Governor wants teachers exempt from gift restrictions under ethics law

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Governor Bentley is asking the Alabama Legislature to amend the current ethics law relating to the ability of teachers to receive seasonal gifts. Under the current ethics law, a teacher is a public employee and would be considered to be breaking the law if they accepted a gift from a student or parent.

"We appreciate our teachers. They work hard all year to provide our children with the best education possible," said Governor Bentley. "All year we ask them to do a lot with a little. And if parents or students want to show their gratitude by giving those teachers a gift during the holiday season, they ought to be allowed to do that. We need to make sure the law is clear. Teachers shouldn't be considered lawbreakers if they receive a gift from a student. "

The law currently states that a teacher, public employee or public official can only accept a gift of "de minimus" value, which means insignificant or moderate value. The law does not designate a specific dollar amount triggering confusion among gifters and giftees alike.

Senator Tom Whatley, Senator Cam Ward, Senator Gerald Dial, and Senator Slade Blackwell will co-sponsor a bill to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session that would further define how the law applies to teachers.

"We agree with Governor Bentley and the need to make sure the law is clear so teachers, parents, and students understand that Christmas gifts, seasonal gifts, and classroom donations to teachers and their classrooms from students, parents, and grandparents are perfectly acceptable," said Senator Tom Whatley.

"Ethics reform was designed to curtail corruption among elected officials, it was never intended to have government act as a nanny state for little children giving appreciation gifts to their teachers," said Senator Cam Ward.

The current Alabama Ethics Law went into effect in March of this year.

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