Republicans toss vote pledge contract

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2004

House Republicans will no longer have to sign a pledge to vote with party leaders on budget and procedural matters.

But the lawmakers will still be expected to vote in unison on budget and procedural issues, said Anchorage Republican Rep. Norm Rokeberg, chairman of the House Rules Committee and a member of the leadership.

"People giving their word is sufficient," Rokeberg said.

House Republicans decided to stop having signed contracts because a legislative ethics panel said the practice created "an appearance of impropriety," Rokeberg said.

The contracts were criticized after Anchorage Republican Rep. Bob Lynn was punished last spring for voting with Democrats to hold a joint session with the Senate on overriding Gov. Frank Murkowski's veto of the longevity bonus.

Lynn was the only Republican to vote with the Democrats, and the Republican leaders stripped him of his committee chairmanship on the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs as punishment.

The House Republican leaders had declared it a "procedural vote," meaning Lynn and the other Republicans were supposed to vote against the Democrats. Lynn said he didn't agree it was a procedural vote and had promised his constituents he would do all he could to protect the longevity bonus checks for seniors.

Republican leaders consider a procedural vote to be a vote on the scheduling of bills and other matters to appear on the House floor, although there is no exact definition.

Republicans vote together on those matters to keep some order and prevent minority Democrats from restricting the flow of legislation, Republican leaders have said.

Lynn got back his lost chairmanship last week when the 27 House majority members met to organize after the election.

Lynn said he considers it good step to get rid of the signed contracts. He said he told his fellow Republicans he would vote with them when required, except in certain cases.

"I will not violate a campaign promise I can give evidence of and I will not do anything contrary to my conscience or moral values. ... I explained to them that's what I would do," Lynn said.

There is a long history in the Legislature of lawmakers from whatever party is the majority being required to vote with their party on certain issues. The biggest issue is generally the state budget.

Rokeberg said the requirement avoids a House floor fight over "politically motivated" budget amendments from the minority party.

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