Murkowski signs lobbying bill despite 'reservations'

Governor says he will ask the Legislature to change measure next year

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

A bill relaxing the state's lobbying laws by lengthening the amount of time some people could spend attempting to influence government before they must register as lobbyists was signed into law Wednesday.

Gov. Frank Murkowski signed Senate Bill 89 despite reservations and said he would ask the Legislature to change the measure next year.

The bill changes the rule requiring people to register as lobbyists if they spend more than four hours in a 30-day period attempting to influence government. The new law would lengthen that time to 40 hours in a 30-day period and could exempt nearly a third of the state's registered lobbyists.

"I am concerned that the increase in the hours threshold from four to 40 is a larger increase than may be needed or is appropriate," Murkowski said in a prepared statement.

Murkowski said he will ask the Legislature to reduce that time threshold to 24 hours in a 30-day period.

Sen. Ralph Seekins, the Fairbanks Republican who sponsored the bill, said he would be open to talking about changes.

"The number of hours is not the focus. It was to make sure the number of hours were adequate so we didn't get accidental lobbyists," Seekins said.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission, which regulates lobbyists, suggested expanding the limit to about 16 hours during a 30-day period.

The new law could have ramifications for lobbyists and politicians. Registered lobbyists now must report their clients, how much they are paid lobbying and how much they spend influencing state government. Registered lobbyists also cannot raise funds for candidates nor give campaign contributions to legislative candidates outside their home district.

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce was the chief backer of the bill.

Full-time professional lobbyists would still be required to register with the commission if they seek to influence state government. But the bill would affect part-time lobbyists or employees compensated for their time influencing state government.

The new law will take effect in 90 days.

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