Senate OKs ethics bills

House moves ahead with own legislation

Posted: Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Two ethics bills were debated and passed on the Senate floor Monday, while the House also pressed forward with its own legislation.

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The Senate bills, one relating to conflict of interest issues with current or former public officials and the other relating to financial disclosures of legislators and their staff, passed unanimously though minority Republicans said the measures should be broader in scope.

State Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, tried unsuccessfully to add provisions, most of them at the request of the governor's office. They would strip retirement pensions from state officials and lawmakers who have been convicted of a felony; require electronic disclosure filings; require high level public officials to report any income over $1,000 instead of the $5,000 stated in the bill; expand the number of boards and commissions required to make disclosures and ban members of the executive branch from accepting gifts.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Hollis French, D-Anchorage, said while he was a proponent of many of the ideas, the provisions should be addressed in more detail through separate legislation, specifically in two bills currently being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Therriault said the Senate was taking a "half step in the right direction," adding that he and other minority members preferred the House approach of working with one comprehensive measure.

But state Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, said he had seen such measures fail of their own weight and he thought the Senate and the House were each working toward a successful resolution through separate strategies.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, called for reconsideration of the two bills, meaning they could be up for another vote before moving on to the House.

The House bill, meanwhile, passed out of the State Affairs committee on Saturday and will be heard next in the Judiciary Committee, though a date has not been set yet.

Rules Committee Chairman John Coghill, R-North Pole, said the house must decide whether to roll its own provisions into three or four Senate bills or proceed with its own measure.

"We're looking at it structurally," Coghill said. "It's not a political thing but a practical thing."

The measures are Senate Bills 19, 20, 13 and 64 and House Bill 109.

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