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Top News Links: Friday, April 15

Drummond begins contract talks in Colombia

Drummond, Colombia's second-biggest coal producer, has started talks with three small workers' unions to seek agreement on labor conditions and benefits, though it has been unable to meet with the main coal syndicate, the company said on Thursday. Some 4,905 Drummond workers are affiliated with five unions. The Alabama-based company has been unable to initiate discussions with the biggest union, Sintramienergetica, and the smaller Sintradem. – Reuters

Board of Education appoints new acting superintendent

Alabama has a new interim chief educator. The State Board of Education appointed veteran educator Dr. Phillip Cleveland as acting superintendent on Thursday. His first day in the new role is Friday. Cleveland led the Department of Career and Technical education under former superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice, who retired in March. – WBHM

Alabama’s spending transparency ranks near bottom

State governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Public accountability helps ensure that state funds are spent as wisely as possible. Alabama, though, has scored poorly in a new study of spending transparency as compared state by state. – News release

Bill expands definition of vehicle service contract

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law HB 7, which amends section 8-32-3 of the Code of Alabama. Specifically, the bill defines road hazard and expands the definition of a vehicle service contract to include certain damages caused by a road hazard; the replacement of an inoperable, lost, or stolen key or key fob; and other services approved by the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. – Lexology.com

Teacher evaluation bill given flunking grade

The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate says he is shelving his education bill for the session after continued resistance to the idea of tying teacher evaluations to test score improvement. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said that he was frustrated by the pushback from some education groups. – AP/Tuscaloosa News

Toyota donates 45 engines to tech schools

Automotive students received a helping hand from one of America's largest auto manufacturers this week with the donation of 45 state-of-the-art engines. Toyota officials made the announcement at its Huntsville headquarters Thursday afternoon, surrounded by representatives from Limestone, Madison, Morgan, Marshall, DeKalb and Cullman counties. The donations enable tech students to experience hands-on learning with real Toyota engines. – EnewsCourier

Alabama Leadership Conference coming May 12

Nationally renowned speakers Deborah Reeser McKinnon, John Riley and Sharon Lovoy will highlight the Alabama Leadership Conference presented by Troy University Continuing Education on May 12 on the University’s Montgomery Campus. The one-day, intensive conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the second floor of Whitley Hall on the Montgomery Campus. – News release

Tourism generates $777M in Montgomery County

Travelers spent $777 million and were responsible for 11,981 jobs last year in Montgomery County, according to a report conducted for the Alabama Tourism Department. This represents a 7.5% increase in traveler spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation. – Alabama News Network

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