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Double-dipping policy runs into board opposition

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A key state school board member says he will not support Gov. Bob Riley’s proposed policy to bar elected officials from serving as public education employees unless changes are made in the measure.

David Byers, one of five Republicans on the nine-member board, is the potential swing vote on the issue. He listed his concerns in a nearly five-page-long e-mail that was written in April and is now being distributed.

“My position has been that there are at least three, maybe four major legal problems with the governor’s policies, any of which would keep the policies from being implemented and the combination of which will sink them like the Titanic,” Byers wrote in the e-mail, which was reported Thursday by The Birmingham News.

Five votes needed

Riley is by office the president of the school board. He and three other Republican board members have said they would approve the policies, but at least five votes are needed for them to pass.

The board’s four Democrats have raised concerns about aspects of Riley’s proposals and said changes would have to be made before they could support them. They have said similar policies should also be applied to employees in the K-12 system and at four-year schools.

Byers said he doesn’t disagree with the idea of banning future lawmakers from college jobs or prohibiting college employees from serving in the Legislature, but he has serious concerns about applying the policies to legislators now in office.

Jeff Emerson, the governor’s communications director, said Riley and his staff saw the e-mail, which was written in April before the Alabama Ethics Commission and Attorney General Troy King issued opinions stating the board could adopt such policies.

King’s opinion said a court likely would have to rule on the proposals’ legality. The Ethics Commission formally adopted an opinion Wednesday stating that Riley’s proposals don’t conflict with ethics laws.

Byers offers many of the same arguments against the governor’s plan that Paul Hubbert and other Alabama Education Association officials have made, but Byers said that’s the result of different people reaching the same conclusion, not his adopting AEA’s position.

“They may have followed me,” he said.

System Chancellor Bradley Byrne said Wednesday he believes some changes can be made to the proposals that would satisfy a majority of board members, including Byers. Riley’s office did not immediately comment Thursday on whether he will pursue any changes.

Riley’s proposal would prohibit two-year colleges from hiring lawmakers, would require lawmakers now working for colleges to quit or resign their elected positions, and would limit the way employees can use leave time to work in other jobs such as the Legislature.

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

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