Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
03/12/2015 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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|Confirmation Hearing: Commissioner, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs|
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SB 24-LEGIS. ETHICS ACT: CONTRACTORS, INTERNS 10:21:13 AM CHAIR STOLTZE announced the consideration of SB 24. SENATOR BERTA GARDNER, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 24, explained the bill is a "clean up bill" and is at the request of the Legislative Ethics Office. About a year ago the outgoing administrator of Legislative Ethics discovered a statute that had not been enforced and deemed it needed some changes. T.J. PRESLEY, Staff, Senator Berta Gardner, Alaska State Legislature, provided information on SB 24. Through a routine advisory opinion process, the Legislative Ethics Administrator discovered that independent contractors and consultants were considered legislative employees in statute and were subject to the ethics code. The statute said that all the requirements of legislative employees must be levied on the independent contractors and consultants. He used West Law Dictionary as an example of a contractor and said it is not practical or feasible to ask such a contractor or a corporation to fill out the required paperwork. He related that in 2012 interns and volunteers were given their own place in the Ethics Act and now legislation is needed to fix the problem of the contractors and consultants. The Legislative Ethics Committee established a subcommittee with Senator Gardner and Representative Millet to establish legislation that would fix the problem. 10:25:12 AM MR. PRESLEY concluded that they came up with a solution that included a focus on conflicts of interest and unethical conduct. He referred to recommendations by Legislative Ethics subcommittee followed when writing SB 24. The bill puts independent contractors and consultants into their own category in the Ethics Act, with reasonable, enforceable requirements. 10:26:50 AM JERRY ANDERSON, Administrator, Legislative Ethics Committee, provided information on SB 24. He said the bill is the product of 14 months of meetings. He noted the subcommittee did extensive work on the bill. He said the bill is important to delineate the exact sections of the Ethics Act that apply to contractors. Contractors are not subject to the training requirements. It is an important bill. CHAIR STOLTZE asked for the Ethics Committee's opinion of the bill. MR. ANDERSON said the Ethics Committee supports the bill. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI noted the legislature hires a lot of consultants. He voiced concern about a consultant who is a client of the oil industry. MR. PRESLEY replied that there is contract language in place regarding unethical conduct. There is an expectation of no conflict of interest in contract matters. However, enforcement is another issue. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI summarized that the change SB 24 provides is that contractors would not have to file a financial disclosure form. MR. PRESLEY referred to challenges other states have had when dealing with ethics and subcontractors. He questioned the problems with determining if contractors are legislature employees. The Ethic Statutes list what provisions apply to independent contractors and consultants. 10:33:47 AM SENATOR GARDNER pointed out that this proposal is not endorsed by the Ethics Committee as a whole, but by the administrator and the out-going administrator, by a public member who is an ethics attorney, and by the chair. CHAIR STOLTZE asked for something in writing. SENATOR GARDNER said the Ethics Committee did request the legislation, but did not take a vote to endorse it. CHAIR STOLTZE asked for the process in writing. 10:35:03 AM SENATOR MCGUIRE noted the matrix of other states and she read from Connecticut's: "For most purposes a consultant is neither a public nor state official and therefore not subject to the State Ethics Act." She said another provision applies to contractors and consultants and prohibits the consultant's use of confidential information, the acceptance of other state contracts which would impair their judgement, or the acceptance or giving of anything of value that influences a consultant's actions. She said she liked that statement and saw it as getting to the core of the issue. She voiced concern about good people not applying for positions because they don't want to deal with all the filing requirements. She also had concerns about a consultant's fear of political ramifications from ethics complaints. She gave an example of an LB&A chair who might hire an oil and gas consultant who is targeted with an ethics complaint by dissatisfied opposition. 10:37:59 AM SENATOR HUGGINS said he understands the need for ethics committees, but they don't make dishonest people honest. He opined it was not the oil and gas industry that had the greatest conflicts of interest, but workers compensation consultants. He recommended hiring consultants that are honest. 10:40:11 AM SENATOR GARDNER summarized that currently contracts and consultants are subject to the entire ethics code and the bill tries to keep that which is meaningful and workable and get rid of what does not work. She concluded, "There is a place that protects our interest and allows us to move forward in a meaningful way without creating mountains of data." CHAIR STOLTZE held SB 24 in committee.