BRADENTON, Fla. - Alabama enters 2009 still under the cloud created by Jefferson County's lingering sewer debt crisis. A lot is riding on what happens in the first half of the year.

The county's sewer system is $3.2 billion in debt, most of which is in variable- and auction-rate mode, and the debt is covered by out-of-kilter swaps. The situation threatens to push the state's largest county, whose seat is Birmingham, into what would be the country's largest ever municipal bankruptcy.

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