House committee reworks statute of limitations bill

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

A bill that would give the state's watchdog agencies more time to receive complaints and investigate alleged violations is going through the legislative sausage maker.

Chris Miller / The Associated Press
Chris Miller / The Associated Press

The House Judiciary Committee has held two hearings already on the measure.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, it would create a five-year statute of limitations for complaints to be filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission and the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.

It also would require related records be kept for six years.

The issue rose to prominence during the recent corruption trials of former lawmakers. Former executives of the oil services company VECO, once a political power player in the state, testified to having illegally paid for campaign polls for lawmakers and funneled campaign contributions to candidates through its employees.

The statements could not be investigated because the alleged activity took place before the one-year statute of limitations.

Lynn said he chose a five-year limit because that would encompass the longest single term an Alaska politician may serve plus the campaign season leading up to it.

In testimony last week, APOC director Brooke Miles said the commission requested a four-year extension but supports the five years proposed by Lynn.

She said APOC has taken a lot of heat over the current one-year limit between the time the alleged violation takes place and the beginning of an investigation.

"We have been literally raked over the coals and blamed for it and I have been personally attacked for paying attention to a statute of limitations," Miles said.

Campaign law violations used to have a four-year statute of limitations until 2003 when lawmakers shortened it at former Gov. Frank Murkowski's request. That year, Murkowski introduced legislation to reduce it from four years to two. The Republican-led Legislature cut it to one year.

On Friday, Judiciary committee chairman Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, said he supports the time extension but was confused by other provisions in the bill such as those concerning who may or may not file a complaint.

He asked Lynn to work with other members of the committee on another draft.

Ramras said he would probably vote no on the bill because it tinkered too much with the APOC process.

"I have been on the record about not wanting to be too reactive, too quickly to current circumstances. We are on quite a hot edge," Ramras said.





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