Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/28/2003 01:05 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 106 - DEFINITION OF LOBBYING                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 0378                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                              
HOUSE  BILL   NO.  106,  "An   Act  amending  the   definition  of                                                              
'lobbyist' in  the Regulation of  Lobbying Act, and as  it applies                                                              
in  the act  setting  standards  of  conduct for  legislators  and                                                              
legislative employees,  to define  'regular' and 'substantial'  as                                                              
those  terms  describe  activities  for which  a  person  receives                                                              
consideration  for  the  purpose  of  influencing  legislative  or                                                              
administrative action."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0430                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JOE   MATHIS,   Senior  Operations   Manager,   Nana   Development                                                              
Corporation, testified  in support of HB 106.  He  opined that the                                                              
current  statute  "greatly  inhibits any  normal  business  person                                                              
from participating  in the public process."  Noting  that a person                                                              
who spends  more than four  hours in a  30-day period  speaking to                                                              
[elected  officials] is  required to  register as  a lobbyist,  he                                                              
offered his  belief that  this is  an unreasonable  [restriction],                                                              
since he  does not  want to have  to register  as a lobbyist  and,                                                              
yet, it is virtually  impossible to come to Juneau  and speak with                                                              
60 legislators  within that four-hour  time period.   He mentioned                                                              
that it is  pretty hard [for him]  to track just how  much time he                                                              
spends  in  contact  with  legislators   regarding  a  variety  of                                                              
issues, but  if he  exceeds the  four-hour time period  stipulated                                                              
in current  law, he is required  to register as a lobbyist,  pay a                                                              
registration  fee,  provide  personal  financial  information  for                                                              
public  scrutiny,  file reports,  and  be subject  to  significant                                                              
fines.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.   MATHIS   said  that   Nana   Development   Corporation   has                                                              
approximately  30  affiliated  businesses  and subsidiaries.    He                                                              
relayed  that there  is always  legislation  pending that  affects                                                              
his business  and, therefore, it  very easy for either  a business                                                              
associate or  himself to use up  that four-hour allotment  and, in                                                              
doing  so, they  all become  subject to  the current  registration                                                              
requirements for lobbyists.   He remarked that once  one becomes a                                                              
lobbyist,   he/she  is   prohibited  from   actively  working   in                                                              
campaigns  or making  contributions outside  of his/her  district.                                                              
He opined  that these  restrictions preclude  "bona fide  business                                                              
people"  from becoming  involved in  the "business  process."   He                                                              
urged the committee to pass HB 106.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0695                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
STEVE   CLEARY,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Public   Interest                                                              
Research  Group (AkPIRG),  relayed that  AkPIRG is  opposed to  HB
106 because  it believes  that the bill  will gut the  regulations                                                              
pertaining  to lobbying  to  such a  degree  that no  one will  be                                                              
required to register as a lobbyist.  He elaborated:                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     This is  bad public  policy and  will further erode  the                                                                   
     public's  trust   in  the  political   system,  allowing                                                                   
     special  interests  to  influence  legislators.    Since                                                                   
     statehood,  Alaska has had  a law regulating  lobbyists,                                                                   
     and this revision  to it would render that  law useless.                                                                   
     This current  legislation would  override a  26-year-old                                                                   
     regulation.   The  ability  to transparently  see  who's                                                                   
     attempting  to influence  our  legislators is  something                                                                   
     the public  has come  to depend on,  and this bill  will                                                                   
     greatly  decrease  that  transparency   and  expand  the                                                                   
     power of special interests over our political system.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     ...  Currently, registered  lobbyists  are  not able  to                                                                   
     host  fundraisers,  nor  are  they  able  to  donate  to                                                                   
     candidates  outside  their  legislative district.    And                                                                   
     the limit of  four hours is exactly that;  ... if you're                                                                   
     going  to  go  and just  talk  to  your  legislator  and                                                                   
     engage   in   direct  communication,   four   hours   is                                                                   
     definitely  a  long  time.    But  if  you're  going  to                                                                   
     influence  people  outside  your  legislative  district,                                                                   
     which  is the definition  of lobbying,  then you  should                                                                   
     be  subject to  limits, and  you should  not be able  to                                                                   
     donate  to  people outside  your  legislative  district,                                                                   
     nor hold fundraisers for those people.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     And there  are two  ways to attempt  to get around  that                                                                   
     provision.    First,  you   could  attempt  to  directly                                                                   
     remove it  and say that  lobbyists should be  allowed to                                                                   
     hold  fundraisers or  donate to those  candidates.   Or,                                                                   
     secondly,  ... you could  change who  needs to  register                                                                   
     as  a lobbyist,  thus  exempting  those folks  from  the                                                                   
     fundraiser and  donation ban.  This  legislation appears                                                                   
     to  be an  attempt to  do that,  and we  think that's  a                                                                   
     poor idea.   The definitions in this bill  for "regular"                                                                   
     and "substantial"  are not  adequate to capture  all the                                                                   
     people currently  engaging in lobbying.   And If  we put                                                                   
     the standard  at 30  days and 40  hours, we're  going to                                                                   
     miss a lot  of people who are lobbyists,  and the public                                                                   
     needs to know this information.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0851                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLEARY continued:                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Today  I  went  to  the  APOC   [Alaska  Public  Offices                                                                   
     Commission]  web  site and  printed  out the  number  of                                                                   
     lobbyists currently  registered in the state  of Alaska;                                                                   
     there are  178, by my  count, and  ... I don't  know how                                                                   
     many  of  these  people  would  then  ...  not  have  to                                                                   
     register as  lobbyists and why  the people of  the state                                                                   
     of Alaska  would be served  by that.  Now,  according to                                                                   
     the Center  for Public Integrity,  ... in 1999  and 2000                                                                   
     - both  those years  - nearly $11  million was  spent on                                                                   
     lobbying  in  Alaska,  making  the  state  12th  in  the                                                                   
     nation   for  most  lobby   expenditures;  331   special                                                                   
     interests  registered  in those  years.   So,  if  we're                                                                   
     looking  at trying to  decrease the  amount of  special-                                                                   
     interest  control  and persuasion  on  our  legislature,                                                                   
     the  best way  to do  that is  by transparently  showing                                                                   
     who is  trying to influence  our legislative  branch and                                                                   
     who's hiring  those people.  So,  just to sum up:   This                                                                   
     is bad public  policy and AkPIRG would like  you to vote                                                                   
     against this bill and not pass it out of committee.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLEARY, in  response to questions, said he  would be available                                                              
at the  next hearing  on HB  106 and would  provide the  committee                                                              
with written comments and suggestions.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0913                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MARY KATHRYN  THOMAS, Owner,  Arctech Services,  relayed  that her                                                              
company  is  a family-owned  small  business,  and that  they  are                                                              
oilfield  contractors, loggers  -  harvesting beetle-kill  timber,                                                              
and own  a trucking business.   She mentioned  that in  looking at                                                              
the APOC  definition, she  has probably  gone over the  four-hour,                                                              
thirty-day  limit for  many years  when  speaking to  legislators.                                                              
She  relayed   that  in  working  with  different   organizations,                                                              
including  serving on  various  boards, she  has  come before  the                                                              
legislature   to   speak   on   issues   of   concern   to   those                                                              
organizations.    She  mentioned  that  having to  register  as  a                                                              
lobbyist  would  also require  making  disclosures.   She  relayed                                                              
that  while  large  businesses  can afford  to  hire  a  dedicated                                                              
lobbyist who  will keep  his/her duties  separate from  the normal                                                              
duties of  running a  business, small  businesses can't  afford do                                                              
that, adding  that when she is  lobbying for her business,  she is                                                              
exposing her business  interests.  She said that  she has concerns                                                              
because  in order  for her  to adequately  address her  business's                                                              
needs, she  has to interact a  lot with the legislative  branch as                                                              
well as with agencies  in the executive branch.   She also relayed                                                              
that similar to  her wanting to represent her  business interests,                                                              
she also wants to  be able to put her name on  the "sponsorship of                                                              
a candidate's  fundraiser."  She said  that she would like  to see                                                              
HB 106 move forward.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 1144                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
GINGER   STOCK,  Owner,   WebWeavers,   LLC;   Member,  Board   of                                                              
Directors, Alaska  State Chamber  [of Commerce (ASCC)],  testified                                                              
in  support of  HB 106.    She opined  that  four hours  is not  a                                                              
significant amount  of time, and  that currently,  the regulations                                                              
pertaining  to and the  definition of  lobbyist seem limiting  and                                                              
unproductive for  those who are  trying to do business  in Alaska.                                                              
She urged the committee to support HB 106.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1250                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
LARRY  CREWS; Alaska  State Chamber  of  Commerce (ASCC);  Greater                                                              
Sitka  Chamber of  Commerce, remarked  that in  addition to  these                                                              
organizations,  he is  also speaking  as a  small business  owner.                                                              
He offered his  belief that the four-hour-per-month  limitation is                                                              
inadequate.  He  opined that no time limit should  be set for non-                                                              
compensated persons,  but that if one is required,  it should be a                                                              
more  reasonable  amount of  time,  such as  30  or  40 hours  per                                                              
month.   He said  that he  does not  feel that  he should  have to                                                              
register as a lobbyist  simply because he has to  spend six hours'                                                              
cumulative   time    each   month,    for   example,    with   his                                                              
representatives.   He asked  the committee  to consider  the small                                                              
business  owners  who periodically  need  the help  of  government                                                              
officials, and  to not make it any  harder than it already  is for                                                              
those people seeking the help they need.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1328                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DAN F. KENNEDY,  CPA, Owner, Kennedy & Company,  LLC, testified in                                                              
support  of  HB 106.    Speaking  on  behalf  of himself  and  his                                                              
business  partner, he  said that  they  were very  excited to  see                                                              
committee support  of HB  106.   He mentioned that  he is  a board                                                              
member  of the  Alaska  Society  of Certified  Public  Accountants                                                              
(ASCPA), and a  past president of the "Greater  Wasilla Chamber of                                                              
Commerce."    He opined  that  changing  the definitions  is  very                                                              
important  in order  for small businesses  to  have access  to the                                                              
decision-makers  within  state government.    He  relayed that  he                                                              
refers  to   the  current  four-hour   standard  as   a  draconian                                                              
restriction.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1436                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TONY  KRIER, Owner,  Tony's  Rentals, said  that  he supports  the                                                              
comments of  Mr. Mathis and  Ms. Thomas.   He indicated  that when                                                              
he contacts  his legislators, he has  to do so via  telephone and,                                                              
thus, he  has probably  gone over  the four-hour  time limit.   In                                                              
closing, he said that he supports HB 106.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1497                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
GRAHAM G.  STOREY, Executive Director,  Nome Chamber  of Commerce,                                                              
said that  he supports  HB 106.   He offered  his belief  that the                                                              
points made  by Mr. Cleary do  not reflect the realities  of rural                                                              
Alaska.    Mr.   Storey  noted  that  only  two   members  of  the                                                              
legislature  represent the Nome  area; thus,  he opined,  for "all                                                              
those other  issues out  there," [Nome  residents] have  no voice.                                                              
He remarked  that whenever  access to  government is expanded,  it                                                              
is an  excellent public  policy.   In response  to a question,  he                                                              
suggested  that the  problem  with  the current  law  is that  the                                                              
four-hour limit  for talking to  legislators and  other government                                                              
officials does not  provide enough time to address  all the issues                                                              
that might  be of  importance to  a particular  small business  or                                                              
community.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  remarked  that whenever  the  committee  considers                                                              
pending  legislation  and current  statutes,  it  is important  to                                                              
keep in mind the impact on the entire state.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1641                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT VENABLES,  Haines Chamber of Commerce, asked  the committee                                                              
to  support  HB  106.    He  opined   that  clarifying  the  terms                                                              
"regular"   and  "substantial"   will   better   reflect  what   a                                                              
businessperson's time  commitment must be in order  to effectively                                                              
communicate  with  the  legislature.    Four hours  per  month  is                                                              
hardly a substantial  amount of time, he remarked,  noting that it                                                              
would merely amount  to a person being able to spend  only about 6                                                              
minutes with  each legislator.   "The business community  wants to                                                              
be involved  with the legislature, and  if we're to take  the time                                                              
and expense  to come down to  the state capitol to  discuss issues                                                              
that are important  to us, then  we would ask to not  be penalized                                                              
for those efforts,"  he added.  In conclusion, he  relayed the 135                                                              
members  of the Haines  Chamber  of Commerce  would like to  thank                                                              
the legislature  for its efforts  in making state  government work                                                              
better for the people across the state who are in business.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 1745                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ANDREE McLEOD,  by way of introduction,  said that in  addition to                                                              
being  a  citizen  of  Alaska, she  is  a  "public  member  living                                                              
outside  the capital  when the legislature  is  in session."   She                                                              
went on to say:                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     If  you want  a  more educated  voter,  a more  involved                                                                   
     citizenry,  and a more  responsive government,  you will                                                                   
     not  pass this  bill out  of committee.   At  a time  in                                                                   
     this country  when there should be as much  openness and                                                                   
     dialog  as  possible  between  the  government  and  the                                                                   
     people  about what  government  is doing,  to propose  a                                                                   
     blatant  circumvention  of well-written  laws  regarding                                                                   
     the  openness   and  candor  of  lobbyists'   government                                                                   
     activity is  clearly a betrayal  not only of  the people                                                                   
     of Alaska, but of the democratic process itself.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS.  McLEOD indicated  that she  would  be able  to offer  further                                                              
testimony when HB 106 is next heard                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE relayed  that  representatives  from  the APOC  and                                                              
from the  ASCC would testify  at the next  hearing on HB  106, and                                                              
that further  public testimony would  also be heard at  that time.                                                              
She announced that HB 106 would be held over.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                

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