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Bill against double dipping appears dead, sponsor says

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley's bill to ban double dipping by legislators got an extremely chilly review during a public hearing by a state Senate committee Wednesday.

"It's dead," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said after the hearing by the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee.

The committee spent 90 minutes listening to mostly negative comments about the bill and will vote on it in one or two weeks.

A critic of the bill, Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs, said the public hearing gave the bill its "five minutes of fame," and now it's time for the legislation to disappear.

"I could run through Hades with gas shorts on and get out of there alive before this bill can pass," Penn told the committee.

Riley's bill would prohibit a state employee and public education employee from holding an elected state office. It would place the same prohibition on people who perform services under a personal or professional services contract with the state or with public K-12 schools and two-year colleges.

Riley is trying to get the State Board of Education to enact a similar policy.

Fire College Foundation

Riley's proposal, which was part of his re-election platform last year, coincides with a federal grand jury investigation of the two-year college system that resulted in the guilty plea last year of state Rep. Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa. Melton, who worked at Shelton State Community College, admitted funneling legislative grants through the Alabama Fire College Foundation and then using the money to pay gambling debts.

Riley's policy director, Bryan Taylor, told the committee that the federal government and several states, including Arkansas and Louisiana, have similar prohibitions against double dipping.

He said allowing double dipping is bad for public trust in government and is unfair to students whose teachers are serving in public office rather than being in the classroom.

Committee Chairman Ted Little, D-Auburn, pointed out that Riley's bill does not cover the governor's Cabinet members who run huge state agencies.

Taylor said that's because the Cabinet members are not elected.

"If this is such a good thing, let it cut both ways," Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, told Taylor.

Little said the bill also does not cover elected state officials who contract with universities. Beeson said he'd be happy to add that if the committee would approve the bill.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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