By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the Fostering Hope Scholarship bill, SB157. SB157 has already passed the Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s desk.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced in a statement that he supports the bill and will sign it. Gov. Bentley wrote, “The Legislature has given final passage to SB157, establishing the Fostering Hope Scholarship. This program will offer children currently or formerly in Alabama’s Foster Care System the opportunity to receive a college education. We owe it to our children to give them every possible opportunity for a successful life, and this bill helps those in the foster care system prepare for success. I commend the Legislature, specifically bill sponsors Sen. Dick Brewbaker and Rep. Paul Lee, for passing this bill. After a full legal review, I intend to sign it into law.”
SB157, the Fostering Hope Scholarship Act of 2015, creates a tuition scholarship program for current or former foster children in Alabama. The Department of Human Resources is authorized to administer the program, develop rules to administer the program, and establish a support system for participants in the program.
The Fostering Hope Scholarships would also include children who were adopted from the program at the age of 14 or older. Commencing with the 2016-2017 academic year, the program will pay for tuition and required fees at any public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state. It would also pay required fees for job training courses or skill certifications that are offered by any public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state or other publicly funded training programs in the state not considered an associate’s degree, if the courses or certifications are first approved by the department.
The program shall include a mentor service administered by the department as a support system for participants of the college tuition scholarship program. The mentors shall be compensated by the department, as employees or contractors, and will help participants adapt to independent living and to academics and other college or university activities.
Appropriations for the program shall be used by the department on behalf of participants in each fiscal year to pay the tuition and fees. The department may not use more than 10 percent of the total state appropriation made to the program in any fiscal year for costs associated with the mentor service. The department shall develop rules for ensuring that expenses of the Fostering Hope program in a fiscal year do not exceed funding for the program in that fiscal year. The department may limit the acceptance of applications for Fostering Hope scholarships and may limit the award of scholarships.
In no event shall tuition and required fees be paid for more than 72 academic hours toward an associate’s degree or 144 academic hours toward a bachelor’s degree for each participant. The program shall only pay tuition and fees relating to an undergraduate degree.
To be eligible to participate in the program, a scholarship applicant shall satisfy all of the following requirements: be in the legal custody of the foster care program of the department at the time of graduation from high school or earning a General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency certification; or in the permanent legal custody of the foster care program of the department when his or her adoption is finalized, at 14 years of age or older, and has graduated from high school or earned a GED certification. Applicants can not have net personal assets worth more than $30,000 adjusted for inflation and must be younger than 26 years of age at the start of the semester, training program, or certification program for which tuition or fees are requested from the program.
Applicants have to be accepted for enrollment in a degree-granting, training, or certification program, or is enrolled and working toward a degree, certificate, or completion of a job training program, at a public two-year or four-year institution of higher education or publicly funded training program in the state. Applicants must be making adequate progress toward the completion of a degree, certification, or training program as determined by rule promulgated by the department.
Applicants must complete and submit to the United States Department of Education a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or the equivalent, before each year in which he or she receives a Fostering Hope scholarship. He or she shall also have applied for all federal student financial aid grants, including Pell grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, and Education and Training Vouchers, identified as being available for the student’s application by the department or by Federal Student Aid, an office of the United States Department of Education, or its successor agency.
After the first year of participation, an applicant shall also complete annual volunteer service requirements or employment requirements pursuant to rules promulgated by the department and remain in good standing with the policies established by the college, university, or other training or certification program.
Scholarship funds may be disbursed only if sufficient funding for the Fostering Hope program is available.
Scholarship awarded may not be reduced by the amount of any federal aid, scholarship funds, or grant funds otherwise received by the person or by the amount of any private donations made to assist the Fostering Hope program.
Fostering Hope scholarship funds shall be applied to tuition and mandatory fees before any other grant, loan, voucher, or scholarship the student may be awarded to attend a public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state or publicly funded state training program. This act shall become effective on October 1, 2015.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.