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Committee holding up voter list contract

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Legislature's Contract Review Committee voted Thursday to hold up a contract between the governor's office and an Omaha, Neb. company to create a court-ordered statewide voter registration list.

But Gov. Bob Riley's attorney says the company that is receiving the $6.2 million contract, Election Systems and Software, has already begun work on the project and that the committee's action will not delay efforts to meet a federal judge's Aug. 31 deadline to have the list compiled.

A federal judge put Riley in charge of developing the list after former Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed a federally mandated deadline. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins gave Riley until Aug. 31 to complete the task.

Two members of the committee, Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, and Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, voted to hold up the contract, saying there were not enough safeguards to insure that minority-owned businesses and minority workers would get a chance to do some of the work.

The committee can delay a contract for up to 45 days if one member objects.

Ken Wallis, legal adviser to Riley, defended the contract.

"We have requested that the company be sensitive to the diversity needs of this state. They are going to make an effort to include minority vendors in everything they do," Wallis said.

Because of the court order, Wallis said the contract has already been signed and workers from the company are in Montgomery.

On another matter, committee members said they had received a letter from Riley apologizing for his Finance Department agreeing to a contract to hire a retired state employee to be a lobbyist for the Alabama Medicaid Agency even though the pact had not been reviewed by the committee.

and violated an executive order prohibiting agencies from hiring lobbyists.

After a report on the contract by The Huntsville Times, Fulford resigned the position.

Riley promised committee members that similar contracts would be submitted to the committee for review in the future.

Medicaid Commissioner Carol A. Herrmann-Steckel said Fulford was going to train the Medicaid staff that works with legislators and was not actually going to lobby herself.

"Our intention was never to have her be a full-time lobbyist," Herrmann-Steckel said.

Committee member Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said he was disappointed that Medicaid officials would think they needed a lobbyist.

"If there's any agency that does not need a paid lobbyist it's Medicaid. Every single member of the budget committee makes Medicaid a priority," said Knight, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee and an advocate for adequate Medicaid funding.

Summary of legislative action

MONTGOMERY — A summary of action in the Alabama Legislature on Thursday, the second meeting day of the regular session.

HOUSE

  • Approved a resolution to give legislators a pay raise of about 60 percent.

  • Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, administered oath of office to new Rep. Butch Taylor, D-New Hope. Taylor won a special election Tuesday to the seat vacated by the death of Rep. Albert Hall, D-Gurley.

    SENATE

  • Gave final approval to the House-passed pay raise for legislators. Goes to governor.

  • Joined the House for a joint session with Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus.

    AGENDA

  • House meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday and Senate at 2 p.m.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY

    "The people that passed this resolution had the votes. They also have the votes to override my veto. I know that going in, but I think a 61 percent raise is excessive." — Gov. Bob Riley on the Legislature's pay raise resolution.

    Associated Press

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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