Giving gifts to teachers not corruption

Dear Editor,

Remember during grade school when you gave a favorite teacher or coach a nice Christmas present to express your thanks for all their hard work during the year? Well good thing you aren’t doing it now, because you and the teacher would be in violation of the new Alabama State Ethics Law.

In last year’s special session, the Alabama State Legislature passed a measure aimed at limiting the gifts that legislators and government officials could accept from lobbyists and the like. It didn’t stop there however. The Ethics Law extends to all government officials and employees, including public school teachers. On Dec. 7, to clarify the law’s application to school teachers, the Alabama Ethics Commission issued a 29-page opinion.

Not only is it absurd to classify teachers in the same group as elected government officials, this once again provides proof that only in Alabama can a law meant to reduce government corruption be turned against the very working people it is designed to protect.

Just take a look at this reasoning from the Ethics Commission’s opinion: “There is no distinction, therefore, between school teachers and legislators, or county commissioners and school bus drivers… If the Commission were to say that it is permissible to give school teachers gifts that fall outside the parameters set out in the law, it would not be long before an attempt is made to open that up to include city council members, county commissioners and then legislators. In other words, if a student can give a gift to a teacher, why can’t a farmer from Winston County give a shotgun to a county commissioner?”

I failed to mention the fact that lobbyists can still spend $25 per meal, up to $150 per year on government officials. However you have to be a registered lobbyist to do this. The government will no longer put up with Alabama school children prancing around as unregistered lobbyists, bribing teachers! Give me a break.

Unfortunately, this example clearly illustrates how ridiculous and void of common sense Alabama state government continues to become. While one area of government is worried about this, the state’s unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent with more than 20 percent unemployment in some counties. Our state continues to be ranked near the bottom in nearly all rankings related to education, health and general well being.

We haven’t found the time or will to address taxes, education, constitutional reform, healthcare, etc, but public school teachers getting bribed with a Christmas gift is just too important to ignore. Please tell me, when will it stop?

Lane Morrison