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SEVERE WEATHER-SCHOOLS
   Storm system delays school openings in central Alabama
  
   BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- With another potentially dangerous
weather system on track for a late night or early morning arrival
in Alabama, schools in some parts of the state announced delayed
openings for today.
   National Weather Service meteorologists said the system has the
potential to spawn isolated tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, heavy
rain, hail and damaging winds.
   Since January, at least 50 tornadoes have hit Alabama, including
a record 11 twisters last month.
   You are urged to monitor weather radios or your favorite media
outlets for the latest weather watches or warnings.
   In south Alabama, Baldwin County emergency officials set up
shelters yesterday in preparation for the storms.
   Many schools and school systems throughout central Alabama
announced last night that schools would open an hour or two later
than normal today.
  
  
2-YEAR DOUBLE DIPPING
   SBOE members, legislators wait for start of double dipping ban
  
   MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The U-S- Department of Justice may have
given a green light to the two-year college system's new policies
against "double dipping," but some say pending lawsuits and other
factors are putting the brakes on implementation.
   School board members and legislators who might have to choose
between their system jobs and duties at the Capitol say they're
taking a wait-and-see approach since it's still unclear when the
changes will begin.
   Chancellor Bradley Bryne said they're making sure everything
with the policies is correct but there's no doubt they will be
started soon.
   Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education
Association, said he wasn't sure the policies could take effect
before a lawsuit filed by the teacher's union was resolved.
   The policies were passed by the state school board in August and
prohibit system employees from holding elected office after 2010.
   Changes in leave and flex time procedures could force several
legislators to choose between their system jobs and their
legislative jobs immediately.
  
  
LACKEY CONVICTED
   Limestone Co. jury recommends death for Lackey
  
   ATHENS, Ala. (AP) -- A Limestone County jury yesterday
recommended the death penalty for a 24-year-old man accused of
killing an elderly man in his home on Halloween night 2005.
   Earlier yesterday, the same jury found Andrew Lackey guilty of
two counts of capital murder in the death of 80-year-old Charles
Newman.
   Lackey was accused of stabbing and shooting Newman to death
during an attempted robbery.
   The jury decided to recommend that Circuit Judge Robert Baker
give Lackey the death penalty instead of life in prison without
parole.
  
  
RILEY-MCCAIN
   McCain announces Riley endorses him for GOP nomination
  
   MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate John
McCain has announced that he has been endorsed by Alabama Governor
Bob Riley.
   McCain's campaign said yesterday that Riley was one of six
governors to give the Arizona senator their endorsement.
   McCain ran second to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in
the Republican presidential primary in Alabama on February 5th, but
he now has a virtual lock on the nomination.
  
  
ELECTION SUIT
   Riley asks judge to release him from voter registration duties
  
   MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Governor Riley has asked a federal judge
to release him from his court-appointed duties overseeing Alabama's
new voter registration system.
   Riley filed a report yesterday with U.S. District Judge Keith
Watkins saying a new statewide computerized voter database was in
place and had no significant problems in last month's presidential
primary.
   Watkins appointed Riley in 2006 to be a special master in charge
of the voter registration system after ruling former Secretary of
State Nancy Worley's office had failed to meet a federal deadline
for implementing it.
  
  
BAXLEY-PSC
   Lucy Baxley qualifies to run for Alabama PSC president
  
   MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Former Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley
is officially back in politics after suffering a stroke.
   Baxley filed qualifying papers with the state Democratic Party
yesterday to run for president of the Alabama Public Service
Commission.
   Baxley had a stroke after losing the general election for
governor in November 2006. Baxley said the stroke didn't diminish
her passion for public service. She said she will campaign all over
the state, but won't make as many appearances as she did in her
race for governor.
   No other Democrats have announced for the post being vacated by
Republican Jim Sullivan. Former state Republican Party Chairwoman
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is the only Republican who has announced,
but others are considering it.
  
  
ALA PERFORMANCE
   Grading states: Alabama improves grade, but still below average
  
   MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's state government improved its
grade to a C plus in a national report card on how governments
serve the public. But Alabama remained below the national average
of B minus.
   The Grading the States report yesterday from the Pew Center on
the States said Alabama has made improvements in financial planning
and budgeting since the last report card in 2005, but the state is
still plagued by overly earmarked taxes.
   Alabama made a C minus in the last report card in 2005 and tied
with California for last place. This time eight states scored lower
than Alabama.
  
  
ALA PLANTING
   Record prices in Ala. farm forecast, offset by planting expenses
  
   MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Encouraged by record crop prices in
Alabama's farm forecast, growers still must find the money to
starting planting while being hit with rocketing costs for fuel,
fertilizer, seeds and equipment.
   The drought also lingers as a threat to the state's
multimillion-dollar farm economy and a late-season freeze would be
a setback.
   But it's the cost of farming that's a major threat.
   Auburn University farm economist Robert Goodman said the price
of fertilizer this year has almost doubled. The price of some
varieties of seed also has doubled and soybean seeds are in short
supply.
   The USDA's projection for record prices for wheat, corn and
soybeans presents an opportunity for profit, depending on weather
conditions.
   The state's winter wheat seedings for this year were estimated
at 170,000 acres -- up 50,000 acres from last year and the most
acreage seeded since 2001. The USDA projects a 6 percent increase
nationwide in domestic wheat use.

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