MONTGOMERY — An Alabama lawmaker wants to more than double the pay of State Board of Education members and limit them to two consecutive terms in office.
Senate Bill 465 from Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, would pay the eight elected board members the same amount as legislators, “an amount equal to the median annual household income in the state.” That’s about $43,000 annually.
Currently, board members earn $18,000, plus mileage.
Pittman on Friday said he believes in term limits — he has sponsored legislation this year term-limiting lawmakers, but it is stalled in the Senate — and said board members should be compensated for representing areas nearly the size of Congressional districts.
“The thing about term limits, it gets things done,” Pittman said about elected officials knowing they won’t be in office indefinitely.
“I think term limits are healthy. It gets new people in,” he said.
His bill will be in the Senate education budget committee, of which he is chairman, on Wednesday. If his bill becomes law, the term limits would start with the next round of elections.
Mary Scott Hunter, a two-term board member and Republican from Huntsville, said she supports the bill.
“I think term limits are a good thing for all levels of government in the country and in our state, and I’m excited to see the board become a more desirable place to serve,” she said Friday.
Hunter said her pay now is about $1,500 a month. She travels to Montgomery several times a month.
“Nobody should get rich off this job, but it needs to be affordable,” she said.
The two longest-serving current board members are Ella Bell, a Democrat from Montgomery first elected in 2000, and Stephanie Bell, a Republican from Montgomery, elected in 1994. They’re not related.
Ella Bell on Friday hadn’t heard about Pittman’s bill.
“I’m not surprised at anything they do,” she said about lawmakers. “I wouldn’t be opposed to it if he put term limits on himself. If he wants term limits, he ought to put them on everyone, including the Legislature.”
Alabama limits its constitutional officers — including the governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor — to two terms.
But there are no limits on other elected officials, including members of the Public Service Commission or judges.
Stephanie Bell said she didn’t understand why, given the state’s tight budget situation, lawmakers would want to pay board members more and create a second board.
The Legislature last week approved the creation of an appointed board that will replace the board of education in overseeing the junior college system.
Members of that board will be term-limited. Advocates for the bill said the new board, made up of business and industry leaders, will focus on workforce development.
Current board of education members opposed the change.
Pittman sponsored that legislation, too, and said Friday that board of education members will now have more time to focus on the K-12 schools in their districts.
Stephanie Bell said institutional knowledge is important in education and people should run for the board because they want to, not because of the pay.
“Experience and institutional knowledge: You can’t put a price tag on those two,” she said.
And, she said, the board is already term-limited.
“It’s called elections,” Stephanie Bell said.