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Top News Links: Tuesday, March 3

Hard work begins today in State House

Lawmakers are set to assemble in the State House today for the start of an Alabama legislative regular session likely to be dominated by budgetary and prison issues. Both issues will defy easy solutions. The state's General Fund budget, which pays for most non-education funding in the state, faces a deficit of at least $250 million, due to flat revenue growth, rising costs in Medicaid and Corrections and lawmakers' hitherto opposition to taxes. – Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama Supreme Court upholds school act

The Alabama Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act, ruling for a broad interpretation of constitutional rules addressing the drafting and passage of legislation. The Alabama Accountability Act, passed in 2013, allows families of students in public schools designated as failing to claim tax credits to use toward private school tuition. – Montgomery Advertiser

State politician stands by his billboard

State Senator Bill Holtzclaw, who stands at the center of a political controversy involving Governor Robert Bentley and Madison County roads, says the billboard he posted last week has done exactly what he intended it to. “The billboard has proven to be very effective, which was the intent,” Holtzclaw said at a news conference Monday afternoon in Madison. It says: “Governor Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi, Senator Bill Holtzclaw.” – WHNT.com

Pizitz Building redo under way in Birmingham

Construction on the $66 million renovation of the Pizitz Building in downtown Birmingham started this week. Bayer Properties is renovating the historic building at 2nd Avenue North and 19th Street and it will be open in fall 2016. Built in 1923, it originally housing the Pizitz department store, which closed in 1988. – AL.com

Senate Republicans reveal no-hike agenda

Republicans in the Alabama Senate released their legislative agenda Monday, promising to scale back state government and overhaul numerous programs, in contrast to the $700 million tax hike Gov. Bentley proposed last week. The agenda includes 11 bills with topics ranging from prison, Medicaid and education reforms to economic development. – Yellowhammer

Site Selection ranks Cullman as a top Micro

Site Selection magazine's ranking of Top Micropolitans — cities of 10,000 to 50,000 people which cover at least one county — placed Cullman as third from the top. Findlay, Ohio, was tops among the nation's 576 micropolitan areas, followed by New Philadelphia-Dover, Ohio. – News release

Budget 2016 for military includes Austal

Top military officials detailed their 2016 budget request to lawmakers at a House subcommittee hearing last week. The U.S. Navy's spending plan included funding for the construction of nine different vessels, including the Austal USA-built littoral combat ship. – AL.com

Community Health divests Riverview

Community Health Systems Inc. announced today that company subsidiaries have completed the sale of Riverview Regional Medical Center in Gadsden to subsidiaries of Prime Healthcare Services LLC. The transaction also included related outpatient services at the hospitals. The transaction date was March 1. – BusinessWire 

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