Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/12/2001 01:34 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Number 630                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
         SB 103-ELECTION CAMPAIGNS AND LEGISLATIVE ETHICS                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY  moved to adopt CSSB 103(JUD), Version  22-LS0148\W,                                                            
for  discussion purposes.    There being  no objection,  the  motion                                                            
carried.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. SUSIE BARNETT,  Select Committee  on Legislative Ethics  (SCLE),                                                            
said  SCLE has  been following  SB  103 through  the  process.   She                                                            
stated  the changes  made  in  the Senate  State  Affairs  Committee                                                            
helped with clarification.   She said she did not have a copy of the                                                            
new committee  substitute (CS) and  asked if it applies to  campaign                                                            
finance.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR responded  it does; the two provisions in the new CS                                                            
cover volunteer  and legal services that are being  utilized in most                                                            
campaigns.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 789                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  he could  not find the  provision in  CSSB
103(JUD)  that deals  with attorneys  volunteering  their time.   He                                                            
noted   there  was   a  provision   on  page  6   that  deals   with                                                            
communications  made by a corporation to its stockholders.   Senator                                                            
Therriault  explained  that the  current statutory  language  allows                                                            
accountants  to help fill  out campaign reports;  under current  law                                                            
this  is not considered  to  be a  contribution.  Therefore, SB  103                                                            
recognizes  that accountants have  a high hourly rate and  it allows                                                            
them  to volunteer  their time  on behalf  of a  campaign.   Similar                                                            
language has been requested on behalf of attorneys.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  said volunteer time for attorneys  probably belongs                                                            
in  the provision  on  page  5, line  23,  that says:  (i)  services                                                            
provided without compensation  by individuals volunteering a portion                                                            
or all of their time on behalf of a political party....                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  it looks  like language  had been  deleted                                                            
from this provision  and that it actually  proposes the deletion  of                                                            
services provided by an  accountant or other persons.  This language                                                            
is currently  in statute so an accountant  can help prepare  an APOC                                                            
report and not  be capped-out at a dollar amount.   He said it looks                                                            
like  the language  was being  removed  from existing  statutes  and                                                            
there was no language that puts it into another section.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked about the provision on page  6 that reads:                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     (ii) communications  with a value  of $500 or less on  any                                                                 
     subject  made by  a corporation  to its  stockholders  and                                                                 
     employees   and   their  families   or  by   a  nonprofit                                                                  
     corporation,   labor   organization,   or  unincorporated                                                                  
     business  or  trade  association   to  its employees   and                                                                 
     members and their families;                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  read from  a  "Solidarity  Update" newsletter,                                                             
which contains a suggested  list of candidates for its membership to                                                            
endorse.  He said  the newsletter did not come out  and say, "Please                                                            
vote for Eric Croft" but it did say:                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     But  since the next  legislature will  choose to fund  (or                                                                 
     not fund) the contract we  are preparing to negotiate, and                                                                 
     given  the current legislative  majority's prior attempts                                                                  
     to cut  our pay, reduce  our benefits,  and privatize  our                                                                 
     jobs, it might be prudent  to consider the fact that these                                                                 
     candidates  have  shown a  willingness to  support public                                                                  
     employees.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  the newsletter  says because  of this  the                                                            
members  should  vote for  the  long list  of  people  shown in  the                                                            
newsletter.  He asked  if this would  be counted  as a contribution                                                             
with regard  to the amount  that could be  spent on an individual's                                                             
campaign.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BROOKE  MILES,  Director,  Alaska  Public  Offices   Commission                                                            
(APOC),  said APOC  has a  regulation addressing  this  issue.   The                                                            
existing  regulation  is somewhat  different from  Senator  Donley's                                                            
proposed  amendment  in that  it says  the  communication  is not  a                                                            
contribution   when  entities   communicate   with  their   members,                                                            
stockholders  and members of their  family or their employees  if it                                                            
is  done in  a way  in  which they  always  communicate,  such as  a                                                            
newsletter or e-mail.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. MILES said  she was somewhat confused  about whether  or not the                                                            
purpose  of  Senator   Donley's  amendment  is  to  limit   existing                                                            
communications to $500.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1215                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  clarified that  current regulations allow  labor                                                            
organizations,  in the normal course  of their monthly newsletters,                                                             
to advocate  for  individuals.   He asked  if the same  is true  for                                                            
corporations.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. MILES  said yes.   She said corporations  sometimes communicate                                                             
with employees  or  shareholders through  weekly  newsletters  or e-                                                            
mails and they do so without regulations and limits.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if the  new language  of "communications                                                             
with a value of  $500 or less," would force APOC into  a position of                                                            
estimating  the value  of communications,  whereas  otherwise,  APOC                                                            
would  not  have  to  estimate  the  value  for  a  normal  mode  of                                                            
communication.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MILES  agreed that  would  happen  and said  if  this  language                                                            
becomes  law, there  would be  no practical  way to  track it.   The                                                            
language does  not say that when a communication worth  $500 or less                                                            
is made,  that a report needs  to be submitted.   There would  be no                                                            
information  available to the public.   Someone would just  find out                                                            
about it, report to APOC, and a complaint would be filed.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said the Senate State Affairs  Committee members                                                            
discussed this with Senator  Donley, who believes that communication                                                            
association  is a first amendment  right and that it is appropriate                                                             
for unions  to do this.   Senator Therriault  said he was trying  to                                                            
make sure that corporations  and other groups had the same rights to                                                            
communicate with  their employees but under current  regulation this                                                            
is already allowed.   The suggested language in the  new CS does not                                                            
try  to limit  that  right,  but it  is  not  clear how  APOC  would                                                            
evaluate the value of a publication if there were a complaint.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said the  $500 or less  contribution impinges  upon                                                            
everyone's  first amendment  rights.   He said it  is a policy  call                                                            
whenever a person's right to free speech is restricted.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  said it appears that deleting the  language on page                                                            
5 accomplished the purpose that was intended.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 1490                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELLIS said  he  would like  to  wait for  Senator  Donley's                                                            
explanation  of the amendment  before passing  CSSB 103(JUD)  out of                                                            
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said  he also  was frustrated  that Senator  Donley                                                            
could  not be  there,  but he  understands  the two  amendments  the                                                            
judiciary committee made to SB 103.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said that if Senator Ellis had  questions on the                                                            
specific language or other  portions of the bill, staff was there to                                                            
answer questions.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS said he understood the bill.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COWDERY   moved  CSSB  103(JUD)   out  of  committee   with                                                            
individual recommendation.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS  objected and  a roll call vote  was taken.   Senators                                                            
Cowdery, Therriault and  Chairman Taylor voted "yea."  Senator Ellis                                                            
voted "nay," and so CSSB 103(JUD) moved from committee.                                                                         

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