Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/12/2001 01:34 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.