trade sunshine for fluorescent lights.

Dollar store workers are organizing for a better workplace. Just don’t call it a union.

Fired up by a labor movement that’s seen big union victories recently, dollar store workers are organizing in their own way to improve work conditions.

Bill Clark has a knack for making comebacks. Will he make one more? 

Bill Clark has had to overcome some serious hurdles during his career at UAB, as well as in his personal life. He not only resurrected a football program that had been neglected—and then out-right killed—he’s also been fighting through what he’s called a serious injury since childhood.

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