Lawmakers look over respective ethics bills

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Judiciary Committee chairmen from the House and Senate met Tuesday and discussed how to proceed with respective ethics reform bills.

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The House and Senate have already passed their own bills. Now these bills sit in opposing judiciary committees awaiting further review.

Since passing these bills, first the Senate in early March and the House early this month, there has been very little movement toward completing the reform.

One thing remains unclear: Which legislation will ultimately emerge as the final vehicle for reform?

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage; and Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, spoke of mutual respect for each other but could not guarantee a standoff would not ensue.

The two met in French's fourth-floor office for about 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon. Neither has scheduled hearings yet for the bills.

"We are still working out the mechanics," French said. "We are figuring out which one is going to go through to the finish line. It's really just a matter of working out the scheduling."

Ramras concurred.

"We had a great conversation, but I don't think we moved the football any further," he said. "It's either apple pie cooling in the window or yeast rising, but apparently it's not ready for supper yet."

The House, relying on subcommittee work, assembled a 39-page documented that collated 13 House bills, including Gov. Sarah Palin's original proposal, and 35 amendments. It received unanimous approval.

The Senate passed two 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. It passed unanimously.

French said before the meeting there is enough prospective change for each side to get some credit.

"Ideally one of the Senate bills would pass and the governor's bill would pass," French said. "Everyone could go home feeling like we had a role in the ethical fixes of 2007."

Ramras said he's not worried about due credit.

"I'm not concerned about authorship because my name is not on either bill," Ramras said before the meeting. "But I am comfortable with what the House did."

Ethics reform became a high-profile issue during last year's political campaigns.

The push for reform came on the heels of ethical lapses among prominent members of the Murkowski administration and FBI raid on several lawmakers offices.

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