Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

02/20/2018 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SCR 1 UNIFORM RULES: ABSTAIN FROM VOTING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+= HB 87 CONFLICT OF INTEREST: BD FISHERIES/GAME TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ HB 44 LEGISLATIVE ETHICS: VOTING & CONFLICTS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
-- Public Testimony --
            SCR 1-UNIFORM RULES: ABSTAIN FROM VOTING                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:32:23 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MEYER announced  the  consideration  of Senate  Concurrent                                                               
Resolution 1 (SCR 1).                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:32:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BERTA GARDNER, Alaska  State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
sponsor of SCR  1, noted that the committee  heard the resolution                                                               
last year.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:33:19 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:33:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MEYER called  the committee  back to  order. He  confirmed                                                               
that SCR 1 was heard in committee on March 7, 2017.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:34:20 PM                                                                                                                    
NATHANIEL   GRABMAN,  Staff,   Senator   Gardner,  Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau,  Alaska, provided  an overview  of SCR  1 as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     SCR  1  is about  transparency.  As  you know,  when  a                                                                    
     legislator  declares a  conflict  of interest,  Uniform                                                                    
     Rule 34(b) requires unanimous consent  in order for the                                                                    
     requestor  to   be  excused   from  voting,   a  single                                                                    
     objection  is sufficient  to overrule  the conflict  of                                                                    
     interest statement.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     According   to  the   National   Conference  of   State                                                                    
     Legislatures, Alaska  is the only state  which requires                                                                    
     unanimous consent  in order to  abstain from  voting in                                                                    
     those instances. Under Uniform  Rule 34(b) a legislator                                                                    
     may  not  abstain from  voting  unless  they declare  a                                                                    
     conflict of interest and the  entire body agrees; while                                                                    
     this  may  theoretically  occur,  Legislative  Research                                                                    
     could not  find a single instance  of unanimous consent                                                                    
     being  given with  respect to  a  conflict of  interest                                                                    
     recusal.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     This resolution  does not  change the  current process,                                                                    
     rather   it   increases   transparency   by   recording                                                                    
     information often  hidden from  the public;  while this                                                                    
     information may  be recorded on  occasion, this  is not                                                                    
     always the  case. This  resolution aims  to standardize                                                                    
     the  process  by  insuring  that  this  information  be                                                                    
     recorded.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     If  adopted, SCR  1 would  require the  following three                                                                    
     things to  be recorded  in the journal:  the legislator                                                                    
     declaring a conflict, the nature  of that conflict, and                                                                    
     the name  of any  legislators who  would object  to the                                                                    
     conflict.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     By  increasing  transparency   this  proposal  aims  to                                                                    
     accomplish  two  ends:  first,  to  better  inform  the                                                                    
     public; and second, to  protect legislators by avoiding                                                                    
     the appearance of impropriety when there is none.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:36:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  remarked that legislators  must answer  why they                                                               
introduced legislation and what  brought the legislation forward.                                                               
She asked why SCR 1 was introduced.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER explained that people  have said legislators vote                                                               
when they  have a conflict of  interest or they do  not declare a                                                               
conflict of interest.  She said she is not aware  of a legislator                                                               
ever voting when they had  a conflict of interest. She emphasized                                                               
that she  is not accusing  anybody but asserted  that legislators                                                               
worry about being  perceived as failing to  disclose that results                                                               
in people declaring  a "perceived" conflict of  interest to avoid                                                               
someone  saying,   "You  didn't   ever  declare  a   conflict  of                                                               
interest." SCR  1 puts  on the  record a  person that  declares a                                                               
conflict of interest as well as a person that objects.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GIESSEL asked  if she was implying  that legislators with                                                               
a conflict are still voting and specified as follows:                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     I'm  just  not quite  sure  what  we are  fixing  here,                                                                    
     whether  the person  stands up  or not  in our  laws in                                                                    
     this  state, which  is a  very small  population and  a                                                                    
     very  large piece  of geography,  all votes  count. The                                                                    
     statement   was   made   in   the   introduction   that                                                                    
     information was being concealed. I am still not quite                                                                      
     sure what the problem is.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:38:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARDNER  replied that  she has  no intention  of implying                                                               
that people are voting when  they shouldn't vote and specified as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     What I'm  saying is  that all  of us  should understand                                                                    
     that  there  may very  well  be  a time  when  somebody                                                                    
     should not  vote on  an issue and  we can  conceive how                                                                    
     that  could  easily happen;  every  other  state has  a                                                                    
     variety of ways of dealing with that and we do not.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
She  said her  office  explored  ways to  address  a conflict  of                                                               
interest but conceded that there is  not a perfect way to address                                                               
the  issue. She  asserted  that if  she ever  had  a conflict  of                                                               
interest, nobody could  ever make her vote because  voting with a                                                               
conflict of interest  is unethical. She explained  that she would                                                               
"sit  there"  and  try  not to  be  confrontational  or  defiant;                                                               
however, she  said she would  not vote if  she had a  conflict of                                                               
interest and suspected that many people would feel the same way.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
She reiterated  that she is  not aware  of anybody voting  with a                                                               
conflict  of  interest;  however,  she  noted  that  there  is  a                                                               
perception that legislators vote  anyway when they have conflicts                                                               
of  interest. She  emphasized  that  there should  be  a way  for                                                               
legislators to gracefully put on  the record when they should not                                                               
vote and  when somebody  does have a  conflict of  interest, they                                                               
should not  be able  to not  vote. She set  forth that  putting a                                                               
conflict of  interest on the record  and the ability not  to vote                                                               
is important for the state.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
She summarized  that SCR  1 simply  places someone's  conflict of                                                               
interest on  the record as  well as  places the next  person that                                                               
objects  on the  record  too.  She reiterated  that  there is  no                                                               
perfect way  to address the  conflict of interest  procedure. She                                                               
suggested  that   a  unanimous   agreement  between   the  Senate                                                               
president,  minority   leader  and   majority  leader   could  be                                                               
considered  for  a  person  not  having  to  vote;  however,  she                                                               
reiterated that she  would not vote if she believed  that she had                                                               
a conflict.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:41:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MEYER asked if her intent with  SCR 1 is to get somebody on                                                               
record who objected.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER answered correct.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  MEYER  asked  if she  envisioned  identifying  who  should                                                               
object.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARDNER replied  that her  intention is  not to  say who                                                               
should object  but to  place whoever does  object on  the record.                                                               
She opined  that caucuses could independently  determine that the                                                               
majority leader or  the caucus leader will  object. She specified                                                               
that what she  wants is for somebody who does  have a conflict of                                                               
interest  to  announce  versus an  announcement  like  an  Alaska                                                               
Public Offices Commission (APOC)  disclosure where an unnecessary                                                               
disclosure is better  than failing to disclose, a  process in the                                                               
Legislature that leads to unnecessary disclosures.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:43:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  noted his previous experience  with objecting on                                                               
the Senate floor when a legislator  gets up to make a declaration                                                               
but  will not  ask  to be  excused from  voting.  He agreed  with                                                               
Senator Gardner  that he does  not recall hearing  a legislator's                                                               
conflict reach a level to be  excused from voting. He opined that                                                               
putting  the person  who objects  on  the record  might make  the                                                               
procedure  a political  tool rather  than a  beneficial tool.  He                                                               
remarked that  he does not mind  having a conflict on  the record                                                               
but opined that  placing an objection on the  record could become                                                               
more  of  a political  "lightening  rod"  rather than  an  actual                                                               
declaration.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:45:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARDNER  agreed and  noted a situation  where she  saw an                                                               
individual make a conflict of  interest declaration and then walk                                                               
out of the room where no one called the individual back.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL concurred with Senator Gardner's recollection.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER  detailed that the  person was determined  not to                                                               
vote and  not a single person  said, "I object." She  opined that                                                               
leaving the room was a graceful  way not to vote. She pointed out                                                               
that  someone  from  a  district  is  elected  because  of  their                                                               
expertise in an  area. When the legislator's  expertise is deemed                                                               
a conflict related  to an issue and the person  is not allowed to                                                               
vote, it  could be a  thorny problem.  She opined that  sooner or                                                               
later somebody will  have a genuine conflict and  should not vote                                                               
on  an issue  and  there should  be  a way  that  not voting  can                                                               
happen.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:47:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MEYER remarked  that  Senator Gardner  brought  up a  good                                                               
point where he  could see an instance occurring.  He continued as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     But, whenever somebody  who works for a  union votes on                                                                    
     an  issue that  affects that  union, or  somebody works                                                                    
     for  an industry  that impacts  that industry,  they as                                                                    
     individuals  are not  benefitting  anymore than  anyone                                                                    
     else in that union or  industry, that's where it gets a                                                                    
     little thorny.  So, it seems  like you've come  up with                                                                    
     the answer that  if someone truly feels  like they have                                                                    
     a conflict that they could just walk off the floor.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER  concurred, but pointed  out that  the legislator                                                               
with the declared  conflict of interest would have  to trust that                                                               
one of  their colleagues does  not disagree and object.  She said                                                               
the legislator still  could leave but somebody could  put a "call                                                               
of the house." She asked how  a legislator can be forced to vote,                                                               
a situation that she does not  think anybody wants to happen. She                                                               
believes that  the public wants  to know that  if a person  has a                                                               
conflict, that they have a way not to vote.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MEYER commented  that in his history in  the Legislature he                                                               
did not  recall an issue  where someone  truly had a  conflict of                                                               
interest   and  should   not  have   voted.  He   concurred  that                                                               
legislators have walked off the floor.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:49:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL  stated  that   the  issue  Senator  Gardner  is                                                               
addressing is  a subject  that the  Legislature has  talked about                                                               
for a long time. He said  he was glad Senator Gardner brought the                                                               
issue up and contended that  the Senate floor has "gotten sloppy"                                                               
through the years on protocol. He  pointed out that the rules say                                                               
a  legislator should  standup and  give a  reason and  ask to  be                                                               
given the  permission to  abstain from a  vote, a  procedure that                                                               
rarely happens because  the conflict is perceived and  not a real                                                               
conflict. He said  SCR 1 will make the Legislature  have to stand                                                               
up  and take  notice. He  reiterated that  he struggles  with the                                                               
person  objecting only  because just  one person  can object  and                                                               
there might be more than one  person that objects. He opined that                                                               
having one  person that objects on  the record can result  in the                                                               
individual  being   targeted  rather  than  the   issue  for  the                                                               
objection being  addressed on the  record. He summarized  that he                                                               
has been  around the process long  enough to know that  there are                                                               
the real issues and there are the political issues.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WILSON agreed  with Senator  Coghill  about putting  the                                                               
reason for the  objection on the record. He added  that he feared                                                               
constantly  having the  name  of either  the  majority leader  or                                                               
minority leader on the record.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MEYER  remarked that  Senator Wilson  might be  saying that                                                               
nobody  would want  to be  the majority  or minority  leaders. He                                                               
asked  Senator  Gardner to  address  what  would happen  after  a                                                               
conflict of interest is stated  and somebody objects. He inquired                                                               
if the legislative body votes.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:51:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GARDNER replied  that her  office considered  having the                                                               
body  vote, but  she would  not want  to vote  even if  19 or  21                                                               
people voted that  she should vote. She asserted  that people say                                                               
legislators vote  all the  time with a  conflict of  interest and                                                               
countered as follows:                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     No, people declare  a conflict of interest  that may or                                                                    
     may  not be  a  real conflict  of  interest, but  there                                                                    
     should be  a way out,  there just  should be a  way out                                                                    
     and  I don't  know what  the  answer is,  let's see  if                                                                    
     somebody else has a great answer.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MEYER  stated that he  was puzzled  with SCR 1  because the                                                               
resolution does not  give somebody a way out and  states that the                                                               
act will be the Legislature's process.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER specified that SCR 1 does the following:                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     What it does do is put  on the record that somebody who                                                                    
     might be  accused of having  a conflict of  interest in                                                                    
     voting can say,  "I declared a conflict  of interest, I                                                                    
     described  what  it was  and  under  the uniform  rules                                                                    
     because  so-and-so  objected,  I  had to  vote,  I  was                                                                    
     required  to  vote under  our  rules."  So, it  doesn't                                                                    
     change  that, you  are correct,  but it  does give  the                                                                    
     person  a  defense  and the  person  who  objected  can                                                                    
     defend their own objection.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  MEYER replied  that he  may be  coming around  to agreeing                                                               
with Senator  Giessel on the necessity  of SCR 1. He  pointed out                                                               
that legislators  currently stand  up and  declare a  conflict of                                                               
interest and when someone objects  that results in the individual                                                               
having to vote. He asked Senator  Gardner to verify that SCR 1 is                                                               
trying to pinpoint the one person who objects.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARDNER  answered no.  She explained  that her  intent is                                                               
not to  change the statute but  to say that when  a person states                                                               
that they  voted with a conflict,  the person can say  they tried                                                               
not to vote by asking to be excused. She continued as follows:                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     In  reality if  this  passed and  there's  a record,  I                                                                    
     think people  won't be doing the  perceived conflict of                                                                    
     interest,  they may  stand up  as Senator  Coghill said                                                                    
     and describe  their position  but not  ask not  to vote                                                                    
     and sit  down; but, each  individual has to  draw their                                                                    
     own  line in  knowing  their own  lives  and their  own                                                                    
     investments and decide for themselves  how they want to                                                                    
     proceed, that's what we do all of the time.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:54:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL opined  that the real value of SCR  1 would force                                                               
the  conflict of  interest  declaration  to be  put  in a  motion                                                               
because the act  would be recorded with a  result that encourages                                                               
better protocol and behavior.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GIESSEL  stated  that  she was  not  sure  what  Senator                                                               
Coghill meant  by "sloppy in protocol."  She asked if it  is true                                                               
that  standing  up and  wishing  to  be  excused from  voting  is                                                               
recorded in the minutes of the floor session.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL answered that as far as he knew that was true.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  MEYER  concurred that  if  somebody  really feels  awkward                                                               
about voting  and does  not want  to vote  they should  have that                                                               
option; however, people are elected  with known backgrounds where                                                               
everything is  disclosed and  in some  cases constituents  like a                                                               
legislator's experience and knowledge.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:56:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MEYER [held SCR 1 in committee.]                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SCR1 Version A.PDF SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
SCR 1
SCR1 Sponsor Statement.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
SCR 1
SCR1 Supporting Document-Voting Recusal Provisions in 50 states.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
SCR 1
SCR 1 Fiscal Note SCR1-LEG-SESS-02-16-18.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
SCR 1
HB 87 Version A.PDF SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB 87 Version R.PDF SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Summary of Changes A to R 2.17.17.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Sponsor Statement ver R 2.3.18.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Additional Document BOF BOG Information.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Additional Document Historic Bills.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Additional Document Board Recusal Rates.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Legal Memo.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Letter in Opposition RHAK 2.13.17.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB87 Letters of Support (Combined).pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB 87 Letter of Support UFA 1.24.2018.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB 87 Fiscal Note 2018.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 87
HB 44 Version R.PDF SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Ver R Explanation of Changes.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Sponsor Statement.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Supporting document-AKPIRG Support Letter.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Supporting Document-Leg Research Report 15-423m.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Supporting Document-LWV 1.27.17.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB 44 Fiscal Note HB44-LEG-SESS-02-16-18.pdf SSTA 2/20/2018 3:30:00 PM
HB 44