Lawmakers Try to Keep Settlement Local, Baldwin Task Force Talks School Funding

Jul 23, 2015

Robertsdale High School, Robertsdale, Ala.

State lawmakers from Mobile and Baldwin Counties are drafting legislation to try and keep a large portion of the BP oil settlement money near Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

The proposed bill would request $500 million of the $1 billion currently destined for the state’s General Fund budget to instead be dedicated to the Gulf region. The projects that legislators would like to see funded in the area are primarily major road construction.

State Representative Margie Wilcox of Mobile wants to see the money used to finance Alabama Department of Transportation projects like the new I-10 Mobile River Bridge and highway projects on U.S. 98 in Mobile County and the Baldwin Beach Express.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said earlier this week that he opposes dedicating any portion of the state’s settlement money to specific counties, saying the money belongs to the state. But lawmakers believe that once the governor sees the details of their proposal, he may reconsider.

Wilcox and other south Alabama lawmakers are expected to introduce that legislation once the special session reconvenes August 3rd.

A community task force is meeting tonight in Baldwin County to try to find more money for local schools.

Voters shot down a tax referendum a few months ago. That left Baldwin County’s school system to brainstorm ideas for more funding. They created a task force to analyze the school system’s operations.

Terry Burkle is the director of the Baldwin County Education Coalition and is also a part of the task force. She says the leadership team has several priorities they will address.

“They will focus on identifying recommendations that they feel are sound and that the majority of the citizens of Baldwin County would be willing to get behind and embrace, support, to move us forward.”

The task force will be transparent to taxpayers in Baldwin County. The meeting is set for this evening at Robertsdale High School.

A forum on the dangers of heroin and other drugs will take place today at the Huntsville Public Library.

The event is sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community. The group’s mission is to educate the public on the drug trends impacting young people.

Deborah Soule is executive director of the partnership. She says the forum is open to all who want to learn.

“We want parents, we want high school kids, we want elementary school, we want them all, because there’s something for everybody. And it’s just important that you understand what’s going on. There’s a lot of denial. It’s usually, ‘It’s not my kid. My kid doesn’t do things like that.’ But it could be your kid.”

Soule says representatives from local law enforcement and the Department of Public Health will be on the panel to provide information to those in attendance. The event is free and runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

A federal judge is considering a lawsuit filed by an Alabama inmate seeking a temporary release from jail so she can get an abortion.

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon scheduled an emergency hearing on the request for next Monday afternoon in Huntsville.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed suit Monday on behalf of a female inmate identified only as Jane Doe. She's in the Lauderdale County jail.

The suit against Sheriff Rick Singleton asks that the woman be given a 48-hour jail furlough or supervised transportation to Huntsville for the abortion. They argue that denying the woman an abortion would constitute cruel and unusual punishment on the part of her jailers.

Singleton says a court order is required for any elective surgery. But the ACLU says the woman shouldn't have to go to court since abortion is a legal right.

The lawsuit says the inmate knew she was pregnant before she went to jail and tried to schedule an abortion before her incarceration.