Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/27/1996 03:36 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 SSTA - 2/27/96                                                                
                                                                               
                  SB 141 LEGISLATIVE ETHICS                                  
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS brought up SB 141 as the next order of           
 business before the Senate State Affairs Committee.  The vice-                
 chairman called Ms. MacNeille to testify.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 140                                                                    
                                                                               
 MARGIE MACNEILLE, Chair, Select Committee on Legislative Ethics,              
 testifying from Anchorage, stated her comments would be addressed             
 to the changes from the "n" version of the legislation to the "o"             
 version of the legislation.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 148                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN made a motion to adopt the committee substitute for             
 SB 141, version "Cramer, 2/19/96" for mark-up purposes.                       
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS, hearing no objections, stated that              
 version was adopted.  He asked Chair MacNeille to begin her                   
 comments.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 150                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated she will refer to a memo addressed to                  
 Chairman Sharp by Susie Barnett, dated February 23, 1996.  The                
 chair listed the changes, as outlined in that memo.  She stated the           
 committee would have no concern with Section 2.                               
                                                                               
 Number 175                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that the language in Section 17 does not               
 cause her any difficulty.                                                     
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that the new language in Section 20,                   
 subparagraph (B) looks understandable.                                        
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that Section 21 is fine with the committee.            
                                                                               
 Number 199                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that changes to Sections 34 and 35 were                
 recommended by the committee.                                                 
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that changes to Sections 38 and 39 were                
 recommended by the committee.                                                 
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that changes made to Section 41 appear                 
 reasonable to her.                                                            
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that concludes her comments on the changes             
 made in the committee substitute.  She asked the committee if they            
 wanted any comments on the proposed amendments to SB 141.                     
                                                                               
 Number 240                                                                    
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS informed the committee that the APOC             
 filing deadline has been changed back to April 15.                            
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks the committee substitute still lists February           
 15 as the filing deadline.                                                    
                                                                               
 Committee staff noted that deadline had been in Section 32 of the             
 previous version.                                                             
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY asked if that whole section had been removed.                  
                                                                               
 Committee staff responded that it was taken out; at this time, the            
 law specifies April 15.                                                       
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked if there were any questions for            
 Chair MacNeille.                                                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated he would like to hear her comments on the               
 proposed amendments to SB 141.                                                
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked Chair MacNeille to comment on              
 the amendments.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 275                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated the committee has decided not to take a                
 position on amendment M.1.                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked that amendment M.1 be redrafted so that the               
 language is consistent with earlier language.                                 
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS responded that would be done.                    
                                                                               
 SUSIE BARNETT, Professional Assistant, Select Committee on                    
 Legislative Ethics, informed the committee that Chair MacNeille did           
 not receive the attached amendments in the order in which the                 
 committee has them.  She asked that the amendments be identified              
 for the chair.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 300                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that her concern with amendment O.1 is that            
 there might be a public perception that campaign business would be            
 mixed up with legislative business.                                           
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY explained that the original intent of the                      
 legislature on the Ethics Legislation was to prohibit putting up              
 campaign signs in a legislative office, or keeping bumper stickers            
 or campaign literature in an office.  What we never anticipated was           
 that anyone would interpret that to mean a legislator couldn't keep           
 records in his or her office.  In every campaign, legislators                 
 answer dozens of surveys.  How those are answered are really                  
 important to how we do our job.  Senator Donley stated he keeps and           
 refers to those records.  In addition, he keeps issues he                     
 researched during a campaign.  He also keeps APOC reports in his              
 office.  Senator Donley thinks this is a misinterpretation that's             
 been given to the existing law.  He thinks it's appropriate that              
 legislators have access to that kind of information and should be             
 allowed to keep that in their offices.                                        
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE isn't concerned with the type of records to which             
 Senator Donley is referring.  She would be concerned over records             
 relating to contributions and lists of contributors.  To the extent           
 the committee has ever taken a position, the concern had to do with           
 campaign literature and signs, not things in a file.                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN noted that Representative Martin is always quick to             
 remind people of their campaign promises.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 345                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE is concerned about the separation of legislative              
 work and money, in relation to amendment O.4.                                 
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked Chair MacNeille why she is                 
 concerned about the separation of legislative work and money in               
 amendment O.4, but not in amendment M.1.                                      
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated she can only respond with the opinion of the           
 Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if Section 4 would cause Senator Phillips, and            
 other people with offices in their homes, a problem.  He stated he            
 also does legislative work out of his home, and assumes that many             
 other legislators do too.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 375                                                                    
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS added that the situation to which                
 Senator Leman is referring, is that during the interim Senator                
 Phillips' office is located in his residence.                                 
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE responded that Section 4 refers to public areas in            
 a facility ordinarily use to conduct state government business.               
 She doesn't think that would be applicable to a person's house.               
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated, that amendment O.4 refers to an employee               
 distributing notices of an event on his or her own time.  He thinks           
 that could easily be construed as an unconstitutional restraint on            
 freedom of speech.                                                            
 CHAIR MACNEILLE replied she does not know if she is qualified to              
 address the first amendment aspect of that.  Her concern is the               
 public perception of a legislative employee handing out leaflets.             
                                                                               
 Number 412                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE thinks, in relation to amendment O.3, that                    
 separation of campaign life from legislative life is a very                   
 difficult line to walk, and this amendment would leave a bigger               
 window.  She liked it the way it was.                                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks Chair MacNeille's interpretation of the law             
 is very different from the original legislative intent.  He thought           
 the original intent was clear that scheduling issues, incoming                
 correspondence and telephone calls....to determine what's                     
 incidental and what's minimal creates a problem.  It ought to be              
 clear that certain staff functions facilitate people being                    
 legislators.                                                                  
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked committee members what they do             
 when they get a calls related to campaigning.  Also, what would               
 Chair MacNeille recommend legislators do?                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN replied the caller is directed to his home or                   
 campaign office.  It is discharged quickly.                                   
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS stated he has the same policy.                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY replied his staff is instructed not to answer                  
 political questions.  But the statute the legislature adopted                 
 anticipates that legislators should not be tied down to the same              
 standard as staff, because they are the candidate.  This could also           
 limit personal calls, not just political ones.  Legislators are not           
 full time state employees, and should be able to facilitate other             
 parts of their lives.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 470                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE responded that this section does not attempt to               
 limit legislators' telephone calls.  This has to do with                      
 legislative employees.  This addresses political campaign                     
 activities on the part of legislative employees.  She agrees with             
 the comments that legislators should be able to run their lives.              
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked how offices should handle calls            
 from people offering to volunteer on campaigns.                               
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE would like to see the legislative employee say,               
 "Gosh that's wonderful.  Please call the campaign office; here's              
 the number."                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 500                                                                    
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks that standard would still apply without the             
 words, "minimal" "incidental" and "short".  He supports Section 7,            
 but those descriptive words concern him.                                      
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE hopes that the Ethics Committee would have some               
 judgement there.                                                              
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS asked to continue on the next                    
 amendment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE isn't sure, regarding amendment O.5, about the                
 distinction between "state business" and "official state business".           
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY asked what the difference was between the two.                 
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE didn't realize there was such a thing as unofficial           
 state business.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY asked, why does SB 141 specify "official state                 
 business"?                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE noted that a new advisory opinion states that                 
 legislators and legislative employees can accept discounts that are           
 focused just on them, as long as the discount doesn't add up to               
 more than $100, or whatever the gift limit ends up being.  She                
 would be concerned about acceptance of a discount that was in                 
 excess of the gift limit while a legislator or legislative employee           
 was on state business.                                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated if a legislator was offered a discount on               
 transportation paid for by the legislator, even though the trip was           
 for legislative information purposes, that wouldn't be a benefit to           
 the state because the state didn't pay for the trip.  Senator                 
 Donley thinks that type of discount would be prohibited because it            
 wouldn't be a financial benefit to the state, even though it's                
 state business.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 540                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE replied she would see that as a benefit to the                
 state.                                                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY doesn't think that's a necessary phrase.  If someone           
 is on state business then it's a benefit to the state.  By putting            
 that standard in, you imply it has to be a financial benefit to the           
 state.                                                                        
                                                                               
 MS. BARNETT commented that most of the questions she answers                  
 concern gifts.  In this bill we are referring to a discount offered           
 to the legislator that is over $250.00.  So she is trying to think            
 of what that discount, not a gift, would be.  She thinks Senator              
 Donley's scenario would be a rare occurrence.                                 
 SENATOR DONLEY stated the Ethics Committee is asking for a new                
 definition within the Ethics Law.  He agrees that some of it makes            
 sense, but he doesn't think the word "official" makes sense; he               
 does not think the caveat "but only if receipt of a discount                  
 benefits the state" makes sense, because he doesn't know what it              
 means.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 560                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE thinks that another aspect to consider is that                
 under the gift section, a legislator or legislative employee can              
 accept travel and hospitality primarily for the purpose of                    
 obtaining information on matters of legislative concern.  If she              
 understands Senator Donley's scenario, it would fit in with                   
 obtaining information on matters of legislative concern.                      
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE thinks that, in regards to amendment K.26, setting            
 up a legal defense fund is probably a good idea.  She does have               
 some concerns about the drafting of subsection (b).  Is the                   
 "commission" a reference to the Ethics Committee or to APOC?                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY responded "commission" is referring to APOC.                   
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-15, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated that the Ethics Committee is asking for the             
 authority to put gag orders on the subjects of complaints.  He                
 stated amendment K.25 would equally restrain the complainant  He              
 thinks there should be equal restrictions.                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that normally, the complainant is pretty               
 much out of the loop once the complaint is filed.  The complainant            
 does not have discovery rights, and normally never hears anything             
 more about it until they get a copy of the decision.                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated that's true.  But under both the Executive              
 Ethics Act and the Judicial Ethics Act, once someone files a                  
 complaint there is a total gag order on the complainant.  This                
 doesn't do that.  What it would do is specify that if a gag order             
 is placed on the subject of a complaint, a complainant should agree           
 to similar terms.                                                             
                                                                               
 Number 564                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated that her only familiarity with this kind of            
 complaint process had to do with the bar association's complaint              
 process.  The provision was that anyone who filed a bar complaint,            
 and then spoke about it in public would be held in contempt of                
 court.  But the committee decided it was unconstitutional to do               
 that.  The protective order in the current ethics legislation would           
 be issued for evidence not relevant to the case, but something                
 that's come to light in investigation which might damage an                   
 innocent party.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY stated he has a concern with a lay committee                   
 deciding what someone's first amendment rights are.                           
                                                                               
 Number 545                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated she is really upset about amendment K.24.              
 She has two serious concerns with this amendment: the question of             
 public perception, and that deliberations should be conducted in              
 private.                                                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks there is merit to the decision of probable              
 cause being confidential.  But after that point, he thinks the                
 subject of the complaint should have the opportunity to know what's           
 being said.  He asked if there are instances other that at a grand            
 jury level where defendants are not allowed to know what's being              
 done.                                                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE stated single judges have private, ongoing                    
 deliberative processes.  But she is not familiar with other groups            
 where deliberations on something like a resolution to-                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY interrupted and asked, "What about the Judicial                
 Council?  What about the Commission on Judicial Conduct?  Aren't              
 the judges entitled to attend hearings, once there is a                       
 determination of probably cause?"                                             
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE does not know.                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks they are.                                               
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE responded if that's a hearing, that's fine.  It's             
 the deliberations she is concerned about.                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks there is a blatant double standard for                  
 legislators, versus other public officials.  At the time the                  
 Legislative Ethics Act was passed, he thought they should have done           
 a comprehensive Ethics in Government Act that had one standard for            
 everyone.                                                                     
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS stated they are heading towards that.            
                                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 498                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN commented that the legal defense fund should only be            
 used in defense of official actions.  He asked if that was the                
 intent.                                                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY replied that was his intent.  That's why he left it            
 up to the commission to adopt regulations that could control                  
 precisely for what purposes that fund will be used.                           
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN stated he could understand it used for                          
 employer/employee suits, but not in areas unrelated to one's                  
 official capacity.                                                            
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY agreed, and stated he would consider it a friendly             
 amendment if Senator Leman wanted that specified.                             
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS announced that the committee would               
 have to wrap up the meeting, and asked if there was anyone else who           
 wished to comment.                                                            
                                                                               
 CHAIR MACNEILLE thanked the committee for allowing her to testify             
 via teleconference.                                                           
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS thanked Chair MacNeille for her time.            
 The vice-chairman adjourned the meeting at 4:56 p.m.                          

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