Alabama: New law to curb political activity by teachers on hold for federal review

Alabama: New law to curb political activity by teachers on hold for federal review

February 5th, 2011 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A new law aimed at curbing political activity by Alabama's teachers and state employees won't go into effect until it's approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

The Legislature passed the law in December, and it is slated to take effect in March. The state attorney general's office recently submitted it to the Justice Department to make sure it complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The federal law requires the department to review any law that affects voting in Alabama because of the state's history of discrimination.

Suzanne Webb, a spokeswoman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, told The Anniston Star that it's a routine step that's needed before the law can be enforced. She said the department has until early March to complete its review and say whether the law complies with the Voting Rights Act.

But the Justice Department can extend the 60-day review period by seeking information from the state about the new law.

Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa confirmed the Alabama law is under review.

The new law prohibits public employees from using payroll deductions to send money to organizations for use in political activity. The biggest effect is on the Alabama Education Association and Alabama State Employees Association, which lobby for legislation and contribute to political candidates.

The organizations are already taking steps to work around the law if it does go into effect. For instance, they are getting members to make contributions through bank drafts rather than payroll deductions.