State senators seek rollback of 2018 ethics bill
A state Senate bill seeks to scale back conflict-of-interest measures passed last year that some Alaska lawmakers say limits their ability to do their jobs.
Some lawmakers believe a broad interpretation of last year’s House Bill 44 is restricting the Legislatures from doing its job.
Senate Bill 89, introduced Wednesday in the Senate to scale back HB 44, will get reviewed in a future Judiciary Committee hearing.
“What we found in passing this law was when you put several pieces together, there became questions that could not be answered,” said Senate Rules Committee Rules Chair John Coghill. “Out of an abundance of caution people had retreated from doing their official work. So, this is actually fixing a problem that emerged.”
Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, represents an area that includes the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. But because her husband is a commercial pilot, she said she could not introduce general aviation legislation.
Former Rep. Jason Grenn of Anchorage pushed through HB 44, which had features matching a proposed ballot initiative. It became famous for provisions barring lawmakers from collecting per diem payments if they do not pass an operating budget by the constitutionally mandated deadline of 121 days into the legislative session.
It also restricted lobbyists' maximum payments for lawmakers' meals, and forbade lobbyists from buying them alcohol. It placed limits on foreign travel and barred foreign corporation spending on behalf of candidates for state elections.
Those sections and others remain untouched.
Coghill said he's worked with members of the House when drafting the bill. The House has no companion bill.
Coghill said there isn’t time to revise rather than repeal this year. With the Legislature mired in budget talks, crime bills and how much Alaskans should receive in their Permanent Fund dividend checks this year, he says a repeal is the best option this session.
“This is probably not a year we’ll be doing a lot of ethics reform,” Coghill said. “So given the questions and uncertainty that have been presented to us by the interpretation of this law, the best thing to do is step back, reset and have this conversation further.”
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