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Legislature getting new website, bill-drafting system

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The website and database Alabamians use to read proposed laws, track bills’ progress and view how lawmakers vote is getting a major overhaul. 

But don’t kiss good old ALISON goodbye just yet. The new site likely won’t be ready until the 2022 legislative session.

The Legislative Services Agency, the office responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work including bill and budget drafting for the Legislature, has a proposed $280,000 contract with a Tennessee company for the development of a new and updated website. 

“The price tag is more than you would spend on a regular website, but they’ll also be building a database that holds all the historical documents and those created in the future which can be pulled onto the website,” Othni Lathram, executive director of the Legislative Services Agency, said Tuesday.

The agency earlier this year entered into a separate, $7 million contract with International Roll-Call for a new bill-drafting system and legislative production system. Like the current public website, the drafting system dates back to the 1990s, Lathram said. 

“When we draft bills, we’re drafting them in Word Perfect and Arbortext,” Lathram said.

It’s a time-consuming process and one that has developed some glitches with age. The system is also used to create the state’s annual budgets, handle the workflow of House and Senate and their committees, produce the legislative calendars and journals, and all other aspects of the legislative process. That upgrade should be ready to test during the for the 2021 session and go fully live for the 2022 legislative session.

When the public website is complete in 2022, both upgrades should work seamlessly and the public will be able to access current legislation and previous legislation going back to 2000, as currently available, Lathram said.

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