Two Juneau lawmakers sponsor bills to tighten state ethics laws

Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Juneau's legislative delegation is once again advocating legislative ethics reform, and they're expecting a better outcome than in past sessions.

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Juneau's three local legislators have pre-filed bills for the session that starts next week, and both Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, and Rep.-elect Andrea Doll are sponsoring ethics bills.

Elton's measure would increase legislative disclosure requirements and bar public officials from taking action in which they have a financial interest.

Elton said his bill was prompted by former Attorney General Gregg Renkes' participating in state trade negotiations involving a company in which he held more than $100,000 in stock.

"We're ripe for a good look at the legislative and executive branches," he said.

Doll is sponsoring a bill that would bar legislators from accepting campaign contributions in exchange for agreeing to vote certain ways.

Doll said she knows that as a freshman member of the minority she may have limited ability to get her legislation passed. However, she expects numerous ethics bills to be combined into one or two major pieces of legislation.

The timing is right both nationally and locally for reforming Alaska's ethics laws, she said.

"There is such a tremendous momentum behind this," she said. "It's sweeping the country. Voters are demanding changes."

Gov. Sarah Palin has long advocated more ethical, transparent government, and can be expected to support legislative efforts, said Elton.

"Our new governor began talking about ethics in government a long time ago," he said. "It seems as if this is a prime opportunity to establish a new standard," he said.

Palin's deputy communications director, Charles Fedullo, said Palin was not ready to endorse any specific bill.

"We will have a proposal, but we're not ready to put anything on the table yet," Fedullo said.

Juneau's legislative delegation has long supported higher ethical standards. Democratic Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch introduced three bills on legislative ethics during the last session, but was unable to see them to passage.

One of the ethics bills that has attracted wide sponsorship for the coming session is sponsored by Reps. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, and Paul Seaton, R-Kodiak.

"It's ironic to me that Paul Seaton and Berta Gardner are on state affairs," he said.

"Now all of a sudden maybe it is popular," said Weyhrauch. "Back when I introduced them maybe it wasn't."

Much of what Weyhrauch proposed in the last session was adopted last August by citizen initiative, including the lower income reporting requirements.

Weyhrauch said he thinks the timing is better this session than it was then.

"Maybe the light is shining brighter than when I introduced those bills," he said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at pat.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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