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No double-dipping
Byrne proposes new policy for college employees

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — If you work at a state two-year college, you may have restrictions on what you do with your vacation time.

If you are a member of the Legislature working for one of the colleges, forget taking paid leave for state business.

And after 2010, two-year college system employees would be prohibited from holding elected office.

Chancellor Bradley Byrne and Gov. Bob Riley unveiled those proposed policy changes at a news conference Wednesday. The state Board of Education will discuss the proposals during its regular work session Monday. A vote could come at the board’s Aug. 23 meeting.

Byrne was a state senator from Fairhope until he became chancellor in May at Riley’s urging. He said the proposals would make system employees’ continued service in the Legislature “very difficult but not impossible” to manage.

“We assume we will be judicially tested,” Byrne said.

Riley said he is confident the policies would survive a court test.

In one proposal, system employees could use personal or medical leave for vacation or health reasons but not for serving in the Legislature or other paid employment. Employee lawmakers could take up to 10 days of unpaid leave with their employer’s permission for legislative business.

Byrne said the limited leave days would cause lawmakers to pick and choose among legislative committees and related activities. Some would, perhaps, miss portions of sessions.

“It would be hard for people who do not live close to Montgomery, he said.

Employees already serving in the Legislature would have until 2010 to decide between their college jobs and politics. After their current terms end, they could no longer do both.

17 legislators impacted

Seventeen lawmakers work at different colleges around the state.

“You’ve got to remember, this is about being paid to do two state-funded jobs,” Riley said. But he said the policies would not apply to military duty, including National Guard service.

There is also no comparable restriction for people who work in jobs at other state agencies also serving in the Legislature. Employees of four-year colleges or public schools, for example, would not have the restriction.

Riley said public school employees actually work for local school boards, not the state. He did not rule out a look at employee-legislators in other state agencies.

The proposals drew criticism from the Alabama Education Association, the powerful teacher lobbying group, and the Alabama Democratic Party. Most of the two-year employees in the Legislature are Democrats.

Mary Bruce Ogles, assistant AEA executive director, said her organization believes the proposals would discriminate against educators. AEA objects to the policy prohibiting lawmakers from using their earned annual leave benefit to serve in the Legislature.

State Democrats also questioned the policy.

“No one should be given a job or a contract because they are an elected or appointed official, nor should anyone be denied the right to be a public servant because of where they work,” said Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Spearman. “There is no question that taxpayers deserve a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. We have a part-time, citizen legislature, and we should not exclude entire segments of the population from participating fully in the political process.”

In a written statement, Democrats said Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, continues to contract for work with Auburn University, making millions of dollars at his business, the Auburn Network.

Policy changes?

  • The policies: Two-year chancellor Bradley Byrne’s policies would prohibit system employees from holding elected office after 2010, keep them from doing any paid work while on vacation or personal days off and prevent them from having system contracts. He also unveiled a policy Wednesday that would give the chancellor ultimate say over the hiring and firing of college personnel.

  • The proposal: A majority of the nine-member school board must vote to approve the policy for it to be adopted. The board is scheduled to discuss it on Monday and Byrne hopes they approve it at their Aug. 23 meeting.

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