Legislature(2005 - 2006)Anch LIO Conf Rm

11/15/2005 10:00 AM JUDICIARY


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10:14:17 AM Start
10:15:11 AM Discussion of Ethics Legislation Including Sb 187, Sb 186, SbĀ 127, and Hb 194
11:51:41 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Discussion of SB 187 TELECONFERENCED
^DISCUSSION  OF  ETHICS LEGISLATION  INCLUDING  SB  187, SB  186,                                                             
SB 127, AND HB 194                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:15:11 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  relayed that the  committee would be  conducting a                                                               
work session to  formulate ideas about an ethics  bill that could                                                               
be  used   as  a  vehicle   during  the  upcoming   session,  and                                                               
characterized  the  senate bills  as  having  set the  stage  for                                                               
discussion  during  the  interim.    She  indicated  that  it  is                                                               
important to  let the  public know  that the  issue of  ethics is                                                               
important  to  the  legislature,  particularly in  light  of  the                                                               
"Gregg Renkes situation."                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said:                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     My personal view  on the ethics situation  is that this                                                                    
     all  came out  of the  "Gregg Renkes  affair":   ... he                                                                    
     owned ... $100,000 worth of  KFx stock and the question                                                                    
     was whether  or not he  should have been  negotiating a                                                                    
     deal that involved  KFx.  And what came out  of it were                                                                    
     two  opinions,  one from  Tom  Daniel  for the  "ethics                                                                    
     board," one from  Bob Bundy for the governor.   Both of                                                                    
     them said ... the one  thing that "we" think "you" need                                                                    
     to  change   is  to  explain   to  people  what   is  a                                                                    
     "significant interest"  ... and  therefore you  have to                                                                    
     disqualify  yourself  from  action  on  a  matter,  and                                                                    
     what's    ...   an    "insignificant   interest"    and                                                                    
     [therefore]... you  don't have to  disqualify yourself.                                                                    
     And  [so]  ...  the  question  was  whether  ...  Gregg                                                                    
     Renkes's stock ownership  was considered significant or                                                                    
     not, and the law was not particularly clear.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     So Senator French  and I have filed  [legislation] - he                                                                    
     has a Senate  companion bill [SB 127], mine  is HB 194.                                                                    
     We said, let's  just deal with that  one shortcoming in                                                                    
     the law  - let's not  address these other  issues about                                                                    
     open meetings and closed meetings  and ... penalties on                                                                    
     people  who file  ethics complaints  -  ... let's  just                                                                    
     deal with  the one issue  that I think we  all probably                                                                    
     agree ...  needs to  be addressed.   And so  what other                                                                    
     states do  is ... they  draw a bright  line, generally:                                                                    
     it's  an insignificant  interest  if  it's, let's  say,                                                                    
     less  than $5,000,  or let's  say,  less than  $10,000.                                                                    
     And there can  be good debate about which  one of those                                                                    
     numbers  we should  pick, but  I think  we should  just                                                                    
     deal with that issue.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA opined that they  should clarify the issue of                                                               
ownership  and   institute  a   [bright  line].     Using   as  a                                                               
hypothetical  example  proposed   minimum  wage  legislation,  he                                                               
indicated that the  law ought to be clear that  although a person                                                               
who has  an interest in  a business  and therefore has  a general                                                               
interest  in such  legislation could  work  on that  legislation,                                                               
he/she  should not  be working  on a  contract involving  his/her                                                               
business.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  relayed that she's  spent time during  the interim                                                               
discussing this issue with constituents.  She added:                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     We   have   a   citizen-based  legislature,   we   want                                                                    
     legislators  to  work -  at  least  that has  been  the                                                                    
     desire  of the  public so  far -  and yet,  inevitably,                                                                    
     conflicts  can  arise  when you  do  work  outside  the                                                                    
     legislature  with the  things  you do  inside.   And  I                                                                    
     think it's worthy of discussion  - how you handle those                                                                    
     conflicts.  The  way it works now, a  member will state                                                                    
     that conflict in  a committee or on the  floor and then                                                                    
     ask  to be  recused from  voting, and  the response  is                                                                    
     always, "No,  we object  to that and  we'd like  you to                                                                    
     vote."  I wonder if there  is more that could or should                                                                    
     be done in that area.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:21:33 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA acknowledged  that  perhaps the  legislature                                                               
could  create a  bill  that deals  with  both executive  [branch]                                                               
ethics  and legislative  ethics, and  said he  agrees with  Chair                                                               
McGuire's comments that legislators need  to have work outside of                                                               
the  legislature.   However, the  public begins  asking questions                                                               
regarding  ethics   when  legislators  do  consulting   work  for                                                               
businesses that have interest in  legislation.  He suggested that                                                               
the  committee  consider  developing  legislation  that  requires                                                               
legislators  to  disclose,   in  detail,  what  they   do  for  a                                                               
particular business, rather than  simply restricting what kind of                                                               
work  legislators can  engage in  outside of  his/her legislative                                                               
duties.     He  indicated  that   some  language   regarding  the                                                               
legislative  ethics issue  has already  been crafted,  and opined                                                               
that  legislators ought  to be  required to  simply state,  on an                                                               
hour-by-hour  basis  -  what  they   do  [as  consultants];  such                                                               
disclosure  would let  the public  know  whether legislators  are                                                               
doing work unrelated to their legislative duties.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA, in  response  to questions,  said he  would                                                               
leave  it up  to the  committee to  decide whether  it wanted  to                                                               
create a  separate bill specifically  to address that issue.   He                                                               
offered his  understanding that currently, if  [a legislator] has                                                               
a consulting  contract, the law  requires the legislator  to list                                                               
the  amounts he/she  is  paid by  the  companies he/she  provides                                                               
services to  but is  not required to  detail what  those services                                                               
consisted  of.   He suggested  that a  timesheet format  could be                                                               
instituted to address  this situation, and that such  would add a                                                               
lot  of integrity  to the  system.   He indicated  that he  could                                                               
support something like that.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON said, "Sure."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE surmised that some  methodology could be devised to                                                               
show  a reasonable  member of  the  public what  a legislator  is                                                               
getting paid  to do as a  consultant.  She expressed  a desire to                                                               
address both legislative ethics  and executive branch ethics, and                                                               
to do so  via the institution of  a bright line.   A person could                                                               
have the best of intentions,  but without a concrete bright line,                                                               
he/she   could  still   be  guilty   of   an  ethics   violation.                                                               
Furthermore,  with  a  bright  line   in  place,  disclosure  and                                                               
transparency would be more meaningful to the public.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:26:41 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  acknowledged that transparency is  a good                                                               
thing, but cautioned against establishing  too high a standard of                                                               
accountability because doing so could  create a burden.  A person                                                               
might do  something that the  public does not approve  of without                                                               
that  action being  unethical.   For  example, with  regard to  a                                                               
contract, a person might take an  action that is self serving but                                                               
not unethical, action that is  merely the result of bad judgment.                                                               
Via  a  transparent methodology,  the  public  would be  able  to                                                               
consider  the  question  of  whether   a  person's  actions  were                                                               
desirable.  He  cautioned against robbing the  citizens of Alaska                                                               
of their ability to make judgments regarding a person's actions.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  remarked that a  person needs to  be held                                                               
accountable for  underhanded actions,  but opined that  having to                                                               
account  for   one's  actions  on   an  hourly  basis   could  be                                                               
tremendously burdensome.   He  cautioned against  simply assuming                                                               
that all  of a person's actions  are the result of  bad judgment,                                                               
and said  he is reluctant to  put a dollar figure  on [what would                                                               
constitute   a  significant   interest],  particularly   since  a                                                               
particular action could  be unethical even though it  only has an                                                               
impact on  one's insignificant  interests.   He also  pointed out                                                               
that a  "blind trust" could  involve $100 million, for  example -                                                               
certainly a significant  interest - and that there  might be ways                                                               
to manipulate  a blind trust  containing that much  money without                                                               
such manipulation  being considered  unethical.  He  concluded by                                                               
expressing a reluctance to put a dollar figure on "unethical."                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  complimented  Representative  Gara  for                                                               
being responsive and proactive [on  the issue of executive branch                                                               
ethics], and  surmised that the public  wants further definitions                                                               
and  delineations   with  regard  to  what   would  constitute  a                                                               
conflict.     He   suggested  that   public  officials   do  have                                                               
apprehension  regarding potential  conflicts, proper  disclosure,                                                               
and suspected impropriety.   He opined that there  should be both                                                               
accountability  and fairness,  and said  he hopes  [the committee                                                               
can create  legislation] that will  provide "a bright  line test"                                                               
for  legislators,  candidates, and  others,  so  that the  public                                                               
won't  be faced  with the  same situation  as occurred  regarding                                                               
Gregg Renkes.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
10:35:39 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PEGGY WILSON,  Alaska State Legislature, suggested                                                               
that a  timesheet methodology  could be  very time  consuming and                                                               
may not  actually tell the  public anything.  She  indicated that                                                               
the law  should be clarified so  that members of the  public will                                                               
be able to  decide for themselves whether someone  has behaved in                                                               
an unethical fashion.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  said she  would have  staff work  with Legislative                                                               
Legal  and Research  Services to  research the  issue of  what is                                                               
done in other  states that have citizen  legislatures and develop                                                               
for  the  committee a  matrix  of  what  other states  allow  and                                                               
require  with regard  to potential  conflicts of  interest.   She                                                               
relayed,  for example,  that she'd  heard  that in  one state,  a                                                               
[legislator] could actually abstain from voting.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
JOYCE ANDERSON, Ethics  Committee Administrator, Select Committee                                                               
on Legislative  Ethics, Alaska State  Legislature, spoke  next in                                                               
response   to    comments.      [Her   initial    comments   were                                                               
indiscernible.]   She  said the  Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics  had  requested a  legal  opinion  from  Brent R.  Cole  -                                                               
outside  legal counsel  for the  Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics -  on the section  of [SB  187] that pertained  to uniform                                                               
rules.  The  committee has been able to research  up to Section 7                                                               
of the bill, and has come  up with some suggestions and points to                                                               
research  further, particularly  for  the  section pertaining  to                                                               
advisory opinions because it is  a little bit unclear with regard                                                               
to what the  process is after discussion by  the Select Committee                                                               
on Legislative Ethics.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANDERSON relayed  that the  Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics is not in favor of  the proposed $5,000 [civil penalty] in                                                               
Section 3 of SB 187.   Currently, because of a recent change, the                                                               
Select Committee on  Legislative Ethics is required  to dismiss a                                                               
complaint  if  it  is  made  public; she  said  that  the  Select                                                               
Committee on  Legislative Ethics feels that  this requirement has                                                               
probably helped  the process because  now the public is  aware of                                                               
the fact  that the  committee is  required to  dismiss complaints                                                               
that have  been made public.   However, this  requirement, should                                                               
the Select  Committee on  Legislative Ethics have  to act  on it,                                                               
won't preclude either the committee  itself or another individual                                                               
from filing the complaint.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANDERSON mentioned  that member's  packets should  contain a                                                               
sectional analysis  of SB  187 that she  prepared, and  that this                                                               
analysis includes  additional comments  by Legislative  Legal and                                                               
Research Services.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:42:54 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG   -   member,  Select   Committee   on                                                               
Legislative  Ethics -  asked Ms.  Anderson to  comment on  issues                                                               
that  have captured  the  attention of  the  Select Committee  on                                                               
Legislative  Ethics.   He posited  that  in addition  to being  a                                                               
growing and  changing subject,  the issue of  ethics is  of great                                                               
and constant interest  to the public.  Furthermore,  the issue of                                                               
ethics  is  one   that  public  officials  in   all  branches  of                                                               
government face at  all times and is one that  must be constantly                                                               
changed in order to address a changing array of factual data.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG suggested  that it  is time  to address                                                               
the  subject of  ethics, both  for  the legislature  and for  the                                                               
executive branch.  He indicated  that some consideration has been                                                               
given to the  concept of establishing an  ethics training program                                                               
for the legislature,  though any such a program may  not be ready                                                               
to institute  until 2007.   He relayed that the  Select Committee                                                               
on Legislative Ethics is putting  together legislation to address                                                               
technical  problems and  language that  has caused  the committee                                                               
some concern;  for example, the  phrase, "matters  of legislative                                                               
concern" is one that is used  with regard to whether a legislator                                                               
is  allowed accept  certain dollar  amounts or  certain types  of                                                               
gifts, but the phrase is currently undefined.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON  indicated that the term  "legislative purpose" also                                                               
raises the same type of concerns.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  said  that  other  issues  of  concern                                                               
pertain to  disclosures, particularly regarding stocks  and stock                                                               
options.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON  confirmed that the Select  Committee on Legislative                                                               
Ethics  is having  a bill  drafted  that is  intended to  address                                                               
issues that the committee has concern  about.  In addition to the                                                               
aforementioned,  for  example,   the  legislation  being  drafted                                                               
proposes  to  deal  with  issues  such  as:    including  in  the                                                               
legislative ethics  code the complaint process  pertaining to the                                                               
Office of  Victims' Rights (OVR);  adding language  pertaining to                                                               
the disclosures  included in the [legislative]  journal; changing                                                               
the terms  of office for  public members of the  Select Committee                                                               
on Legislative  Ethics so  that only two  positions come  open at                                                               
one time;  and addressing other  more technical points  that have                                                               
been overlooked over the course of time.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:49:24 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG noted  that  there  is the  legislative                                                               
ethics Act,  the executive branch  ethics Act, and  the financial                                                               
disclosure  Act  under  the   Alaska  Public  Offices  Commission                                                               
(APOC).    He  suggested  that  the all  of  the  committees  and                                                               
agencies working  on the issues  of ethics - the  House Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee,  the House State Affairs  Standing Committee,                                                               
the  Select  Committee  on Legislative  Ethics,  and  the  Alaska                                                               
Public Offices  Commission -  should try to  consider all  of the                                                               
proposed bills together and hold hearings  on them so that all of                                                               
the issues that have arisen could be addressed.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE remarked that it may  be appropriate for all of the                                                               
committees  dealing with  the issue  of ethics  to meet  jointly,                                                               
that having  inconsistency between the aforementioned  three acts                                                               
could be  a recipe  for disaster, and  that her  understanding is                                                               
that  very  few  states  have   a  legislatively  created  ethics                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON clarified that the  State of Washington has recently                                                               
set  up its  ethics  committee  similar to  Alaska  and may  have                                                               
actually modeled  the legislation that governs  that committee on                                                               
Alaska's  statutory language;  one other  state may  also have  a                                                               
similar   ethics  committee   consisting  of   both  public   and                                                               
legislative members.   In  response to a  comment, she  said that                                                               
the Select Committee on Legislative  Ethics may have some further                                                               
suggestions forthcoming  with regard to  issues it would  like to                                                               
see  addressed  in proposed  combined  ethics  legislation.   She                                                               
mentioned  that in  her part-time  position  as Ethics  Committee                                                               
Administrator,  she sometimes  feels overwhelmed  and overworked;                                                               
therefore, it would be nice to  have a contract person on call to                                                               
help her with her duties.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON  noted that one of  the changes proposed via  SB 187                                                               
pertains  to the  complaint  process  and confidentiality  issues                                                               
raised during  the handling  of complaints,  and said  that those                                                               
sections of statute need clarification  and/or a change in order.                                                               
She also  offered her  belief that  the advisory  opinion section                                                               
[of current statute  and SB 187] needs  clarification with regard                                                               
to the  fact that even  if confidentiality  is not waived  by the                                                               
person  requesting the  opinion, the  opinion is  eventually made                                                               
public but  is cleansed of any  identifying information; advisory                                                               
opinions are  used as precedence  and so must eventually  be made                                                               
public.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  read a  portion  of  proposed new  language  from                                                               
Section 6  of SB 187:   "The opinion  may not be  released unless                                                               
all  persons who  are required  to be  provided with  the opinion                                                               
consent in writing to the release of the opinion."                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:56:50 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON  said she is  not sure why  that language is  in the                                                               
bill,  particularly  since  an   advisory  opinion  is  generally                                                               
requested by  the person who  is contemplating taking  a specific                                                               
action,  and  thus would  not  concern  any  other person.    She                                                               
pointed out  that advisory opinions  are formal and  binding, and                                                               
can  be  used as  precedent,  whereas  informal advice  from  the                                                               
Select Committee on Legislative Ethics cannot be used as such.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that Section  6 of SB 187  troubles him                                                               
because it proposes  to expand the number of people  who can keep                                                               
a complaint confidential.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANDERSON  clarified, however,  that  Section  6 pertains  to                                                               
advisory  opinions, not  complaints.   In response  to a  further                                                               
question,  she explained  that the  only one  who can  request an                                                               
advisory opinion  is someone who is  contemplating taking certain                                                               
actions;  advisory  opinion  requests  are not  accepted  from  a                                                               
person who wants  an opinion regarding actions  another person is                                                               
taking  or  is  contemplating  taking.   She  said  that  in  her                                                               
experience she has never encountered  an advisory opinion request                                                               
that  pertained to  more than  one individual  - that  individual                                                               
being  the requestor.    So,  again, she  is  not  sure why  that                                                               
language is being included in the bill.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  surmised that releasing  advisory opinions  to the                                                               
public provides for consistency.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANDERSON  characterized  advisory  opinions  as  educational                                                               
tools.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  asked  whether  the  executive  branch                                                               
currently has an ethics committee.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON said she didn't know.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   suggested  that  perhaps   the  House                                                               
Judiciary  Standing  Committee  should  consider  establishing  a                                                               
standing  executive   branch  ethics  committee  that   would  be                                                               
adequately staffed and funded and contain public members.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
11:06:19 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
[Representative Wilson made comments that were indiscernible.]                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  provided   information  regarding  the                                                               
Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC).                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON suggested that  perhaps such a committee as                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg is  suggesting could  simply share  the                                                               
Select Committee on Legislative Ethics' staff.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG opined  that  the staff  should not  be                                                               
shared  because the  legislature  and the  executive branch  each                                                               
have their own type of ethics issues that arise.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  noted that  doing so  could also  raise a                                                               
separation of powers issue.   He suggested that before attempting                                                               
to establish such a committee  for the executive branch, it might                                                               
be good for the House  Judiciary Standing Committee to learn what                                                               
the personnel board already does as a matter of practice.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE said she would follow up on that point.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA indicated that he  would prefer not to pursue                                                               
the  changes proposed  via SB  187  and would  instead prefer  to                                                               
pursue changes  that would  address the  issues arising  from the                                                               
"Gregg Renkes  matter" and  do so  quickly.   He said  he worries                                                               
that  addressing  several  subjects  will delay  the  process  of                                                               
establishing a solution to the  "Gregg Renkes issue."  He offered                                                               
his  understanding that  currently, ownership  of stock  or of  a                                                               
business that one's  working on a matter of is  only unethical if                                                               
one intends  to benefit  oneself or  a friend  though not  if the                                                               
amount owned  is insignificant.   He opined that there  should be                                                               
some dollar amount that defines what's considered insignificant.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA then referred  to a proposed amendment, which                                                               
he   said  would   pertain   to   legislative  ethics   [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Insert a new section in AS 24.60 to read:                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
          Any person subject to this chapter who has a                                                                          
     consulting contract  must detail what  substantive work                                                                    
     the person  is doing for  the contract.   These reports                                                                    
     should detail  in increments no  greater than  one hour                                                                    
     what  work was  done  on what  specific  issue.   These                                                                    
     reports should  be filed with Legislative  Ethics every                                                                    
     30 days for the duration of the contract."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
11:13:22 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA   suggested   that  they   should   address                                                               
situations in  which legislators consult  for a company  that has                                                               
interest  in  legislation before  the  legislature.   This  issue                                                               
could be  addressed in  a couple  of ways,  he remarked,  one way                                                               
being  to  simply  say  a  legislator  can't  accept  a  contract                                                               
consulting job  regarding legislative  issues, and the  other way                                                               
being to  simply require the  legislator to disclose,  in detail,                                                               
exactly  what  he/she  is  being   paid  for.    He  offered  his                                                               
understanding  that  individuals  who  do consulting  work  on  a                                                               
contract basis  have to provide the  companies/entities they work                                                               
for with detailed hourly billing  anyway, and therefore requiring                                                               
legislators who  do contract consulting to  provide details about                                                               
what they're doing  to earn their consulting fees  won't create a                                                               
further  burden.   He reiterated  that  he wants  to address  the                                                               
issue of disclosure.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA referred  to SB 187, and said  that he didn't                                                               
think  that  people should  be  penalized  for filing  an  ethics                                                               
complaint  or speaking  to one's  spouse or  neighbor about  that                                                               
ethics complaint.  He said  he also didn't think that legislators                                                               
should be exempt  from the provisions of the  open meetings rules                                                               
and the ethics rules just because  those rules might end up being                                                               
in conflict with any forthcoming  Uniform Rules.  He concluded by                                                               
saying that he  thinks the committee should  keep any forthcoming                                                               
committee  bill  on   ethics  focused  on  the   issues  of  what                                                               
constitutes   an   ethics    violation,   what   constitutes   an                                                               
insignificant interest,  and simplifying the  [disclosure] filing                                                               
process.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  indicated that the  committee and  committee staff                                                               
would work during the remainder of  the interim to come up with a                                                               
couple  of  committee  substitute  (CS)  alternatives  that  will                                                               
address  both   the  issues  of   executive  branch   ethics  and                                                               
legislative branch ethics.  She  mentioned that she has asked for                                                               
information from  the National  Conference of  State Legislatures                                                               
(NCSL)  on these  issues.    She opined  that  ensuring that  the                                                               
process  is  transparent  to  the   public,  and  that  lawmakers                                                               
understand  what  the rules  and  boundaries  are, are  important                                                               
issues.    She asked  members  to  provide committee  staff  with                                                               
suggestions for language,  so that these issues  can be addressed                                                               
at the beginning of session.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
11:23:07 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG, in  response to  comments, noted  that                                                               
the executive  ethics Act contains  a provision  regarding "blind                                                               
trusts."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA, also in response  to comments, recalled that                                                               
the  House State  Affairs Standing  Committee,  in discussing  HB
194, expressed a preference for  a $10,000 threshold, and offered                                                               
his  understanding that  the way  a "blind  trust" works  is that                                                               
simply  putting  one's  investments  in  a  blind  trust  doesn't                                                               
alleviate  potential  conflict  of  interest  issues,  since  not                                                               
knowing  exactly  how  much  one has  invested  in  a  particular                                                               
company or  enterprise doesn't  change the fact  that one  has an                                                               
interest in that company or enterprise.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  posed the  questions of  how they  could determine                                                               
whether someone  takes an action  or doesn't take an  action with                                                               
the  intention  of   financially  benefiting  himself/herself  or                                                               
another  person, and  of how  a public  official could  invest in                                                               
certain  stocks without  being  in fear  of  the consequences  of                                                               
benefiting from that investment.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  opined that  it  should  be permissible  to                                                               
invest in  a mutual fund  and not directly into  specific stocks,                                                               
but acknowledged  that it  might not  be possible  to pass  a law                                                               
saying what stocks a public official can own.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  said  such   a  law  would  trouble  him                                                               
greatly,   and   reiterated   his  earlier   comments   regarding                                                               
transparency,   disclosure,   specific    dollar   amounts,   and                                                               
accountability.  He  added that one should not be  able to file a                                                               
false  report   of  an  ethics   violation  without   being  held                                                               
accountable, but  opined that  the language  in SB  187 regarding                                                               
this type of potential slander is in the wrong place.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON remarked  that statute already says it's  a crime to                                                               
make a  false accusation to  the Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  asked Ms. Anderson  to provide the  committee with                                                               
information  regarding  all the  recourses  -  both criminal  and                                                               
civil - one can take if  he/she feels that someone has abused the                                                               
process.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON, in  response to a question,  acknowledged that much                                                               
of the recourse available is civil.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  pointed out that  the conduct in  a civil                                                               
matter and the conduct in a criminal matter are different.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
11:33:47 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  suggested that perhaps  they should  authorize the                                                               
Select  Committee on  Legislative Ethics  to exact  a fine  if it                                                               
feels  that  a complaint  has  been  filed fraudulently  or  with                                                               
malice,  and it  would  then be  up to  the  Select Committee  on                                                               
Legislative  Ethics to  decide whether  its processes  were being                                                               
used merely as a political tool/weapon.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA offered  his understanding  that one  of the                                                               
provisions in  SB 187 would  punish someone for  saying something                                                               
true  about somebody,  and characterized  this as  very different                                                               
from punishing  someone for saying  something false;  he surmised                                                               
that this difference  is what is causing  legislators and members                                                               
of the  Select Committee on  Legislative Ethics to  question that                                                               
provision.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE concurred.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
[Representative Wilson made comments that were indiscernible.]                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   warned  that  providing   the  Select                                                               
Committee on  Legislative Ethics,  or a  committee like  it, with                                                               
the  authority to  exact a  substantial fine  from someone  could                                                               
raise  constitutional  issues  regarding   free  speech  and  the                                                               
delegation of powers.   In cases involving  ethics violations, he                                                               
remarked,  the  Select  Committee on  Legislative  Ethics  should                                                               
focus  on  the  merits  of  the case  and  not  on  the  possible                                                               
underlying motivation of the person filing the complaint.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
11:40:07 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  pointed  out, however,  that  there  are                                                               
situations  in which  the  intent  of filing  a  complaint is  to                                                               
injure someone's  character, and again reiterated  that those who                                                               
file complaints for  that reason should be held  accountable.  He                                                               
said he is concerned about good  due process, and about the right                                                               
to face  one's accuser,  adding that he  would prefer  to address                                                               
this issue from the perspective of ensuring good due process.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted that  the  right  to face  one's                                                               
accuser applies  in situations involving crimes  against a person                                                               
and  prosecution   by  the  state;  however,   in  administrative                                                               
hearings  involving  legislative  ethics violations,  it  is  the                                                               
public that  is allegedly  wronged and so  the person  filing the                                                               
complaint is  doing it on behalf  of the public which  in turn is                                                               
represented  in the  persona of  Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics staff.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL indicated that  he still has concerns that                                                               
an ethics violation charge could  discredit a person to the point                                                               
that  he/she  isn't ever  able  to  pursue a  [political]  career                                                               
again.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  said he wants  people to feel  that they                                                               
can  call attention  to violations,  but he  also feels  that the                                                               
current system has been abused.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  referred  to  SB  187, and  said  that  it  is  a                                                               
fundamental right  for a citizen to  be able to speak  freely and                                                               
question the actions  of elected officials, and  that such should                                                               
be the first  principal that's recognized - the  right of Alaskan                                                               
citizens  to question,  openly, their  government and  the people                                                               
who make up  the government.  However, there should  also be some                                                               
thought and care  given to those that are accused.   One solution                                                               
that  she and  others have  discussed,  she relayed,  is that  of                                                               
requiring  those  that  file ethics  complaints  to  swear  under                                                               
penalty of  perjury that the  facts they are presenting  are true                                                               
to their  knowledge.  Such  a requirement would make  the average                                                               
citizen take a long hard look  at his/her actions.  Perhaps, too,                                                               
a  person  filing  a  complaint could  be  required  to  disclose                                                               
whether he/she is  working on behalf of a political  party.  This                                                               
would  be disclosure  similar to  what some  have suggested  that                                                               
legislators do with regard to  investments or contract consulting                                                               
work; simply disclose all the details and let the public decide.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON   mentioned  that   newspapers  disclose                                                               
affiliation information about a  person submitting letters to the                                                               
editor.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE offered  her belief that the sponsor of  SB 187 was                                                               
merely concerned  that one  shouldn't be able  to use  the Select                                                               
Committee  on Legislative  Ethics  and its  process as  political                                                               
weapons, and  suggested that  perhaps the  sponsor simply  went a                                                               
little bit  too far.  The  question of how shall  the legislature                                                               
address the issue  of the Select Committee  on Legislative Ethics                                                               
being used as a political weapon still remains.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
11:51:41 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  asked   Ms.  Anderson  whether  ethics                                                               
complaints are filed under oath.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. ANDERSON said that complaint  forms are signed under oath and                                                               
they  contain  a  statement  that the  person  signing  the  form                                                               
believes the  facts to  be true.   With regard  to Representative                                                               
Coghill's  concern, she  relayed that  according to  both statute                                                               
and an  attorney general's  opinion, the  subject of  a complaint                                                               
does have the  option of questioning the  complainant, though the                                                               
legal  opinion does  put restrictions  on what  questions can  be                                                               
asked.  For  example, the questions must pertain to  the issue of                                                               
whether the person  believes the facts to be true  and why he/she                                                               
believes them to  be true, and cannot be  questions pertaining to                                                               
the possible motivations for filing the complainant.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANDERSON  then  relayed  that she  would  be  providing  the                                                               
committee with  a copy  of the  complaint form.   In  response to                                                               
further comments and  questions, she pointed out  that the Select                                                               
Committee  on Legislative  Ethics  is  prohibited from  accepting                                                               
complaints during a  campaign period, which is defined  as the 90                                                               
days before an election.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  noted that  those running  for office  often start                                                               
making campaign-type decisions well  before the official campaign                                                               
period begins.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG predicted that  if the issue becomes one                                                               
of  determining what  a complainant's  motivations are,  it could                                                               
result in problems.                                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects