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State board seems to support policy

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A majority of the state board of education appears to support a policy that would ban two-year college employees from holding elected office, but there is less backing for a proposal to prohibit the employees from performing work for pay on vacation time.

Chancellor Bradley Byrne’s so-called “double dipping” policy would let current employees who are serving in the Legislature keep both jobs until 2010, but they will have to choose one after that.

Seven of the board’s nine members said Friday that they either support or are leaning toward supporting the double dipping proposal. Five Republicans including Gov. Bob Riley, support the ban.

The second proposal would ban system employees from paid work during vacation.

, has the support of four of the board’s five Republicans but none of its four Democrats. The fifth Republican, David Byers of Birmingham, said the proposal is “bizarre.”

Two Democrats, Ethel Hall of Fairfield and Sandra Ray of Tuscaloosa, said they lean in favor of the move. Democrat Ella Bell of Montgomery said she is strongly opposed to it while Democrat Mary Jane Caylor of Huntsville said she wants to hear more from Byrne before commenting.

The second proposal, which in part would ban system employees from paid work during vacation, has the support of four of the board’s five Republicans but none of its four Democrats. The fifth Republican, David Byers of Birmingham, said the proposal is “bizarre.”

Byrne will present the proposals to board members during a work session Monday, and they could vote on them Aug. 23.

There are currently 13 legislators who hold jobs in the state’s two-year community colleges and trade schools.

The double-dipping policy would not affect them until 2010. The second proposal would restrict those 13 lawmakers to taking 10 days’ of unpaid leave a year to carry out legislative duties.

Byers, the apparent swing vote on that proposal, said he’s not sure if limiting all 10,000 two-year system employees to only 10 days of unpaid leave to work at other jobs is fair or legal.

“Frankly, I don’t know what right we have to dictate to employees what they can and can’t do on their vacations,” said Byers, who is the board’s vice chairman. “I think that’s bizarre.”

Republican board member Betty Peters of Dothan urged Byers to support the proposals. She told the News she hoped he wouldn’t be influenced by a campaign contribution from the Alabama Education Association, which strongly opposes Byrne’s proposals.

“This isn’t about what’s best for Republicans or Democrats or for AEA,” Byers said. “This is about doing what’s best for the state and for all 10,000 of the employees of this system.”

Ella Bell said she will never vote for what Byrne wants.

“If we ban working people from serving in the Legislature, working people like the ones employed in our community colleges who the people have elected to represent them, then who’s left to serve?” she asked. “I’ll tell you who: retired folks and aristocrats ... representing rich people. That’s not the kind of Legislature I want.”

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Information from: The Birmingham News

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

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