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Top News Links: Thursday, April 21

Medicaid commissioner defends funding request

In an hourlong presentation, Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar presented an overview of the agency’s funding, spending and eligibility requirements. Medicaid asked for a $100 million state funding increase but only got $15 million. During the presentation, Azar stressed that the program had little left to cut and the agency’s current General Fund allocation would force them to lose services needed by Medicaid recipients. – Montgomery Advertiser

Real estate outlook cools for second quarter

The professional real estate community’s outlook for second quarter 2016 cooled somewhat over last years’ robust expectations. All of the overall residential and commercial indicators remain quite positive, comfortably over 50 but down somewhat from last year levels. – Alabama News Center

Venerable Junior League Thrift Shop to come down

Construction on the $45 million redevelopment of the Empire Hotel is well under way and as part of the project, the developer will be taking down the old Junior League Thrift Shop building.  The Empire Building at 1928 1st Ave. N. will become Empire Hotel, a luxury hotel with a restaurant, 117 bedrooms, a gym, lounge, meeting space and rooftop bar. – AL.com

Bill to replace marriage licenses gets through House

An Alabama House committee has approved a bill that would replace state-signed marriage licenses with contracts in a bid to free probate judges from signing licenses for gay couples. The House Judiciary committee voted Wednesday for the bill, which passed the Senate in March. – AP/ABC3340

Costco looking to expand its chicken options

Costco plans to open a poultry processing plant, probably in Nebraska, to beef up the profit margins of its chicken rotisserie business, which generates $60 million in annual sales. The retailer will retain its partnership with Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., which currently produces chickens for Costco in Alabama. – Forbes

Payday loan reform inches ever closer to reality

Everyone agreed at a House committee meeting Wednesday that payday loan reform loan is closer than ever. “I don’t want ... to let our citizens wait any longer on what we all agree is needed reform in this industry,” said Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook. But when it passes is anyone's guess. – Montgomery Advertiser

Tax incentives bill for broadband expansion dies

An Alabama lawmaker tells Watchdog.org his business-friendly broadband expansion bills are dead in the 2016 legislative session. “We have decided to wait until next year on them,” said Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville. “We got started too late this year.” – Watchdog.org

Bill to send BP money to coast stuck in committee

If a bill currently stuck in committee in Montgomery dies, nearly $1 billion dollars in settlement money will trickle into the state slowly, with Alabama getting $53 million a year over the next 18 years. If Senate Bill 267 becomes law, it will steer $260 million directly to Mobile and Baldwin counties for transportation projects. – WPMI

Mark Whitworth takes COO role at Knight Eady

The Southeastern Conference's associate commissioner for men's basketball is leaving the conference for an executive role in a Birmingham sports marketing firm. Mark Whitworth will start as the chief operating officer at Knight Eady on May 16. – AL.com

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