Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/27/1996 03:36 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.