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Prison reform bill hits Senate floor, Huntsville women's mentoring and Gulf Shores sea turtles

Julie Schumacher
Julie Schumacher, acting Deputy to the Commander at SMDC/ARSTRAT, Redstone Arsenal

The Alabama Senate will start debating some sweeping changes to the state's prison system today.

Republican Senator Cam Ward is bringing the bill to the Senate floor, which would change sentencing and probation standards to try and reduce prison overcrowding.

The proposed legislation is based on a year of study by the state prison reform task force. One of the main changes is the creation of a new Class D felony level, which will keep low-level, non-violent offenders out of prison entirely.

Alabama's prisons house nearly twice the number of inmates they were originally designed to hold. Senator Ward says this bill should bring overcrowding down to a level federal courts will find acceptable.

Senators are expecting lengthy debate on this bill.

Women who work at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal will be getting tips on how to get ahead in their careers.

Team Redstone and the North Alabama Chapter of Federally Employed Women are teaming up for a mentoring session geared toward women in the workforce. The event will feature Assistant Secretary of the Army Heidi Shyu as keynote speaker.

Julie Schumacher is acting deputy to the Commanding General at Redstone. She says women are graduating from college at the same rate as men, but then something happens…

“Somewhere along the way in the workforce, they’re dropping out for various reasons. Some of those may be personal reasons. But, if a woman chooses to work outside the home, I think she should be encouraged and have a support system in her work environment.”

The event will also include fifteen smaller breakout sessions. Each of those groups will be led by Schumacher, Secretary Shyu, or by executives or ranking officers at Redstone. The event starts at 1:30 at the Bob Jones Auditorium in Huntsville.

A group that helps safeguard endangered sea turtle nests is looking for volunteers.

Share the Beach is a conservation project for loggerhead sea turtles here in Alabama. The group is training volunteers today to help the thousands of baby sea turtles that hatch on the beaches of Alabama every year.

The trick is making sure hatchlings make it out of their nests and safely into the Gulf of Mexico. Construction along Alabama’s beaches is making it tougher for baby turtles to survive. New buildings mean artificial lights shining at night.

Share the Beach Director Mike Reynolds explains what that can do to the newly hatched babies.

“They come out of the sand and they see all these lights and it just overwhelms the lightness of the water and they start heading towards whatever lights they can see, whether its a kitchen light shining out over the beach or a condo light, they will crawl to that light looking for water. And they don’t find it, they keep on going, and that’s the end.”

Share the Beach volunteers set up light blocking tarps around the nests so the baby turtles make their way to the ocean. In a typical year, there are over eighty turtle nests along Alabama’s beaches.

An Alabama Senate committee approved a bill regulating payday lenders in the state.

The Senate Finance Committee approved what's being described as a “middle path” approach on an 11-1 vote.

The proposed bill is patterned after Colorado regulations. It would give borrowers up to six months to repay the loans instead of just 10-14 days.

Bill sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr says the longer window reduces what borrowers ultimately pay. Orr says borrowers are often unable to repay a payday loan within two weeks, accumulating large fees by rolling over the loan or taking out subsequent loans to pay off the first.

Alabama Arise says the bill is a step in the right direction, but that a limit on interest rates would be a more substantive solution.

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