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Top News Links: Wednesday, Feb. 10

Feds OK changes for state Medicaid program

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have approved Alabama's plan to switch its Medicaid program to managed care, Gov. Robert Bentley announced Tuesday. The federal blessing capped three years of work on the proposed overhaul, including back-and-forth negotiations over whether the state would adequately fund the health care program for the poor and disabled. – AP/Lebanon Daily Record

Obama’s NASA budget cuts deep space rocket spending

President Obama's 2017 NASA budget proposal - the last he will offer as president - would cut $800 million from this year's spending on the new deep space rocket being developed in Alabama. It's an "eyebrow-raising decrease," one national space blogger said Tuesday. – AL.com

Alabama House passes taxpayer, credit bills

Alabama House Republicans passed two bills on their agenda Tuesday, but not without a lengthy fight. The first, sponsored by Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City, moves the power to appoint the taxpayer advocate in the Department of Revenue from the commissioner to the governor. – Montgomery Advertiser

IRS employee pleads guilty to massive tax fraud

Federal prosecutors in Alabama say an IRS employee has pleaded guilty in scheme involving more than $1 million in tax fraud. Authorities said Tuesday that 39-year-old Nakeisha Hall pleaded guilty to theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer and conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud. – Alabama News Net

Bill proposed to slow monument removals

Confederate monuments first erected after the Civil War to honor Southern soldiers have increasingly been targeted by civil rights activists who say they are offensive to blacks and should be taken down. An Alabama legislator wants to make sure that doesn't happen without state lawmakers' approval. – AP/Business Insider

Bill would create accounts for special needs children

A bill to give parents of children with special needs state money to attend non-public schools won’t hurt the education budget, the bill’s sponsor said. House Bill 84, by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, would allow parents to access money that would be allocated to local schools and use it instead for an education program of the parents’ choosing. – Decatur Daily

Sears speeds up closing of 3 Kmarts in Alabama

Sears Holdings Corp. announced Tuesday it would accelerate the closing of unprofitable stores this year after fourth-quarter sales were down 7.1 percent. Fifty stores, including Kmarts in Florence, Prattville and Dothan, will close as the company looks to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust its asset base and transform its business model. – AL.com

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