Published 7:23 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Voters in Coffee County elected Terry Spicer to serve them in the Legislature, just as Tallapoosa and Lee county voters chose Betty Carol Graham and Cullman County voters picked Neal Morrison.
All of those legislators also happen to work in the state's community college system - and have worked there for years, logging many years of service among them and doing legitimate, honest work in education.
Gov. Bob Riley would like to curtail their terms in office - or force them to resign their jobs - under a policy he has proposed to the state school board, which is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday.
Riley has urged school board members to approve a no “double-dipping” policy for the state's junior college system. The aim is to end corruption in the two-year system. While that corruption has certainly been well documented, it is not linked to every legislator who is also a community college employee, nor is it only linked to legislators who also serve the system. There is a big difference between a lawmaker who has dedicated his or her life to education and a legislator who earns a “consulting” fee for doing little or no work other than lobbying for a community college.
While the policy could be useful, why implement it now - and force those legislators who have been elected to office to give up their seats or give up their jobs? Wouldn't that disenfranchise the voters who have chosen these lawmakers through the election process?
And why the focus on community colleges? Educators from K-12 and the university system also serve in the state Legislature. Riley proposed a bill that would have eliminated double-dipping in all three areas of education last spring, but the Legislature never acted on it. Now he is focusing only on the junior college system.
Riley does make a good point that lawmakers should not be in charge of appropriating money to the institutions they serve, but why implement the policy in the middle of the game? If the school board does act on his proposal, we hope they wait and make it effective after the current term in office ends.
Anything else is unfair to voters and to the legislators who were elected fairly.