President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday that modernizes the terms used for minorities.

By: Madison Park, CNN

President Barack Obama

(CNN) The federal government will no longer use the terms “Negro” and “Oriental” after President Barack Obama signed a bill into law. The official terms will be African-American and Asian-American. Welcome to 2016.
In a rare show of bipartisan support, the measure H.R.4238, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. Obama signed it into law Friday. The measure updates the terms the U.S. federal government uses to describe minorities, including American Indian to Native American and “Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” to Hispanic.
Here’s what the bill states: Office Of Minority Economic Impact.—Section 211(f)(1) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7141(f)(1)) is amended by striking “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” and inserting “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native”.
“The term ‘Oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” said Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who sponsored the bill.
Meng, a Democrat from Queens, encountered the term while doing legislative research and had sought to eliminate its usage from government terminology.
“Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory. But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land,” she said in a statement.
Meng had similarly pushed a law that eliminated the use of the word when she served in the New York Legislature in 2009.
The H.R. 4328 bill had 76 cosponsors, including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. One of the original cosponsors included Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican.
“Our country is a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds, and Americans of all backgrounds deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said in a statement.

Bill based on estimate of $50 million annual gross revenues Proposed Bingo Amendment causes concern and discussion by Greene County leaders

News Analysis By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

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Senate Bill 340, proposed by State Senator Bobby Singleton, which changes the current operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County, has caused much concern, discussion and dissention among county leaders.
In an exclusive interview with Senator Singleton last week, he said, “Representative McCampbell and I discussed the problems with electronic bingo in Greene County.
Among them the threat of raids by the state on bingo as illegal gambling; the conflicts between the Sheriff and County Commission, which have led to lawsuits; and the proliferation of bingo parlors which do not employ as many people, at good wages, as when bingo was centralized in one place.”
Singleton said that he and McCampbell decided to develop a proposed amendment to Greene County’s Amendment 743, authorizing electronic bingo, which would clarify the legality of bingo; require that electronic bingo be played at a licensed racetrack facility where pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal; codify and provide a new formula for the distribution of bingo funds, including a tax (4%) to the State of Alabama and a local gross receipt tax (8.5%) to benefit Greene County government, agencies and non-profits; and move the regulation and administration of electronic bingo from the Sheriff to a new Greene County Gaming Commission. Limiting electronic bingo to a racetrack in Greene County where pari-mutuel wagering is legal, limits the operations to Greenetrack and would likely lead to a phase-out of the other facilities licensed by Sheriff Benison. The owners and employees of these facilities are opposed to this amendment
Singleton said that he, McCampbell and other members of the Greene County legislative delegation plan to hold public meetings in Greene County to explain the bill and its impacts before a November vote by the citizens of Greene County on the revised Constitutional Amendment. If the proposal passes the Alabama Legislature with no dissenting votes then it only requires a referendum vote in Greene County, however, if there is opposition from one member of the Legislature, then a statewide vote will be required.
Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison is opposed to the bill because it will strip his office of control of electronic bingo. In an open letter, printed in full on page 4, he argues that the legislation will return control of bingo to the 73 for-profit stockholders of Greenetrack to operate as an unfair monopoly.
Benison points to the impact of his monthly $200 per bingo machine tax and the benefits that the four bingo parlors have generated in income and jobs for the county.
Benison makes the point that many other public officials in the county and municipalities have made that Singleton and McCampbell did not publicize, discuss or seek input on their proposal before introducing it in the Alabama Legislature. Benison says in his letter, “it was introduced in a stealth manner designed to catch people off guard.” Singleton says that he and McCampbell were concerned that bingo was a target for state action and wanted to head this off.
The bill clarifies and legally allows electronic bingo “on any machine or device that is authorized by the National Gaming Regulatory Act by 25 U. S. C. Section 2701, and which is operated by any Native American tribe in Alabama.”  This would legalize any electronic bingo machine or device, which was approved by the Federal government for use in Indian casinos, to be used in Greene County.
The proposed revised amendment calls for distribution of funds for a state gross receipts tax (4%) and a local gross receipts tax (8.5%) on gaming revenues at the racetrack operating bingo. These taxes would be levied on the gross revenues, which are defined as the total amount of money played on the electronic machines less the value of prizes and winnings paid to the players. The gross figure would be determined before costs of operating the bingo facilities were applied.
Singleton said in the interview, that “he estimates the annual gross revenues from electronic bingo would be at least $50 million and may be 20 to 30% higher.” Based on this estimate the State of Alabama would receive $2 million or more in new tax revenues per year from bingo in Greene County.

The local gross receipts tax of 8.5% would generate  $4.25 million in revenues, which would be divided as follows:

• .5% to the Greene County Racing Commission to license and regulate bingo:

• .5% to the Greene County Commission;

• 1.5%  to Greene County Commission for municipalities in Greene County, based on  population;

• .5% to the Greene County Firefighters Association;

•  2 % to the Greene County Board of Education;

• .5% to the Greene County E-911 Communications District;

•  1% to the Greene County Hospital and Nursing Home;

•  .25% to Greene County Industrial Development Board;

•  .25% to Greene County Ambulance Service;

•  .75% to the Greene County Housing Authority;

•  .75% to the Greene County Gaming  Commission, for     distribution to non-profit organizations, that provide  services to residents of Greene County.

Some agencies will receive more than they are receiving now and others, like the Greene County Commission and the Sheriff’s Office, will receive less.
One benefit of this plan is that the people of Greene County will know the gross revenues generated by bingo and exactly how they are being distributed. Currently the total gross revenue going through the four licensed bingo parlors is not publically available.
The new Greene County Gaming Commission will consist of five (5) members, all of whom must reside in the Seventh Congressional District and at least two must be residents of Greene County. The Commission will be named as follows: one by the Governor, one by the Congressperson, one by the State Senator and two by the State Representatives in the delegation. Some feel this will take control of bingo out of the hands of Greene County citizens and allow other people to make critical decisions for Greene County.

Singleton introduces bill to change Greene County bingo amendment

Bobby Singleton

Senator Bobby Singleton

State Senator Bobby Singleton recently submitted a bill to change Constitutional Amendment 743 regulating bingo in Greene County. The proposed amendment to our current amendment was referred to the State Senate’s Local Legislation Committee.
Singleton’s amendment would make significant changes to the current operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County.
First, the amendment would clarify and specifically allow electronic bingo in Greene County “on any machine or device that is authorized by the National Gaming Regulatory Act by 25 U. S. C. Section 2701, and which is operated by any Native American tribe in Alabama”. This would legalize any electronic bingo machine or device, which was approved by the Federal government for use in Indian casinos, to be used in Greene County.
Second, the amended bill limits bingo gaming to a licensed racetrack in Greene County where pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal. The only facility in Greene County currently meeting this criterion is Greenetrack. While not stated, it would seem that this change would restrict electronic bingo to one facility – Greenetrack – in Greene County. The future operation of other bingo halls in Greene County is unclear and would possibly depend upon a “sub-license” from the one recognized racetrack in Greene County.
Third, the amended bill provides for a state gross receipts tax (4%) and a local gross receipts tax (8.5%) on gaming revenues at the racetrack operating bingo. These taxes would be levied on the gross revenues, which are defined as the total amount of money played on the electronic machines less the value of prizes and winnings paid to the players. The gross figure would be determined before costs of operating the bingo facilities were applied.
The current bingo parlors in Greene County have never publically revealed their gross revenues, so the public does not know what this taxing formula will produce in revenues and whether those amounts are fair. There is also a formula, in the amended bill, for distribution of the 8.5% monthly local wagering tax, with 1.5% retained by the Greene County Gaming Commission (created by the bill) for its operations; 1.5% to the Greene County Commission; 1.5% to the Greene County Commission for distribution to municipalities, based on population; 2% to the Greene County Board of Education; 1% to the Greene County Hospital and Nursing Home; 0.5% to the Greene County Firefighters Association; 0.25% to the Greene County Industrial Board; 0.25% to the Greene County Ambulance Service; 0.75% to the Greene County Housing Authority; and 0.75% to the new Greene County Gaming Commission for distribution to nonprofit organizations that provide services to residents of Greene County.
There is also a “local bingo game vendor tax of 4%, which is levied on the gross revenues collected by bingo game vendors from leases or revenue sharing agreements with a racetrack”. This vendor tax will be shared between the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Eutaw Police Department, based on population ratio.
Fourth, a five person Greene County Gaming Commission is created to “implement, regulate, and administer bingo gaming” in the county. This Commission would replace the current role of the Sheriff of Greene County in regulating and distributing the proceeds of electronic bingo gaming in the county.
The five member Greene County Gaming Commission would be named as follows: one appointed by the Governor of Alabama; one by the U. S. House Representative for the Seventh Congressional District (now Terri Sewell); one by the State Senator for the 24th District (currently Bobby Singleton) and two by the State House of Representatives delegation for Greene County. The members of the Gaming Commission will serve five-year terms and be subject to the regulations of the Alabama Ethics Commission. They should all live in the 7th Congressional District and at least two must be residents of Greene County.
This proposed legislation is now in the Senate Local Legislative Committee. It would have to be approved by this Committee, the full Alabama State Senate, the Alabama House of Representatives and signed by the Governor. Once passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor it would be subject to a Constitutional Amendment vote by the people of Greene County. If the Local Legislation were opposed by any one legislator, it would then also have to be voted on as a Constitutional Amendment by all of the people of Alabama.

Gov. Robert Bentley signs bill to block city minimum wages, voiding Birmingham ordinance

Written with assistance from AL.Com

A bill to block Alabama cities from setting their own minimum wages is now law. Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill,
Thursday, February 25, soon after the Alabama Senate passed the bill by 23-11.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to raise the minimum to $10.10 an hour, moving the effective date up from an ordinance passed earlier.
The bill’s passage voids the ordinance passed in Birmingham, according to the city’s legal department. “It certainly is unfortunate and, if it stands up, it is a loss for those who deserve to earn a livable wage in the city of Birmingham and, for that matter, the state of Alabama,” Council President Johnathan Austin said. “But the state obviously disagrees.”
Birmingham officials have not yet said what, if any, recourse the city has. “We will continue to work together to stand and fight for our citizens,” Austin said.
The Legislature has the authority to preempt local ordinances, even those that are already in effect, said Mike Lewis, spokesman for Attorney General Luther Strange. Lewis was not commenting specifically on the minimum wage bill.
The Republican super majorities in the House and Senate put the bill on the fast-track as the Birmingham City Council raced to enact its minimum wage. Other cities in Alabama including Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Mobile were considering following Birmingham in raising the minimum wage in their areas.
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, sponsor of the legislation, said the state needs to maintain a uniform minimum and that Birmingham businesses were not given adequate notice for the change.
The Senate passed the bill after Democratic senators spoke in opposition to the measure for about three and a half hours.  The Senate voted 22-11 to cut off debate before passing the bill Thursday afternoon.
The governor’s office sent out an email saying that the governor had signed the bill less than an hour after it passed.
The vote was mostly along party lines, but not entirely.
Republican Sens. Paul Bussman of Cullman and Bill Holtzclaw of Madison are listed as no votes on the Legislature’s website.
All eight Democratic senators voted against the bill. They condemned it as an effort to encroach on local authority and a move that would hurt workers struggling to make ends meet.
“When you lift a person on the bottom, everybody above them is lifted up,” Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham said.
Alabama does not have its own minimum wage, so employers follow the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, last raised in 2009.
Senator Hank Sanders devotes his “Senate Sketches” column this week (see page 6) to explaining his position in support of raising the minimum wage and against the legislation passed by the Republican majority.
“Everything has gone up,” Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison said. “Yet we don’t feel that the working poor deserves a break.” Coleman-Madison has proposed a constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum statewide to $10 by 2018.
Republican lawmakers supporting the anti-minimum wage bill said it would force employers to eliminate jobs, reduce hours or raise costs on customers to absorb the increased labor costs.
“I can promise you employment will go downhill,” said Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, who carried the bill in the Senate.
Austin said he appreciates the support the city council’s efforts have received from many members of the Jefferson County legislative delegation in both the House and Senate.
Joe Keffer, who has advocated for higher minimum wages as part of Raise Up Alabama and the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy, disputed assertions that raising the minimum eliminates jobs.
Keffer said workers who benefit from a minimum wage increase, spend the extra money within the community, boosting local economies.
Keffer said it’s wrong for lawmakers to stand in the way of higher minimum wages in Birmingham and other cities because of the state’s high levels of poverty. “What they’re saying is we think business interests are more important than interests of people in these cities,” Keffer said.
Ken Smith, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, said the league did not take a position on the legislation. Smith said that league members were on both sides of the issue.
The bill also prohibits counties from enacting minimum wages, but counties already lacked that authority, said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.