A lawsuit filed in Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday is seeking to overturn the Alaska Legislature's bid to relax lobbying laws.
Anchorage activist Andree McLeod argues in court papers that the law approved by the Legislature "is akin to deregulation of lobbyists."
The law, passed by the Legislature this session, was signed into law by Gov. Frank Murkowski on June 18 despite his own misgivings about the bill. It lengthens the period of time someone can attempt to influence government before he or she must register as a lobbyist.
Current regulations require that someone register as a lobbyist if he or she spends four hours in a 30-day period attempting to influence government. The new law, which takes effect 90 days after Murkowski signed it, would lengthen that period to 40 hours in a 30-day period.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission, which regulates the lobbying industry, estimates that as many as one-third of the state's registered lobbyists could be exempt from filing under the new law. In addition, lobbyists are barred from making campaign donations to candidates outside their home district and from working on campaigns.
In signing the bill into law, Murkowski said it makes important changes but that the length of time is too generous and should be changed.
McLeod, a one-time candidate for Anchorage mayor who lost in her bid for a state House seat in 2002, was a vocal critic of the bill when it was before the Legislature. She is representing herself in the court case.
In the court filing, McLeod is asking for an injunction to block the law from taking effect while the case is being decided.
In court papers, McLeod argues the new law will violate the state constitution by creating a special class of people that has advantages over registered lobbyists. She also argues the Legislature is abdicating its responsibility to regulate lobbying.
"I think it's an interesting challenge," said APOC Executive Director Brooke Miles, who is opposed to the law. "It will be interesting to see what the court has to say."
The lawsuit has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Peter A. Michalski.