Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/19/1999 01:37 PM Senate JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.