No county sales tax holiday: Jefferson County’s one-cent sales tax will not be going away this weekend, despite the efforts of Commissioner Shelia Smoot. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission, Smoot proposed a resolution authorizing the county to participate in the state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday, which will be held this weekend. But, as the Birmingham News reported, the item was not part of the regular agenda, and so required unanimous consent from all five JeffCo commissioners to be considered. Three commissioners–Jim Carns, George Bowman and Commission President Bettye Fine Collins–voted against considering Smoot’s item. Bobby Humphyres and Smoot voted yes, but their vote failed. Regardless of whether or not the county waives its tax, the state’s sales tax will still be waived, so shoppers seeking back-to-school supplies in Jefferson County will still save.
Good news in state auto industry: There’s been a slew of good news in the Alabama auto industry this week. As you know, Alabama has three auto manufacturing plants—the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, the Hyundai plant in Montgomery and the Honda plant in Lincoln. The good news is that sales of vehicles made at all three plants are up this month, according to separate reports by the Birmingham Business Journal. The three Honda models made in Alabama–the Odyssey van, Ridgeline truck and the Pilot SUV–all saw significant upticks in sales over July 2009. Sales of Alabama-built Mercedes GL-Class, M-Class and R-class vehicles were also up considerably, as was true for the Alabama-built Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe. In addition, representatives from Hyundai met with Gov. Bob Riley in recent days to discuss a continued partnership.
Gubernatorial candidates weak on “bingo”: Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned an order by Macon County Circuit Judge Tom Young that barred Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force from raiding the Victoryland “bingo” casino in Shorter, Alabama. If and when Victoryland is raided for suspected illegal gambling, it may well be the last major action of the anti-gambling task force. Gubernatorial candidates Ron Sparks, a Democrat, and Republican Robert Bentley have promised to disband Riley’s task force, which has targeted casinos purporting to offer electronic “bingo.” Riley maintains that the machines in casinos such as Victoryland, Country Crossing in Dothan and Greenetrack in Eutaw are not, in fact, playing games of bingo, and the Alabama Supreme Court has agreed. At least one candidate for Attorney General, Republican Luther Strange, has pledged to fight illegal gambling operations and enforce the state’s laws.
Gary White gets 10 years: Former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White stood before a podium in a federal courtroom in Tuscaloosa last week and heard some relatively good news. Instead of the prosecutor’s suggested sentence range of 15 years, eight months to 19 years, seven months, Judge Scott Coogler gave White a still-hefty sentence of 10 years for his role in the JeffCo sewer debacle. The sentencing followed testimonials from several character witnesses, including Birmingham attorney Bill Slaughter. White’s wife, Judy White, gave a rambling testimonial that was, for the most part, an extremely mundane and boring biography of her husband’s life. Coogler asked her to speed up her testimony several times, and instructed her to “get to the point I need to hear.” During the sentencing, Coogler said he had received and read over 70 letters written on White’s behalf. White’s sentence is set to begin on August 30.