Montgomery, AL – State school Superintendent Ed Richardson says that if the financial picture of the education budget doesn't improve for next year, it may require fees for students to play sports and ride buses.

Richardson told legislators yesterday (Tuesday) -- quote -- "it's all on the table, all being discussed." He said it's too late to impose such fees this school year, which already is under way, but it may be necessary for the 2004-2005 school year if the budget crisis continues.

Birmingham, AL – A new kind of health insurance policy being sold by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama could help plug a gaping hole in state medical care.

According to the state Insurance Department, uninsured Alabamians can get private health insurance through the company if they sign up by November 30th. Coverage is guaranteed for Alabama residents under 65 years old, regardless of their health, although pre-existing conditions will not be covered for 12 months.

Montgomery, AL – Alabama tradition calls for new state budgets to be bigger than the ones they replace, but Republican Bob Riley is breaking that tradition -- and many others -- in his first year as governor.

Riley opened a special session of the Legislature yesterday by proposing cut-to-the-bone budgets that provide no money for textbooks, classroom computers or college aid and eliminate funding to scores of programs held dear by legislators.

Montgomery, AL – Legislators were cautious yesterday when asked about Governor Bob Riley's proposal to release an extra five-to-six-thousand nonviolent prisoners on parole as a way to cut spending and ease prison overcrowding.

House Majority Leader, state Representative Ken Guin of Carbon Hill, said the proposal scares him. He said the justification is that they are all eligible for parole. Guin said -- quote -- "so are Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, but that doesn't mean I want them on the street."

Birmingham, AL – Forty years have passed since a bomb killed
four black girls on a Sunday morning at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and a chapter was closed with the recent convictions of two one-time Ku Klux Klansmen long suspected in the crime.

But the tragedy remains painfully fresh in Birmingham. The church walls still bear cracks caused by the explosion on September 15th, 1963.

Montgomery, AL – A lightweight model of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument will go on tour. It will be the centerpiece of a "Save the Commandments Caravan" that will go from Montgomery to the steps of the U-S Supreme Court in Washington, D-C. It will leave Montgomery on September 28th.

Washington, DC – Since writing one of the toughest plans to deal with illegal aliens, Georgia Congressman Charlie Norwood has become public enemy Number One for those seeking a softer approach.

Critics of the Georgia Republican's Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act envision a nightmare scenario in which local police departments are strained and racial profiling runs rampant.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Shape Note singing has a long tradition in Alabama. The musical form dates from the 19th century and has taken divergent paths to its current incarnation. Alabama Public Radio's Lance Kinney brings us some of Shape Note singing's history in the state.

This feature report was written by Kathie Farnell and produced by Alabama Public Radio. It was supported by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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