The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 25, 2013

Gov. Bentley looks at options for state boards

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Robert Bentley repeated himself this week when he signed nomination letters for trustees at Alabama State University and the University of North Alabama.

The Republican governor had already nominated Jacqueline Brooks of Tuskegee, Larry Thornton of Hueytown and Robert Gilpin of Montgomery to the ASU governing board and Simpson Russell of Florence to the UNA board. But the four were among 70 nominations to various state posts that died without a vote in the Alabama Senate, which spent much of the session in a partisan logjam.

With Bentley's repeat action, Brooks, Thornton, Gilpin and Russell can still serve as trustees until at least the 2014 legislative session, when they will again be up for Senate confirmation.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said the governor's office is concerned that it may not be so simple for some of the other affected panels, which range from the state cosmetology board to the citizen panel that helps select school textbooks.

It's not immediately clear that any of the boards at issue will have enough vacancies that will threaten their ability to do business. But it's a complication that forces the governor's office to go statute-by-statute as it considers its legal options. At the very least, the situation highlights that the Alabama Constitution and code do not have uniform rules for seats on the state's agency, university and professional boards.

Boards at the University of Alabama System and Auburn University are both established in the constitution. The UA board is self-perpetuating, meaning existing members elect new members who are subject to Senate confirmation but can still serve immediately. So there's no practical effect to the Senate not confirming Harris Morrissette and Marietta Urquhart to additional terms.

Auburn trustees are selected by a nomination panel and must be confirmed by the Senate before serving. Members can serve only a year past their term, even if a successor is not confirmed and a vacancy ensues. But it took a series of rulings by the Alabama Supreme Court to establish when the staggered terms begin and end.

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