Ala GOP Revamping Education; Illegal Lizards in Panama City

Tegus lizard
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The Alabama Education Association was once the unquestioned power in the Alabama statehouse. But that's changed since Republicans won a supermajority in the House and Senate in 2010.
Lawmakers around the country have made significant changes to teacher tenure, expanded charter schools and introduced different versions of voucher programs. But in Alabama, these kinds of changes have been part of a political upheaval not seen in most states.
The GOP leaders say they're just improving a poorly performing system that has put teachers and other school workers above children's education. AEA's new leader, Henry Mabry, says Republicans are attacking and further weakening public schools themselves.
Both sides say the education debate will be a major factor in the 2014 legislative elections.

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) -- An Athens church is celebrating the opening of a new building two years after tornadoes destroyed its former sanctuary. The Bethel Church of Christ planned a special service Saturday evening to mark the second anniversary of the April 27, 2011, tornadoes.

TROY, Ala. (AP) -- Police in Troy have charged a 56-year-old man with felony murder in the slaying of a woman who was shot in the head during a domestic argument. Troy police arrested Russell Douglas Senn on Friday. He was ordered to be held at the Pike County Jail on $100,000 bond.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- State wildlife officials say almost three dozen exotic lizards have been captured in a Florida Panhandle neighborhood where a licensed seller abandoned them.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff captured 33 black-and-white tegu lizards this week in a Panama City neighborhood.
Investigator Jerry Shores says the lizards appeared after a previous resident licensed to sell tegus left town and abandoned them. Releasing exotic species into the wild in Florida is illegal.
Shores said most of the South American lizards were found in a fenced-in yard. Most measured up to 4 feet in length and weighed up to 30 pounds.
Wildlife officials are asking residents to report tegu sightings but to leave capturing them to professionals.

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. (AP) -- Researchers are testing the remains of a humpback whale that washed ashore in central Florida for contaminants.
A boater spotted the estimated 40-foot-long humpback whale carcass Wednesday in Canaveral National Seashore.
Researchers from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute have been collecting organs and bones spread across the beach, including 18-inch-wide vertebrae. The bulk of the whale's carcass was left in a remote area to wash back out to sea.
Research assistant Teresa Mazza tells Florida Today that the whale likely died about a week ago.
Humpback whales are an endangered species. Mazza says the remains were too decomposed to help researchers determine what caused the whale's death, but she also says researchers haven't found anything unusual.
Mazza says a couple humpback whale carcasses wash ashore in central Florida each year.

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) -- One adult and four young children have been killed in an early morning fire in a Georgia city about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta. A spokesman for the state insurance commissioner says a call about the fire came in at 1:17 a.m. Saturday. Glenn Allen says Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has ruled the fire accidental.

MACON, Ga. (AP) -- Streets in downtown Macon are being closed this weekend to accommodate filming of the movie "Need for Speed." "Need for Speed" is a DreamWorks Studios film adapted from a popular videogame series of the same name.