Alabama Governor Bob Riley, who sent his anti-gambling task force against casinos that allowed electronic bingo, is now sending his economic Rapid Response Team to assist the hundreds of people put out of work by the casino shutdowns.  “Although these casino operations are illegal, we will offer any and all assistance possible to any Alabamian who is without a job,” Riley said.

Meanwhile, Alabama Senate leaders said they planned quick action on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide the gambling issue on the November ballot.  The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee  split along party lines in approving the resolution, with six Democrats in favor, two Republicans against.  Casino operators contend electronic bingo is already legal under Alabama law, but Riley contends electronic bingo games are illegal slot machines in disguise.

The fight over electronic bingo has escalated in recent days.  To avoid being raided, VictoryLand, in Shorter, Alabama, shut down not only its casino but also its Oasis hotel, dog track, restaurants and bars, leaving 1,800 employees without jobs.  State Senator Bobby Singleton threatened to use Greene County deputies to defy the governor’s task force if troopers try to raid Greenetrack, the one major gambling site still open.

Trying to legislate legislative morality: Republican Tennessee state Senator Dewayne Bunch of Cleveland has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for public servants to trade their votes for perks in their districts.  The bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, to trade  a vote “for an exemption from budgetary or fiscal measures that are otherwise of general applicability to all other districts.”  The bill has been dubbed the “Ben Nelson Act to Ensure Political Integrity,” a shot at Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who voted for the Senate health care bill after getting an exemption for his state on increased Medicaid costs.

Not a hopey, changey crowd: Among the foreign media outlets covering the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, over the weekend was the Arab television network Al Jazeera, whose blogger Cath Turner found the crowd especially old.  She described a session in which convention delegates were guided by the speaker through a basic Web search: “It was a slow, painstaking process. He had to repeat himself many times, as some could not keep up; others simply couldn’t hear him because their hearing aids were too low.”  Less kind was Joe Queenan, a blogger for Britain’s Guardian: “The Tea Partyers are mostly pasty-faced middle-Americans, holding the sorts of smallish, grassroots, inbred gatherings that could easily be ignored in the pre-viral era before cable television and the internet. No more. Now 212 angry white people shouting down a rattled congressman in rural Idaho can command as much media attention as a roadside bombing in Iraq.”

When tinfoil is not enough: The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill making it illegal to implant a  human tracking device without the person’s consent.  Delegate Mark Cole said the bill was requested by constituents who told him some employers have begun using such devices to keep track of employees.  Delegate Robert Brink scoffed, saying his constituents have expressed no worry about such things, nor about “the danger of asteroids striking the Earth or the threat posed by giant alligators in our city sewer systems.”

Bonnaroo lineup unveiled: The biggest outdoor music festival in the South may be even bigger this year.  Among the artists confirming that they will be at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee:  Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Tori Amos, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, John Fogerty, Weezer, Avett Brothers, Flaming Lips, Blues Traveler, Regina Spektor, Kings of Leon, Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Dew Droplets: The Virginia Senate passed a bill that would add sexual orientation to existing anti-discrimination policies in state hiring, but the bill faces strong opposition in the Republican controlled House of Delegates … TVA is preparing to make a key component for America’s hydrogen bombs at its Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee … Republican Tim D’Annunzio, running for Congress in North Carolina, scheduled a Machine Gun Social at Jim’s Guns in Fayetteville … Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans with 66 percent of the vote against five other candidates … The Indianapolis Star reported that 11 people showed up at the airport for the return of the Colts on Monday … Louisiana state Senator A.G. Crowe says he will introduce legislation to create a “Who Dat Nation” specialty license plate.

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Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.