State representatives kick off year with ethics bill filing

Lawmakers seek more regulations, work disclosures

Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Eight state representatives - four from each party - filed a pre-session ethics bill some believe will be the first of many such proposals seeking substantive change this year.

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This bill seeks changes in regulations for lawmakers who are paid for outside work, plus greater financial and relationship disclosures.

The filing comes in the wake of recent scandals, including the arrest of Anchorage Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, on a federal bribery warrant and FBI searches of several lawmakers' offices last year.

Ethics reform quickly became a strong campaign issue for Gov. Sarah Palin as well as members of the House and Senate last year.

Now the subject will likely continue to gain momentum when the legislative session begins Jan. 16.

"There is a definite mood for change in light of the FBI raid, our new governor with her own record on these issues," said bill sponsor Rep. Berta Gardner, an Anchorage Democrat.

"There is a broad public demand for it, and I know this from going door-to-door campaigning," she said. "It's very much on people's minds nationally and locally."

Last year, Gardner's efforts to push a similar bill through the House came up short, but she and others believe some change is in the works, be it this bill or another.

This bill is calls for three alterations:

• Banning legislators from accepting outside payment for work associated with legislative, political or administrative actions while in office or one year thereafter.

• Requiring legislators to produce greater detail in financial disclosures and work description for any outside consulting jobs.

• Requiring legislative employees and legislators leaving service to file disclosures on relationships that may have had a bearing on their service.

"The idea is not to get someone in trouble, but to keep people out of trouble," said Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage.

Also sponsoring the bill were Reps. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer; Les Gara, D-Anchorage; Paul Seaton, R-Homer; Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage; Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Kodiak, and Bob Buch, D-Anchorage.

Lynn said bills such as these should be formulated along party lines.

"Ethics has no party label," said Lynn, who added that he too expects more filings. "There are a lot of things we disagree on party-wise, but we should never disagree on this kind of thing."

Palin and House Speaker John Harris were unavailable for comment Tuesday because they were traveling.

The first round of pre-session bills is expected to be posted publicly by Friday and again Jan. 12. Lawmakers will start arriving to Juneau this week.

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