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Top 10 Alabama stories of 2006

The Top 10 news stories in Alabama in 2006, as chosen by The Associated Press:

1. Government corruption: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted on June 29 of bribery and conspiracy charges following a two-month government corruption trial in Montgomery. Siegelman also was convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge. Both men are appealing, and they could face sentencing in 2007.

2. Church fires: Nine isolated churches in West Alabama were set afire over two nights in February, alarming rural congregations statewide. Three former college students were arrested and pleaded guilty in federal court to setting the fires, but they still face state charges.

3. School bus wreck: Four students were killed on Nov. 20 when a bus carrying 40 students careened off an overpass on Interstate 565 in Huntsville and plunged nearly 30 feet to ground.

4. Two-year college scandal: The president of Alabama’s two-year college system was fired and a former legislator pleaded guilty in an ongoing investigation of nepotism, spending irregularities, misuse of scholarships and other problems in the system.

5. American Idol: The trend of Alabama residents finishing at or the near the top of the American Idol competition continued. Taylor Hicks of Hoover, with his prematurely gray hair and lively performing style, won the 2006 competition on Fox TV in May.

6. Governor’s election: Alabama Gov. Bob Riley cruised to a second term. Riley easily defeated former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the Republican primary and then beat Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley in the general election.

7. Prison overcrowding: Alabama’s new prison commissioner, Richard Allen, managed to eliminate the backlog of state prisoners in county jails by the end of the summer. A judge had threatened to send Allen and his predecessor to jail over the large number of state prisoners in county jails.

8. Orange Beach scandal: Former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo, city attorney Larry Sutley and real estate developer Ken Wall were convicted by a federal jury on numerous public corruption counts after a two-week trial in September.

9. Tax break: The Alabama Legislature gave Alabama’s poorest citizens a tax break in April. Lawmakers voted to raise the threshold where a family of four begins paying taxes from a lowest in the nation $4,600 a year to $12,500.

10. Unemployment: Government statistics showed Alabama’s economy kept humming in 2006. The good news included a 3.2 percent unemployment rate for October and November, the lowest ever in the state.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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