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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Committee does not meet to discuss no bid contracts



An Alabama Senate committee was scheduled to take up a bill on Tuesday morning that would severely limit the ability of state government to use no-bid contracts, but the panel did not meet because there were not enough lawmakers present for a quorum.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Ted Little, said he would try to squeeze in another meeting of the Fiscal Responsibility & Accountability Committee on Thursday.

"If not, as far as I am concerned, these bills are dead," Little said.

The other bill before the panel dealt with salvage pools.

Little, D-Auburn, was joined in the committee by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; and Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham. Those committee members who did not attend include Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale; Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland; Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile; Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman; Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs; Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; and Senate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.

Ted Little, Coleman and Penn are sponsors of the bill dealing with no bid contracts.

The bill states that currently there is no law that prohibits no-bid contracts.

"This bill would prohibit no-bid contracts, but provide an exception for personal service contracts less than $100,000, and provide an exception for emergency situations," according to the synopsis.

The bill would require the state to award a contract to the lowest bidder after it was "competitively bid and open to the general public after a reasonable and prudent period of advertising on a central electronic site maintained by the state."

If the executive branch entered into a contract without a competitive bidding process, that agreement would be "null and void," according to the legislation. The state would not be obligated to honor a no-bid contract that did not meet the specific exceptions for professional services or an emergency.

The bill would have also required the media and the public to be notified when an emergency is declared.

Lawmakers have criticized the administration of Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, for declaring emergencies instead of bringing some contracts before the legislative contract review committee.

No bid contracts have been an issue in the last two races for governor with Riley criticizing then-Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, in 2002 for his administration's use of no bid contracts. Four years later, Riley's own words were used in commercials by Democrats calling him "Billion-dollar Bob."

Most people agree running government would be very difficult if all items, including pens and paper, had to be bid, but the state pays out tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts annually.

The proposal allows for an official to be removed from office for not complying with the law if he is convicted in a "court of competent jurisdiction."

Last week, ethics legislation remained in the Senate's Constitution, Campaign, Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee because of a lack of a quorum. Also, Senate President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, did not assign a bill banning the transfer of funds between political action committees to a Senate committee for two months even though it passed the House unanimously and is a platform Democrats ran on in 2006. He assigned the bill on Thursday after the media questioned him about its fate.

Today is the 22nd of 30 meetings days in the legislative session.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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