Legislature(1995 - 1996)

05/03/1996 08:20 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                     HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                   
                           MAY 3, 1996                                         
                            8:20 A.M.                                          
  TAPE HFC 96 - 157, Side 1, #000 - end.                                       
  TAPE HFC 96 - 157, Side 2, #000 - #102.                                      
  CALL TO ORDER                                                                
  Co-Chair  Mark Hanley  called  the House  Finance  Committee                 
  meeting to order at 8:20 A.M.                                                
  Co-Chair Hanley               Representative Martin                          
  Co-Chair Foster               Representative Mulder                          
  Representative Brown          Representative Navarre                         
  Representative Grussendorf    Representative Parnell                         
  Representative Kelly          Representative Kohring                         
  Representative Therriault was not present for the meeting.                   
  ALSO PRESENT                                                                 
  Representative   David   Finkelstein;  Wendy   Redman,  Vice                 
  President,  University  Relations,  University   of  Alaska;                 
  Marjie  MacNeille,  (Testified  via teleconference),  Ethics                 
  Committee,   Anchorage;   Susie   Barnett,  (Testified   via                 
  teleconference), Staff to the Ethics Committee, Anchorage.                   
  SB 98     An  Act  making  changes  related  to the  aid  to                 
            families  with  dependent  children  program,  the                 
            Medicaid  program,  the general  relief assistance                 
            program, and the adult  public assistance program;                 
            directing the  Department  of  Health  and  Social                 
            Services to  apply to the  federal government  for                 
            waivers to implement the  changes where necessary;                 
            relating   to   eligibility  for   permanent  fund                 
            dividends of certain individuals who receive state                 
            assistance, to notice  requirements applicable  to                 
            the  dividend   program;  and  providing   for  an                 
            effective date.                                                    
            SB  98  was rescheduled  for  hearing at  a latter                 
  SB 134    An Act establishing an endowment for the Robert B.                 
            Atwood  journalism  chair  at  the  University  of                 
            Alaska Anchorage; and  providing for an  effective                 
            SB 134 am was reported out of Committee with a "do                 
            pass" recommendation  and with a  zero fiscal note                 
            by the Senate Finance Committee dated 2/23/96.                     
  SB 141    An  Act  relating   to  legislative  ethics;   and                 
            providing for an effective date.                                   
            SB  141   was  HELD   in  Committee   for  further                 
  SCR 23    Relating to long range financial planning.                         
            SCR 43  was rescheduled  for hearing  at a  latter                 
  SENATE BILL 134                                                              
       "An Act  establishing an  endowment for  the Robert  B.                 
       Atwood  journalism  chair at  the University  of Alaska                 
       Anchorage; and providing for an effective date."                        
  UNIVERSITY OF  ALASKA, noted that  Bob Atwood's contribution                 
  to the  State of  Alaska and  the community  of Alaskans  is                 
  immense.  SB 134 honors him by establishing an endowment for                 
  the  Robert B. Atwood Journalism  Chair at the University of                 
  Alaska-Anchorage.    That  action would  establish  for both                 
  public and private entities to  match contributions from Mr.                 
  Atwood to permanently fund the chair.                                        
  Co-Chair  Hanley  asked  if  there  were any  federal  funds                 
  available for the service.   He questioned if  State support                 
  would  limit that ability.  Ms.  Redman was not aware of any                 
  available federal monies.                                                    
  Representative Brown  questioned why the  Legislature should                 
  be  involved   in  mandating  this   type  of   legislation,                 
  suggesting  that  the  Board  of  Regents should  have  that                 
  responsibility.  Ms. Redman  replied that the bill had  been                 
  accompanied from the  University with  a $1 million  general                 
  fund dollar fiscal  note to be  matched with private  funds.                 
  Traditionally, that is how endowments have been established.                 
  The fiscal note was dropped along the way.                                   
  Representative   Brown   understood   that    Mr.   Atwood's                 
  contribution   was  contingent   on  a  State   match  being                 
  appropriated.  Ms. Redman agreed that had been the  original                 
  intent, although, the community  council has requested  that                 
  the legislation be pursued without  the fiscal note in order                 
  to set it up in statute, thus  giving it more prestige.  She                 
  suggested that could help to raise the needed private funds.                 
  Representative Brown inquired  how the initial terms  of the                 
  bill would be  carried out  without any money  in the  fund.                 
  Ms. Redman  replied that  to date  $1.3 million  dollars has                 
  been donated;  at this  time, there  is zero  money in  that                 
  fund.  The University is hopeful, that without  the matching                 
  money,  Mr. Atwood will be compelled to contribute the money                 
  he had committed.                                                            
  In response  to Representative  Brown's concern,  Ms. Redman                 
  pointed out  that the University of Alaska  does support the                 
  bill.    Representative  Brown  asked  if  it  was  "normal"                 
  protocol to mandate  endowments.  Ms. Redman  stated that it                 
  was not normal and  that the Board of  Regent's do not  need                 
  the authorization  of the Legislature  to set up  an endowed                 
  Representative  Martin MOVED  to  report SB  134  am out  of                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  with  the                 
  accompanying fiscal note.  There being NO OBJECTION, it  was                 
  so ordered.                                                                  
  SB  134 am was  reported out of  Committee with a  "do pass"                 
  recommendation and  with a zero  fiscal note  by the  Senate                 
  Finance Committee dated 2/23/96.                                             
  SENATE BILL 141                                                              
       "An Act  relating to legislative ethics;  and providing                 
       for an effective date."                                                 
  provided a sectional  analysis of the proposed  legislation.                 
  [Copy on file].   She noted that some  of the sections would                 
  make  "compliance"  with  the  ethics  law  easier  for  the                 
  legislators.  Section #9, dealing with conflict of interest,                 
  would be one  of those  sections.  Sections  #13, #19,  #21,                 
  make the ethics concern more easily applied.                                 
  Ms.  MacNeille thought  that  some  proposed  changes  could                 
  damage  the public  trust  in the  legislators if  they were                 
  enacted.  She  pointed out the  first concern in Section  5,                 
  Page  4, Subsection  (2), which  addresses the  uses  of the                 
  State's  resources  for personal  benefit.   She  added that                 
  Section  2(C)  addresses  telephone  and  facsimile  use;  a                 
  section in which there is no ethical constraint indicated.                   
  Ms. MacNeille referenced Section 5(A),  Page 5, which allows                 
  the use of state property for personal purposes or political                 
  fund raising and campaigning.   A key portion of  the ethics                 
  effort  is that campaigning  be kept separate.   Section 10,                 
  Page  8,  Line 29,  suggests  that extensive  political work                 
  could be allowed as  part of a legislator staffers day.  She                 
  stressed that impression should not be allowed.                              
  Ms. MacNeille continued,  speaking to  Section 20, Page  12,                 
  Line  11.   The language  would  permit legislators  to take                 
  discounts  which  are  available while  traveling  on  State                 
  business.  She  disagreed with discounts taken  during State                 
  business  travel.   Co-Chair Hanley  asked the  consequences                 
  while  on  per diem,  taking a  discounted  room rate.   Ms.                 
  MacNeille  stated  that  the  amount   should  be  reported.                 
  Representative Kelly  and Ms. MacNeille  discussed discounts                 
  and whether they  should be  allowed.  Representative  Brown                 
  agreed  with Ms.  MacNeille  in deleting  Line 11,  Page 12,                 
  which references "state  business".  She  saw it as a  "loop                 
  hole" which  would significantly expand the  opportunity for                 
  people  to  receive benefits  because  of their  legislative                 
  Representative Brown advised that there was a section in the                 
  legislation which defines what  legislators could accept for                 
  purposes of legislative concern.                                             
  LEGISLATIVE ETHICS  COMMITTEE, ANCHORAGE,  pointed out  that                 
  language was cited on Page 12, Line 14.                                      
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN added that there were "gift                 
  limits" and the  referenced language  would clarify that  an                 
  "in-kind"  gift  would  not be  a  way  to  get around  that                 
  concern.  Discounts  could be  taken up to  the gift  level,                 
  although, a legislator could not go beyond that amount.                      
  Representative Martin expressed concerns  with the discounts                 
  provided  through  use  of  the  Frequent  Mileage  Program.                 
  Representative Finkelstein replied that concern would not be                 
  affected by the ethics law.                                                  
  Ms.  MacNeille  continued overviewing  the remainder  of the                 
  bill.   She pointed  out that  Section 43  was  the area  of                 
  greatest  concern  to the  Ethics  Committee.   That section                 
  relates to  complaints, while  they are  confidential, until                 
  the committee  determines that  there is  probable cause  to                 
  believe that a violation has occurred.                                       
  Representative Kelly commented that  the "public perception"                 
  seemed to  dominate the theme of the Ethic Committee's work.                 
  He asked if that was  the intent within committee's purpose.                 
  Ms. MacNeille replied  that it is  important how the  public                 
  sees the Legislature operating in order that the voters will                 
  have confidence in the integrity of the system.   It is part                 
  of the Ethics Committee's role.                                              
  (Tape Change, HFC 96-157, Side 2).                                           
  In response  to Representative  Kelly, Representative  Brown                 
  pointed out  that in statute,  in the  findings and  purpose                 
  section,  that  concern  is  addressed.     She  added  that                 
  information is significant.                                                  
  Representative  Brown referenced  Page 23, Lines  20-28, and                 
  asked how it would be addressed.  Would the Ethics Committee                 
  be able to impose reasonable  restrictions on the release of                 
  information that impose restrictions.  Ms. MacNeille thought                 
  that  the  restrictions  should  apply  to  everyone.    She                 
  suggested deletion  of everything following  Line 24 through                 
  Line 28, addressing that concern.                                            
  Co-Chair  Hanley  asked if  Ms.  MacNeille thought  that the                 
  person  subject  to the  complaint  should be  able  to file                 
  information.   Ms.  MacNeille responded,  that person  could                 
  waive  confidentiality.     Co-Chair  Hanley  thought  those                 
  restrictions  could  be  imposed  on   the  release  of  any                 
  information.    Ms.  MacNeille stated  that  could  occur to                 
  protect the privacy of the person.                                           
  Representative Kelly  added  that  "shepparding  the  public                 
  interest" was different than public disclosure  and conflict                 
  of  interest.     He  suggested  that  the   intent  of  the                 
  documentation was  to make legislators  "look better" rather                 
  than addressing conflict of interest.                                        
  SB 141 was HELD in Committee for further discussion.                         
  The meeting adjourned at 9:10 A.M.                                           

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