Lawmakers won’t change how they disclose conflicts of interest

Alaska is the only state that handles conflicts in this ‘peculiar’ manner

Downtown Juneau’s delegate to the Legislature has helped defeat a proposal for greater transparency in the Alaska Legislature.

 

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, joined 18 other lawmakers in voting against House Concurrent Resolution 1, sponsored by Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn.

The resolution, which needed 27 votes to advance, received only 21. Kito and every member of the House’s Republican minority voted against the idea.

“I think the system we have works well now,” Kito said after his vote.

Had HCR 1 been accepted by the House and Senate, it would have required lawmakers to declare conflicts of interest before each floor vote, and their colleagues would vote on whether that conflict is significant enough to prevent them from voting.

Lawmakers are already required to declare conflicts, but only one other lawmaker must speak up before the conflicted legislator is allowed to vote.

“It is not a secret that how we handle our current request for abstentions is peculiar,” Grenn said before the vote, declaring Alaska the only state that handles conflicts in this manner.

[New lawmaker squarely targets Legislature’s conflicts of interest]

Kito said after the vote that requiring a vote for every conflict would delay the legislative process, and Alaskans already have tools - reports through the Alaska Public Offices Commission - to determine lawmakers’ conflicts.

Kito is the son of lobbyist Sam Kito Jr., and under the rules proposed by Grenn, he might have been required to declare a conflict for every issue that his father works on.

Grenn’s resolution was one of two items he proposed at the start of the Legislative session to aid transparency. The other measure, House Bill 44, would require lawmakers to declare conflicts of interest during the committee process. If they have a conflict, it would bar them from voting on that particular bill.

HB 44 passed the House 24-15 on Saturday and advances to the Senate.

The Legislature considered many other bills from Saturday through Monday.

 


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 419-7732.


 

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