By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted for a favorable report for Senate Bill 194 dealing with the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. The bill allows the University of Alabama to maintain the districts that they already have anticipating the strong possibility that Alabama will lose a congressional district after the coming 2020 census.
Bill sponsor Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said that he hopes that Alabama will still have seven congressional districts upon reapportionment; but this bill would allow the university to maintain the districts as they are today.
That is important because Alabama gets two Board of Trustees members from each of the state’s seven congressional districts and three from the seventh district because that’s where the campus is actually located. This bill locks in the districts as they exist on Jan. 1, 2018, for BOT membership districts even if the state of Alabama drops to six districts in 2021. This would allow UA to maintain its current 15 member board structure.
The bill also eliminates the age restriction of 70 for BOT membership and removes the state superintendent as an ex officio member from the BOT.
Reed said that several other boards have also removed the school superintendent.
Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, asked, “Is it not helpful to have that dialogue by having the superintendent involved?”
“There is already lot of communication between the college of education and the schools so they felt that was not necessary,” Reed said. “The University of North Alabama did the same thing on the House floor yesterday.”
Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said of the bill, “I think it is a very necessary bill to maintain continuity.”
Senator Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, asked if the governor is still a member of the board.
Sen. Reed said, “Yes, the governor is the chair.”
Sen. Figures said, “I would like to see the governor taken off of all of these boards because it is a conflict of interest,” since the governor appoints people to many of the same boards.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. Ward said that removing the superintendent of education should not be a problem because, “Superintendents rarely attend these boards anyway.”
Figures said, “Neither does the Governor.”
Sen. Reed said, “The University of Alabama has a very good record on diversity.”
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, agreed and said, “I applaud them for that.”
The Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report on a 11 to zero vote.
The state of Alabama currently does not have a state school superintendent, and this legislative session will be over before one is appointed by the school board. The last superintendent resigned in September after 14 months on the job due to pressure from the school board. His predecessor retired when a federal investigation of the state’s graduation rate revealed that the state had been overstating it’s performance.
There is legislation before the Senate which would make the superintendent and the school board appointees of the governor.
SB195 now moves to consideration by the full state Senate.