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Tennessee Valley News Week in Review 12/1/2023

Catch up on the biggest news about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley
Catch up on the biggest news about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley

Catch up on the week's biggest stories about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley.

Lawyers for the first inmate scheduled to be put to death with nitrogen gas argued in court filings last week that Alabama is seeking to make him the “test case” for an experimental execution method. They asked a federal judge to the block the January execution. Attorneys for Kenneth Eugene Smith filed an amended lawsuit challenging the proposed new execution method as a potential violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama Daily News reports they asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to block the execution from going forward next year. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey set a Jan. 25 execution date for Smith using nitrogen hypoxia. The execution method is authorized in Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma but has never been used to put an inmate to death.

Alabama is set to start issuing one-time tax rebates of up to $300 this week. If you qualify, you don’t need to take special steps to claim your rebate. The department of revenue will start issuing the payments on Dec. 1 by direct deposit or paper check, depending on how you received your 2021 tax refund. Direct deposits will be made to the same bank account that was used to issue your 2021 tax refund. If you did not receive a 2021 tax year refund, you will get your rebate by paper check. Checks will be mailed to the current address on file depending on your recent income tax filing.

Every school in the Madison County School System is now equipped with a security screening system. The OpenGate system consists of two freestanding pillars that screen people with bags, backpacks and purses. Mark Minskey, Madison County Schools Chief Operations Officer tells WHNT TV it’s a walk through system like you’d see at the Trash Pandas or a Huntsville Havoc game. Employees designated to supervise the system were trained to operate it earlier this month.

Huntsville community leaders are looking for ways to increase affordable housing options for the city’s workforce. The Huntsville Planning Commission approved zoning for three developments at its Nov. 21 meeting. AL.com reports two projects in the Huntsville portion of Limestone County are near major employers including Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Polaris and the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Greenbrier. A development in north Huntsville is near Toyota Motor Manufacturing and other employers in the North Huntsville Industrial Park and potential future employers along the Northern Bypass that is under construction.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell is campaigning to make Rosa Parks Day a federal holiday every December 1. That’s the anniversary of Parks’s arrest in Montgomery in 1955, which played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. It sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which led to the desegregation of public transportation and played a part in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. WHNT TV reports that if passed, Rosa Parks Day would be the first federal holiday in our nation’s history to honor a woman, and to honor a Black woman. Parks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and was the first woman in America to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about package thefts or “porch pirates” during this time of year. To help avoid thefts, the sheriff’s office recommends residents track packages, require a signature, use a video doorbell system, or have packages delivered to a neighbor or the worksite.