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Tennessee Valley News Week in Review 2-9-2024

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.

Alabama lawmakers released details this week regarding proposals for a state lottery, as many as 10 casinos, sports betting, and a statewide gambling regulatory commission. If the legislation passes the Legislature, voters would decide whether to approve the package with a constitutional amendment during the general election in November. AL.com reports revenues from the lottery would support education, while revenues from the casinos and sports betting would go to the state General Fund.

Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) has introduced a bill that would make protesting outside of someone’s home a misdemeanor in Alabama. The bill would make protesting near a residence a Class C misdemeanor while a second or subsequent offense would be a Class B misdemeanor. WHNT TV reports the bill also includes language that requires police to offer a warning before arresting anyone for protesting near a house.

Gov. Kay Ivey and some state senators unveiled a plan this week to direct $100 million of state money into a new form of school choice. If the bill becomes law, Education Savings Accounts could be available to some Alabama families by the start of the 2025-26 school year. AL.com reports money would cover as much as $7,000 in educational expenses for families who don’t want to send students to their local, zoned public school. The state would prioritize support for low-income families and students with disabilities first, and then gradually phase in options for eligible families.

Alabama’s starting teacher pay could be going up to $47,600 - the highest among neighboring states. That’s a 7.6% increase, topping previous raises teachers have received. Teachers with three or more years’ experience will get a 2% raise. AL.com reports the raise impacts all K-12 and community college education employees. If lawmakers say yes, this would be the fourth consecutive year teachers have received raises.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has named Joseph Pelfrey director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Pelfrey has served as acting center director since July 2023. A news release from the agency says Pelfrey began his NASA career as an aerospace engineer in the Science and Mission Systems Office, going on to serve in various leadership roles within the International Space Station Program, the Marshall Engineering Directorate and the SLS Spacecraft/Payload Integration and Evolution Office. He was appointed as Marshall’s deputy center director in April 2022.

USA Today has nominated Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama to compete in their 10Best Readers’ Choice “Best National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S.” contest. Fifteen thousand sand hill and a few endangered whooping cranes visit the refuge in the winter. You can vote once a day by visiting USA Today’s 10Best National Wildlife Refuge page here: https://10best.usatoday.com/awards/travel/best-national-wildlife-refuge-2024/wheeler-national-wildlife-refuge-decatur-alabama. The election ends March 4th at 11AM.

From February 16 to February 18, the city will host the first-ever Huntsville City Soccer Fest. The festival is a collaboration between the Huntsville City Football Club and the Huntsville Sports Commission. The event will feature three main events, the Huntsville City FC Blastoff Battle, the Soccer Fest High School Invitational and Falcon Fest. The Blastoff Battle is a friendly four-team tournament featuring Huntsville City FC, pro teams from Chattanooga and South Georgia and the UAH Men’s Soccer Team at Wicks Family Field at Joe Davis Stadium. The Soccer Fest High School Invitational will feature some of the top soccer programs in the state facing off at the Loretta P. Spencer Sports Complex. WHNT TV reports Falcon Fest will pit several local boys and girls varsity and junior varsity teams against one another on Friday and Saturday. The tournament is being hosted by St. John Paul II Catholic School at the Merrimack West Soccer Complex. More information is at https://www.huntsvillesports.org/events/huntsville-city-soccer-fest/