Luther Strange mailer blasts Mo Brooks on Trump as Senate primary approaches


About six weeks away from the special primary for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat, the battle is escalating between Incumbent Sen. Luther Strange and Congressman Mo Brooks, one of his top Republican opponents.

A new mailer, paid for by the Strange for Senate committee, blasts Brooks for not supporting then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primary, as well as his criticism after Trump won the nomination.

Brooks, Strange and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore are the three leaders in a crowded GOP primary, with a (likely) September runoff, unless a single candidate gets 50 percent plus one in August.

As reported by POLITICO, Strange’s mailer quotes Brooks as saying on MSNBC in February: “Trump voters are going to regret their votes.”

After Trump won the nomination in May, Brooks told the Montgomery Advertiser: “Voters sure are facing some tough choices in November, aren’t they?” (He later admitted he would vote for Trump in November.)”

The mailer proclaimed that “Luther Strange strongly supported our President from Day 1,” adding, “this was never a ‘tough choice’ for Luther Strange.”

Appointed to the Senate in February by then-Governor Robert Bentley, Strange is facing a crowded 10-person field for the Aug. 15 Republican primary. A primary runoff, if necessary, will be Sept. 26; a general election is Dec. 12.

Alabama ranked near bottom of list of best states for startups, small business


A financial website ranks Alabama as one of the least favorable places for starting a business in the U.S.

The study announced this week by personal finance website WalletHub ranks Alabama as the 42nd best state for startups in 2017.

Grading on a 100-point scale, WalletHub used 20 key indicators of startup success to come up with its “2017 Best & Worst States to Start a Business,” averaging the score on each — with 100 being best.

Metrics include office space expense, incentive spending, financing, an average length of the workweek, availability of human capital and the growth in the number of small businesses.

On that scale, Alabama scored 40.92 points —  last in Business Environment, 31st in Access to Resources and ninth in Business Costs. Alabama is among the bottom five states with the lowest average growth in the number of small businesses.

However, the Yellowhammer State ranked in the top five for lowest labor costs, along with four other Southern states.

In relation to some of its neighbors, Alabama listed at or near the bottom: Florida is sixth, Georgia is eighth; Tennessee and Mississippi were 27th and 28th respectively.

Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey ranked lowest overall.

The company also asked a panel of nine experts for their business insights on four key questions:

  1. Do you believe that the economic policies being pursued by the Trump administration will promote new-business development?
  2. To what extent do state policies, such as corporate tax rates, influence decisions about whether and where to start a new business?
  3. Are tax breaks and other incentives to encourage new businesses overall a good or bad investment for states?
  4. What measures can state authorities undertake in order to encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses in their state?

Answers are available at WalletHub.com.

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Source: WalletHub

Increased food spending, lower gas prices give retailers boost for Independence Day


With Independence Day arriving Tuesday, retailers expect a surge in one of the things Americans do best – eat.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts Americans will spend more than $7.1 billion for Independence Day weekend on food items for picnics, barbecues and other celebrations. That’s an increase of about $2 in per-person spending over 2016.

Numbers from the NRF annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insight & Analytics, note that as many as 88 percent of those surveyed (an estimated 219 million Americans) will be celebrating Independence Day weekend, with 162 million of them — 66 percent — taking part in a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $73.42 per person, up from $71.34 last year.

Americans will be showing their patriotic spirit with flags and clothing. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers — 65 percent — own an American flag, while more than half (53 percent) will wear some sort of patriotic themed clothing like T-shirts, bathing suits or shoes. Forty percent own some other patriotic themed decorations, and 28 percent say they plan to buy additional patriotic items.

Fireworks are another popular Independence Day activity, despite July 4 falling on a weekday in 2017. Less than half of Americans — 44 percent — plan to watch fireworks Tuesday night, while 14 percent will watch a parade.

Lower gas prices will also have a noticeable impact on Independence Day activities, with nearly 33 million Americans planning to head out-of-town for the long weekend, up from 31 million last year. The NRF survey found just 18 percent of Americans are concerned about gas prices, down from 21 percent last year; it is at the lowest level since the survey began in 2004.

Worries about gas prices for Independence Day peaked in 2008 when 59 percent of Americans said they were concerned over the cost of gas.

Pinellas County wage-theft law challenged as unconstitutional


A Largo executive search firm is challenging the constitutionality of Pinellas County’s recently enacted wage-theft ordinance.

KLA Industries is an Ohio-based executive search firm located at 801 W. Bay Dr., Suite 203 in Largo.

Zachary J. “Zach” Burns, 30, is a Madeira Beach resident and former KLA employee who recently moved from West Chester, Ohio. State records show Burns incorporated the recruitment company Stratus Search in March 2017. Stratus Search has its office at 3530 1st Ave. N, Suite 203, in St. Petersburg.

In 2015, Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact a “wage theft” ordinance. In effect as of Jan. 1, 2016, the law allows local workers who believe an employer has illegally denied them wages to file a complaint with the county’s Office of Human Rights, which also fields complaints on housing, employment and disability discrimination issues.

If successful, employees are awarded treble damages. Much of the ordinance came from a similar one enacted by the City of St. Petersburg in 2015.

According to a complaint filed May 23 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, shortly after Burns resigned from KLA Industries in 2016, the company placed a recruit with one of his former clients and obtained payment for doing so.

When KLA refused to pay Burns the $5,400 commission, he filed a wage-theft complaint with the Office of Human Rights.

While the hearing will not take place until July 17, KLA is being proactive, filing a suit where the company denies Burns is entitled to the commission, and accuses him of trying to steal its clients.

KLA is contesting the constitutionality of the county’s wage-theft law on several grounds: It sets up an impermissible court outside the supreme court, district courts of appeal, circuit and county courts; it does not allow trial by jury and does not allow an employer to pursue counterclaims or assert any set-off defenses against the amount owed or against the imposition of treble damages.

 

Two Largo court petitions raise question of fairness in Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act


A pair of City of Largo court petitions raise questions on the fairness of the state’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Ronisha Ke’irra Scott, 24, is a St. Petersburg resident. An African-American woman, Scott lives in a 675-square-foot St. Petersburg home appraised by the county at $26,435, with a sales value of $31,900.

On June 1, Largo Police arrested Scott for running a stop sign and having “excessively tinted windows.” During the stop, officers allegedly found two dilaudid pain pills and a lit marijuana cigarette in her 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier.

Scott insisted neither the pills nor the joint were hers.

Before the June 1 incident, Pinellas County records show Scott’s only criminal charge had been in 2016 for misdemeanor retail theft.

Gary Stevens Sunday is a 47-year-old Clearwater resident. Sunday, a white male, owns a 1,336-square-foot home that the county appraises at $139,931, with a sales value of $172,600.

On the same day as Scott’s detention, Largo Police also arrested Sunday after allegedly finding methamphetamine in small baggies, a meth pipe, syringes, a safe, and a digital scale in his 2015 Kia Optima SX.

Sunday, like Scott, denied the items belonged to him. The arrest report does not explain why police stopped him.

Sunday was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. According to his arrest report, he is unemployed.

Online dockets show Stevens pleaded “not guilty” to the criminal charges.

A common interpretation of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act is that law enforcement can seize and permanently keep certain items that were an instrument of, or a product of, a crime. Defendants need not have been convicted of the crime, nor even be charged.

On June 9, the City of Largo filed separate court petitions in Pinellas County Circuit Court to seize the vehicle from each of two wildly different criminal suspects — Scott and Sunday.

The requests raise several issues about the fairness of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

If Sunday is accused of dealing in illegal drugs, the Act would seem reasonable — although some legal experts argue it is unfair to seize a defendant’s property unless (or until) he or she is charged and convicted of a crime.

On the other hand, Scott’s alleged crime was not dealing drugs, and her record shows no such offense in the past. In this case, seizing her vehicle might seem unnecessarily harsh, especially if Scott needs the vehicle to drive to work.

Taking Scott’s car could drive her further into poverty.

While an attorney is representing Sunday in his “not guilty” plea, online dockets show Scott has not yet filed a plea, nor does she have an attorney.

All this leads to one question: Is Largo’s attempted seizure of Scott’s car an appropriate, reasonable and legal application of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture law?