By Alabama Governor Bob Riley

Alabama's two-year college system is making significant progress toward restoring its credibility and integrity, thanks in part to the ban on double dipping passed last year by the State Board of Education.

That ban, which currently applies only to employees of the two-year system, should be extended to cover employees of all state agencies, four-year universities, and K-12 schools. Rep. Duwayne Bridges has introduced legislation called the End to Double Dipping Act. This bill, HB 668, would ban double dipping in every government institution. No single reform would have a more positive impact on Alabama right now than this one. In a sign of the growing opposition to double dipping, this bill already has the support of 20 co-sponsors from both political parties.

One reason why support for a ban on double dipping is growing is the realization that Alabama is behind many other states when it comes to protecting taxpayers from this type of abuse of the public trust. A report released last month by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows 11 states have absolute bans on double dipping and 19 others have some form of restrictions against double dipping.

Louisiana just strengthened its ban on double dipping to bar legislators from contracting with the state, so now 41 states restrict legislators from having a contract with state government. It's well past time for Alabama to join these other states, including many in the South, that understand double dipping is wrong and bad for the taxpayers.

Not only is double dipping bad for taxpayers, it is also unfair to state and education employees who are not elected officials. That's because of the perception that powerful elected officials receive special consideration for state jobs and promotions and get special treatment when it comes to absences and accountability to superiors for performance at work.

In addition, any time elected officials are allowed to draw two state salaries, they essentially become taxpayer-funded lobbyists for the government agency they work for. That's a conflict of interest and it must be stopped.

Some opponents of reform have claimed the policies adopted by the State Board of Education are discriminatory if they apply only to employees of the two-year system. Well, this legislation gives them a chance to change that, and I call upon these opponents to help pass this ban in the Legislature so it applies to everyone.

This reform will bring a higher level of integrity, honesty and accountability to state government. A government that is honest, ethical and honorable is fundamental to a better future for Alabama.

This is not a radical proposal. It is one many states and the federal government already follow. Even existing law here in Alabama already prohibits uniformed service members and federal officials from holding state office. Federal employees and state employees working for federally-funded state and local government programs are barred from campaigning for elected state office by the federal Hatch Act. This bill simply puts these same accountability protections into every area of state government. The people of Alabama have a right to know where their legislator stands on this issue.

The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.