Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

02/11/2022 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled:
Moved CSSB 119(JUD) Out of Committee
<Bill Hearing Postponed from Feb 9>
Moved CSSB 129(JUD) Out of Committee
               SB 31-PROHIBITING BINDING CAUCUSES                                                                           
2:54:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND announced  the consideration of SENATE  BILL NO. 31                                                               
"An Act  relating to binding votes  by or for a  legislator under                                                               
the Legislative Ethics Act."                                                                                                    
[CSSB  31(STA) was  before the  committee. SB  31 was  previously                                                               
heard on 5/10/21 and 2/2/22.]                                                                                                   
2:55:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND noted members raised  several questions at the last                                                               
hearing. He  related that Mr.  Anderson, the Select  Committee on                                                               
Legislative Ethics administrator, was available for questions.                                                                  
2:55:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER  said he  would  like  to  work with  members  on                                                               
amendments. He recalled  Senator Kiehl asked whether  SB 31 would                                                               
apply to more than procedural votes or the budget.                                                                              
2:56:18 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MYERS  highlighted  his  only  concern  was  enforcement                                                               
2:56:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER  offered to  provide  context  for the  bill.  He                                                               
related  that  legislative  leadership docked  his  staff's  pay.                                                               
Since Mason's  Manual or  the Uniform  Rules didn't  address that                                                               
issue,  his staff  had  no recourse.  One  goal of  SB  31 is  to                                                               
provide  recourse if  a member  was stripped  of their  committee                                                               
chair or membership and their staff suffered financial losses.                                                                  
2:57:59 PM                                                                                                                    
JERRY  ANDERSON, Administrator,  Select Committee  on Legislative                                                               
Ethics,  Legislative  Agencies  and Offices,  Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
offered to make  general comments on the bill. He  stated that he                                                               
did not  find any  changes to how  parties would  file complaints                                                               
under  AS  24.60.170.  The  caucus   process  is  silent  in  the                                                               
Legislative Ethics  Act, and  it was a  product of  precedent set                                                               
through the legislative process.                                                                                                
2:58:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER recalled a felony  penalty provision for a statute                                                               
that stated a  person could not influence an  elected official to                                                               
vote  or prevent  them from  voting. However,  this has  happened                                                               
under  a binding  caucus. He  said leadership  threatened members                                                               
with direct  action that affected  legislators, their  staff, and                                                               
their districts if  they did not follow the  caucus on procedural                                                               
or  budget votes.  He said  he disagrees  that leadership  didn't                                                               
face the  consequences for their threatening  behavior because it                                                               
didn't violate  any law. If  a public member required  someone to                                                               
vote a  certain way, they could  go to jail, but  legislators are                                                               
not punished if they do the same thing.                                                                                         
3:00:11 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. ANDERSON responded that he had no further comments.                                                                         
3:00:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  asked for the  penalty provisions  for violations                                                               
of  the  ethics  law.  She   recalled  that  penalties  could  be                                                               
financial  or  impose  certain things.  Second,  the  conduct  in                                                               
question was not about being  bribed for receiving a prerequisite                                                               
(perk), which  would fall under  criminal law. Instead,  the bill                                                               
states that  the person may  not commit their vote.  She wondered                                                               
how  it would  affect a  legislator who  voted a  certain way  in                                                               
exchange  for   a  perk.   She  said   she  didn't   have  enough                                                               
3:01:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MYERS asked  if this  bill passed  in its  current form,                                                               
whether the  penalty was an  ethics violation or complaint  or if                                                               
the bill should elevate the penalty to a felony.                                                                                
SENATOR SHOWER  responded that colleagues expressed  concern that                                                               
the bill  would impose a felony.  He commented that it  might not                                                               
be politically  viable to elevate  this behavior to a  felony. He                                                               
related his  goal was  to establish a  consequence for  a binding                                                               
caucus that required another legislator  to commit to vote for or                                                               
against a  bill, appointment, veto,  or another measure  that may                                                               
come to  a vote before a  legislative body. He was  unsure how to                                                               
address  the issues  related to  a binding  caucus other  than to                                                               
pass the bill to prohibit a binding caucus explicitly.                                                                          
3:03:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KIEHL said  the bill carves out an  exception for certain                                                               
votes or  informal polls in a  caucus. He asked whether  it would                                                               
apply to  a formation of  a caucus. Since he  is not a  member of                                                               
the majority,  he has less  staff and  less pay for  staff, which                                                               
the sponsor  has highlighted as forbidden  binding mechanisms. He                                                               
asked whether this bill would apply  to the formation of a caucus                                                               
in  the  first place.  He  wondered  whether  the bill  could  be                                                               
interpreted  to mean  that minority  members must  have the  same                                                               
resources as majority members.                                                                                                  
MR. ANDERSON  responded that the  definitions used in SB  31 were                                                               
taken  from open  meetings guidelines.  Those guidelines  discuss                                                               
caucus procedures. He  stated that some were  included and others                                                               
were  not. For  example, political  strategy is  not part  of the                                                               
open meetings guideline. Under  AS 24.60.039(g)(1) "caucus" means                                                               
a group of legislators who  share a political philosophy, or have                                                               
a  common goal,  or  who organize  as  a group.  He  said if  the                                                               
complaint   met  that   definition,  the   Select  Committee   on                                                               
Legislative Ethics  would consider it.  If the committee  found a                                                               
violation, it  would go through the  complaint process, including                                                               
issuing specific sanctions.  He deferred to Mr.  Klein to further                                                               
3:07:03 PM                                                                                                                    
NOAH  KLEIN,  Attorney,  Legislative Counsel,  Legislative  Legal                                                               
Services,  Legislative  Affairs  Agency,  Juneau,  Alaska,  asked                                                               
Senator Kiehl to repeat the question.                                                                                           
3:07:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL  asked  whether  the   bill  would  apply  to  the                                                               
formation  of minority  or majority  caucuses  since the  sponsor                                                               
described  the binding  mechanisms,  including  fewer staff,  pay                                                               
ranges, and committee chair assignments.                                                                                        
MR. KLEIN  responded that the  bill could apply to  the formation                                                               
of caucuses if legislators were  committing for or against a bill                                                               
or veto. He said if it  occurs during the formation, it would not                                                               
be subject to the exception in paragraph (1).                                                                                   
3:08:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HOLLAND held SB 31 in committee.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 23 Letter of Support - AGC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alaska Chamber.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - RDC.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - CAP.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 23 Letter of Support - Alliance.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
RDC SB 23 Comment letter 2-11-22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB23 - Letter of Support - APF.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 119 SJUD Amendment G.2.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 119
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.5.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 129 SJUD Amendment O.6 as amended.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 129
SB 23 Public Testimony through 2.12.22.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 23
SB 118 SJUD Public Testimony.pdf SJUD 2/11/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 118