MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A House committee approved a bill Wednesday that would give a legislative panel the right to review and approve policy changes in Alabama’s two-year college system.
The House Education Policy Committee approved the bill on a voice vote Wednesday though several committee members waved their arms and shouted at committee vice chairman Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba, asking for a recorded vote.
The State Board of Education opposed the bill, saying it would threaten the accreditation of the state’s two-year colleges. Anita Archie, government relations director for the two-year college system, said the policies of the system are already reviewed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits colleges and universities.
The sponsor, Democratic Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, says the bill won’t affect past decisions and would not change a board policy requiring two-year college employees who also serve in the Legislature to quit one of the two jobs after 2010.
But school board member Randy McKinney, a Republican from Gulf Shores, said the bill seems to be aimed at the board’s policy concerning “double dipping” by legislators who work in the two-year college system.
“The policy concerning double dipping is a good policy and it needs to continue,” McKinney said.
Irons, a Florence attorney, said she introduced the bill because she believes the Legislature intended for two-year colleges to be included when it passed the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires state agency policies to be reviewed by the Legislative Council, which includes about 30 lawmakers from both the House and Senate.
The Legislative Council currently reviews the policies of the board of education concerning K-12 schools.
Alabama’s four-year colleges are exempt from the Administrative Procedures Act because they have their own trustee boards.
Two-year system officials have argued that the board of education serves the function of a board of trustees for two-year colleges.
Irons said she believes if the two-year college system’s policies had been reviewed by the Legislative Council some of the alleged corruption that led to the system’s former chancellor, Roy Johnson, pleading guilty to federal charges could have been avoided.
“Everything in the system has been kept under wraps. Let’s get it all out there in the open,” Irons said.
The meeting ended in controversy, with Spicer calling for a voice vote as the committee’s ranking Republican member, Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, stood directly in front of Spicer waving his hands and hollering “recorded vote.” Several other committee members also were asking for a recorded vote.
Spicer is an assistant to the president at Enterprise-Ozark Community College and one of the lawmakers affected by the “double dipping” policy. He said he was not required to take a recorded vote.
“The chair has the option and lots of members didn’t want a recorded vote,” Spicer said.
He said the bill has nothing to do with the board’s policy concerning “double dipping.”
“What the bill is trying to do is open up things and make sure there’s an opportunity for the public to see what’s happening,” Spicer said.
House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, called the voice vote “a shameful railroad job.”
Ball said he wanted a recorded vote so the public could see the position of each committee member on the bill.
“I was standing right over him (Spicer) saying ‘roll call vote.’ That undermines why we are up here. It’s so disappointing,” Ball said.
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