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President Obama has signed an executive order barring the federal government and its contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

Private employers in many states can still fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, so this executive order gives a new layer of employment protection for some LGBT workers. The Huffington Post reports that this order does not include an exemption for religious employers.

How exactly will this executive order change employers' anti-discrimination policies?

Minority-owned businesses may be entitled to government benefits and special programs, but not every business will qualify.

And claiming to be a minority-owned business when you're not is a terrible idea, as Moretech American Corporation has learned the hard way. Federal prosecutors allege Moretech passed off a shell company as a minority-owned firm in order to land a government contract; Moretech has agreed to pay $3 million to settle those claims, the New York Daily News reports.

So what exactly qualifies a business as a minority-owned business?

Do Obama's Executive Orders on Wages Affect You?

President Barack Obama signed two executive orders Tuesday to require federal contractors to let their workers to discuss wages more openly and to require contractors to submit detailed data to the government about how they compensate workers.

The purpose of the executive orders, which the president signed on National Equal Pay Day, is to try and bridge the wage gap between men and women, according to The Washington Post.

So what do the orders mean for your business?

'Small Biz Reg Watch' Lets Biz Owners Sound Off

A new website for small business owners, "Small Biz Reg Watch," launched today with the help of the House Committee on Small Businesses.

What's the purpose of this new corner of the web? It's a forum for small business owners to comment on proposed regulations that may affect their bottom line or the way they do business.

The website doesn't change the right of small business owners to comment on newly proposed rules; any citizen can do that. But it makes it easier for small businesses to compete with big business for the government's ear.

For small businesses, government contracts can be a lifesaver, especially in a struggling economy. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks, and how can business owners get a piece of the pie?

A wide range of government agencies -- local, state, and federal -- seek bids from private companies to handle a variety of tasks. These include construction projects, some administrative services, and the collection of fees like parking tickets.

On the "plus" side, government contracts can offer small business owners some advantages over "regular" customers. For example:

GSA Scandal Reveals Small Biz Not Getting Contracts

Small businesses are suffering from the latest government spending scandal. The General Services Administration (GSA) has come under heat recently for its spending practices and in its processes for awarding government contracts.

Many of the government contracts mandated for small businesses were instead diverted to larger businesses, according to The Washington Post.

Senate Kills Federal Innovation Research Program

The U.S. Senate voted this week to kill a bill to reauthorize the popular SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program, reports the New York Times.

SBIR, a program to encourage small businesses to explore commercialization of technology, reserves 2.5% of federal research and development (R&D) funds for small businesses. Thus, says SBA, SBIR enables small businesses to compete for federal R&D funds with larger enterprises.

In an example of legislative perversity, the bill's author, Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine), flipped her vote this week to oppose cutting off debate. Thus she voted to kill her own bill, reports the Times.

So why does a senator administer a poison pill to her own bill? Especially a bill that passed Sen. Snowe's own Senate committee by a vote of 18-1?

New SBA 8(a) Certification Rules

The first overhaul of the Small Business Administration 8(a) Business Development Program has been completed, with revisions to the SBA 8(a) program taking effect on March 14, 2011.

The program, designed to improve the success rate amongst minority and other disadvantaged businesses, has changed for the better. New regulations are designed to combat waste, abuse and fraud, as well as clarify portions of the SBA certification process.

Women-Owned Small Business Rule Enacted

For women, small business may be a chance to work in a female-friendly workplace. But for many of those women, small business is also difficult to see to fruition.

Women-owned small businesses have a hard time in the market place, facing closed doors and glass ceilings. This is why many women in small business are praising the implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program.

Women Owned Small Business Rule Finalized

Women owned businesses rule! Now, in more ways than one.  Known as the Women Procurement Program Rule, the Small Business Association recently filed the final rule on this program, which is aimed at increasing federal contract opportunities for female owned and operated businesses.

Small Business Trends quotes SBA Administrator Karen Mills: "Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and even during the economic downturn of the last few years, have been one of the key job creation engines in communities across the country. Despite their growth and the fact that women lead some of the strongest and most innovative companies, they continue to be under-represented in the federal contracting marketplace. This rule will be a platform for changing that by providing greater opportunities for women-owned small businesses to compete for and win federal contracts."