Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/19/1999 01:37 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                  SB 109-CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced SB 109 would be up for discussion.                                                                    
Number 171                                                                                                                      
SENATOR HALFORD moved to adopt the committee substitute for SB
109(JUD). Without objection, the committee substitute was adopted.                                                              
SENATOR DONLEY stated he would defer to the sectional analysis of                                                               
CSSB 109(JUD) for an explanation of the bill. He stated the bill                                                                
conforms to the AK Supreme Court decision released over the weekend                                                             
and makes additional changes to alleviate problems that have                                                                    
recently developed.                                                                                                             
Number 199                                                                                                                      
MS. SUSIE BARNETT, staff to the Select Committee on Legislative                                                                 
Ethics, testified regarding the changes to the Ethics Code                                                                      
beginning on page 11 of the bill.                                                                                               
MS. BARNETT pointed out there were changes to the Ethics Code,                                                                  
making it more permissive to legislators, that took effect four                                                                 
months ago.                                                                                                                     
MS. BARNETT testified that the deletions proposed in section 15 of                                                              
the bill, change current law which prohibits legislators and                                                                    
legislative employees from using public resources for non-                                                                      
legislative purposes, for political activities or for a person's                                                                
private benefit,  and is a major policy change. MS. BARNETT said                                                                
that is a policy call for the Legislature to make, but she wanted                                                               
legislators to recognize "it is a policy shift."                                                                                
MS. BARNETT particularly noted the absence of any reference to                                                                  
"private benefit" in the proposed amended language, which is                                                                    
prohibited under the current language. MS. BARNETT suggested this                                                               
may be an oversight.                                                                                                            
MS. BARNETT said Section 16 I (1) appears to make a change allowing                                                             
the display and dissemination of campaign material in and from                                                                  
private offices.  MS. BARNETT said she is aware of the discussion                                                               
in the Legislature regarding the legality of campaigning and                                                                    
fundraising activities of seated legislators during the legislative                                                             
session. She suggested the Legislature may wish to request a legal                                                              
opinion on the Supreme Court decision, particularly as it relates                                                               
to the restrictions on accepting campaign contributions during the                                                              
session. MS. BARNETT believed if the Legislature amended the Ethic                                                              
Code to allow acceptance of contributions during session, the                                                                   
public members of the Ethics Committee might look at more                                                                       
restrictive language governing the use of State resources.                                                                      
Number 280                                                                                                                      
MS. BARNETT stated Section 16 needs further review by the Ethics                                                                
Committee, since the new two-tiered approach separates legislators                                                              
from legislative employees and the committee would want to ensure                                                               
employees are not put at risk by actions taken by legislators. MS.                                                              
BARNETT concluded that the Ethics Committee "would like and                                                                     
deserves time to evaluate these proposed changes and take a look at                                                             
the full Code."                                                                                                                 
MS. BARNETT suggested Section 17 could allow the solicitation and                                                               
acceptance of inappropriate gifts. She said she did not believe                                                                 
this was the intent of the provision.                                                                                           
MS. BARNETT stated Section 18 directs the Ethics Committee to                                                                   
"think a certain way." She has never seen a statutory directive                                                                 
like this. MS. BARNETT remarked that this section also represents                                                               
a policy shift in saying the law should be interpreted in the way                                                               
"least restrictive to legislators."                                                                                             
MS. BARNETT spoke on behalf of the Ethics Committee in saying they                                                              
would like the opportunity to review the proposed changes and work                                                              
with the Judiciary Committee in an effort to maintain and promote                                                               
ethical standards.                                                                                                              
Number 316                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR remarked he was troubled by some of MS. BARNETT's                                                               
questions. He said, "There seems to be an attitude  . . . that no                                                               
legislator is allowed to be a citizen while he is being a                                                                       
legislator  . . . " He gave an example of activity by a legislator                                                              
using state equipment for a personal use and perhaps even private                                                               
gain. He gave a hypothetical example of his wife calling and                                                                    
informing him of a plumbing leak in his Wrangell home, flooding his                                                             
home as well as the room rented to a tenant. He said he might need                                                              
to call his wife back and call some plumbers in Wrangell as well.                                                               
He said this would be of personal, and perhaps even financial                                                                   
benefit to him. He commented, "I think that is something that most                                                              
people would consider rather reasonable, that my wife should be                                                                 
able to make that phone call to me and that I should be able to                                                                 
respond to her." He said according to the interpretation of the                                                                 
Ethics Committee, he would have to leave the building and use a pay                                                             
phone, yet the Governor can fly to Kodiak during the legislative                                                                
session, using the assets of the State Troopers and conduct two                                                                 
fund-raisers. He concluded, "It seems to me there is a bit of a                                                                 
double standard out there."                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented that the interpretations of the Ethics                                                                
Committee should revolve around the practical real life of being a                                                              
citizen legislator, since legislators are not full time employees.                                                              
He asked where the common sense is.                                                                                             
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated his intent to work closely with the Ethics                                                               
Committee and Senators Donley and Hoffman on SB 109.                                                                            
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced he is serious about this legislation and                                                              
appreciates MS. BARNETT's comments.                                                                                             
With nothing further to come before the committee, CHAIRMAN TAYLOR                                                              
adjourned the meeting at 2:02 p.m.                                                                                              

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