The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 24, 2013

Bill on Alabama double dipping exemptions dies

By Phillip Rawls

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate found no support in his own party for his bill to allow public employees in the Legislature to remain after the 2014 election.

The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, failed 11-18 late Tuesday night. He voted for the bill along with 10 Democrats. His fellow Republicans either voted against the bill or didn't vote.

After Republicans gained control of the Legislature in the 2010 election, they pushed through a law that prohibits state employees and public education employees from serving in the Legislature after the 2014 election. The ban on drawing two state paychecks, a practice known as "double dipping," came after an investigation of corruption in Alabama's two-year college system. It resulted in guilty pleas or convictions of three legislators who either worked for the colleges or had financial ties to them.

Marsh said the Republican-controlled Legislature has protected existing employees when consolidating state agencies. He said the Legislature should follow the same precedent by grandfathering in existing legislators and applying the ban on drawing two state paychecks to future legislators.

"I believe that is a fair position to take," he said.

His fellow Republicans didn't. Republican Sen. Bill Holtzclaw of Madison said the federal Hatch Act required him to leave NASA when he decided to run for a partisan spot in the Legislature. Republican Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville said he resigned his state job when he chose to run in 2010. "It's best for public policy," he said.

Marsh said he was not surprised by the vote. "I did not put pressure on any of my colleagues to support it," he said.

Some Democrats praised Marsh for having the courage to introduce the bill. "I gain nothing from the introduction of this bill," Marsh said.

If Marsh's bill had passed the Senate, it would have had a tough time in the House. House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, supported the enactment of the ban three years ago and said last week his position had not changed.

Legislators with public jobs include: Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, an administrator at Troy University; Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, a high school coach; Rep. David Colston, D-Hayneville, a state trooper; Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, a school teacher; Rep. Tedd Greeson, R-Ider, an employee of Northeast Alabama Community College; Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville, a juvenile probation officer; Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, an administrator at Alabama State University; Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, an administrator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, an adult education employee at Trenholm State Technical College.