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Byrne revises policy for legislators who work in 2-year college system

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Two-year college chancellor Bradley Byrne revised a policy Wednesday that would have required 13 legislators employed by the system to get his permission before leaving their posts to perform legislative duties.

The previous policy proposal said the legislators could only use unpaid leave while doing legislative work outside the system and such leave could only be granted by Byrne, who was doubtful about approving it.

Using annual leave

Under the revised proposal, lawmakers who work in the post-secondary system would have the option of using annual leave — which is earned vacation time — in such a way that they could attend to legislative work and keep both jobs until their terms end in 2010.

A second policy proposed by Byrne would end so-called “double dipping” after 2010 by prohibiting system employees from also holding elected office.

A majority on the nine-member board say they support both policies and planned to approve them at Thursday’s monthly meeting. Democrats and Alabama Education Association officials have criticized the proposals as discriminating against educators by preventing them from serving in state government.

Byrne said the revision was not an effort at compromise to allow the current legislators to serve to the end of their terms. “I don’t think it’s going to be seen that way,” he said.

“I don’t know that it’s going to make AEA any happier, but we’re still trying to figure out how we can make this policy work and be as fair as we can in the application of it,” he said. “If they’ve earned their vacation time and personal time, they should be able to use that at their discretion. After thinking it through, we decided we’ll go ahead and let that be available.”

System employees get two paid personal days a year and up to 24 paid vacation days annually after 20 years of employment.

Republican board members — Gov. Bob Riley, David Byers of Birmingham, Stephanie Bell of Montgomery, Betty Peters of Dothan and Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores — all strongly support the double dipping ban along with Democrat Mary Jane Caylor of Huntsville.

Democrats Ethel Hall of Fairfield and Sandra Ray of Tuscaloosa said they were leaning toward supporting the ban, while Ella Bell of Montgomery said she was strongly opposed to both proposals.

Caylor, a former Huntsville City Schools superintendent, said while some of her fellow board members have been wrestling with the issue for weeks, her decision to prohibit double-dipping was made back in the 1980s when two of her school system employees sued to keep their statewide offices.

She was against the practice then and still is, Caylor said.

“I’m there. There’s no ‘leaning,’ ” she said Wednesday. “I’m standing straight and tall and I’m voting to support the chancellor’s recommendations. I made the decision that these types of situations did not need to occur 25 years ago.”

Byrne, who has also proposed a policy that would give him ultimate authority over hiring and firing in the system, said he didn’t think the revision would make it any easier for the 13 legislators to keep their seats for the next three years.

“If you count the number of legislative days plus committee days plus the days when the legislators do things outside the session, you could see where it might be very difficult to use your personal leave time and annual leave time (to serve in the Legislature),” he said.

Hall, Ray and Peters said they had some reservations about the previous flex policy and did not want the system to interfere with how employees could spend earned time.

All the other board members, with the exception of Ella Bell, were in support of the flex time proposal.

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

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