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Some plan to keep ‘double dipping’ until ban in effect

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The state Board of Education’s new flextime policy was considered the immediate linchpin in its movement against double dipping since it could cause 13 legislators to leave their seats before the main ban against the practice starts in 2010.

But some of the affected lawmakers say they don’t anticipate making any changes to their routines any time soon.

“I’m not going to choose between the two,” Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Madison, said after the policy was adopted.

“I do both (jobs) and I do both well.”

A 6-1 majority on the nine-member board voted to end so-called “double dipping” Thursday by prohibiting two-year college system employees from also holding statewide elected office.

They also adopted the flextime policy, which would have originally required the 13 legislators employed by the system to ask Chancellor Bradley Byrne for unpaid leave to perform their House and Senate duties.

Byrne had said it was “unlikely” he would grant the leave, so the policy would have basically forced the lawmakers to leave the system or give up their seats before their terms end in 2010.

Annual leave

However, Byrne made revisions to the flex proposal Wednesday that give the
lawmakers 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 over the next three years.

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

Hinshaw said the board should have first talked to the legislators individually to see how they do their jobs and account for time spent out of the office.

Technology and electronic devices like laptops, BlackBerrys and faxes make it possible to work on the road, he said.

“I think over the course of the last 25 years the world has changed, but the school board has not changed with it,” he said.

Justice review

Neither policy is currently in effect, and they are awaiting review by the U.S. Justice Department, which will make sure they don’t interfere with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The act opened Southern polling places to blacks, and four of the 13 legislators who would be affected by the proposed policy are black.

The Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday against Byrne and the board on behalf of eight plaintiffs, including three of the affected legislators.

The plaintiffs say the policies don’t comply with the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act and are thus null and void. They ask the court to place the policies on hold pending the outcome of the case.

Byrne said the flextime rules could take effect as early as Oct. 1.

Rep. Neal Morrison, D-Cullman, is the director of adult education at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, where he’s worked for nearly 18 years.

The 13-year legislator said he’s built up enough vacation days to be OK for the next two sessions, but might have some trouble in the final year of his term.

“By then I’ll have 20 or 21 years in (the system). The people of Cullman County in District 12 have been extremely good to me and good to my family,” he said. “If it ever gets to a point that I cannot perform the duties that I was elected to perform, then obviously I will step aside.”

No planned changes

Alabama House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, said Friday he didn’t plan on making any changes to his schedule and expects to continue his $48,721-a-year part-time job for Bevill State Community College in Sumiton until 2010.

Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba, who has spent 20 years in the system, is a plaintiff in the suit along with other affected legislators Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, and Rep. Thomas E. Jackson, D-Thomasville.

Spicer said he plans to continue both his two-year and legislative work while the matter is handled in the courts.

“If it’s upheld, I’ll continue to maintain my seat in the Alabama Legislature and represent my district,” he said.

Under the policy, two-year schools would also be banned from hiring state elected officials or signing them to consulting contracts.

They’re also barred from signing contracts with a company in which officials have a stake of 5 percent of more.

Stances on issue

Opponents say the proposals discriminate against educators by preventing them from serving in state government and will disenfranchise the votes of 500,000 people who voted for the 13 legislators.

Supporters say no one is being forced out of their legislative seat because they could always choose to leave the system.

But Morrison said it’s not quite that simple.

“I’ve got two young children — that is just not going to happen. Your No. 1 priority is to provide for your children and your family,” he said, adding that he’ll wait as long as possible before leaving the Legislature, which has helped him fulfill his life’s desire of helping people.

“I’m not getting off this train until they stop and say, ‘You’ve got to get off,’ ” he said.

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

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