Several years ago, the Dothan Eagle looked into how public employees who serve in the Alabama Legislature square their work time with their lawmaking time.
We looked into the work schedule and voting record of then-House of Representatives member Terry Spicer, who worked for an Enterprise community college. There were instances of Spicer casting votes on the House floor while being marked as on the job in Enterprise.
Clearly that’s not possible. And while legislative leaders have traditionally turned a blind eye to the dishonest State House practice some lawmakers employ by casting multiple votes using the machines of absent colleagues, let’s face it – lawmakers should be in their seats in Montgomery. They were elected to do a job for the people, and that trumps their day jobs. If that’s not possible, they cannot meet their obligation to voters and should not serve.
And let’s not even get started on the fertile breeding ground for corruption created by a cozy relationship between elected service and public jobs.
The Legislature finally came to its senses after a federal investigation into corruption in the state’s two-year college system that yielded guilty pleas or convictions from three lawmakers with jobs or financial ties to the system. Following that scandal, the Legislature passed a bill known as the “double-dipping ban,” which prohibits public employees from serving as lawmakers.
Now Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh wants to make a small change, exempting nine current lawmakers who would be prohibited from serving after the 2014 election. Three local lawmakers will be affected: Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, an administrator at Troy University; Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, a high school coach; and Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville, a juvenile probation officer.
We have no quarrel with these elected officials, or those from other parts of the state who would see their legislative careers ended by this law. However, the double-dipping legislation should be left intact; one simply cannot perform two public service jobs adequately when one requires an extended absence from the other.
Marsh’s proposal passed the Senate Education Committee on a disdainful unrecorded voice vote that gives members plausible deniability, which should speak volumes about the proposal’s worthiness.
This self-serving bill should be left to die a quiet death.