Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/04/2003 01:38 PM Senate JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 89-LOBBYING/ LEGISLATIVE ETHICS CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 89 to be up for consideration. SENATOR OGAN motioned to adopt CSSB 89(JUD), 23LS0855\H as the working document. SENATOR ELLIS objected for purposes of discussion. CHAIR SEEKINS explained it was an attempt to shorten the definitions to make them clearer and differentiate between two different types of lobbyists, A and B. SENATOR OGAN asked who suggested 40 hours. CHAIR SEEKINS said it was his suggestion and it was a compromise. SENATOR OGAN asked if there were any meetings on this legislation outside of the committee with other folks interested in the bill. CHAIR SEEKINS replied yes, he met with the entire APOC commission and other people expressed their opinions to him. SENATOR ELLIS pointed out that you could conduct your business in the Baranof Hotel and that wouldn't be considered "in the building." SENATOR OGAN asserted that he spent less than four hours at the Baranof this year exclusive of attending some receptions. SENATOR ELLIS said he wanted their comments on the record and withdrew his objection. Committee substitute CSSB 89(JUD) was adopted as the working document. 3:25 p.m. MS. TAMMY KEMPTON, Juneau Branch Administrator, Alaska Public Offices Commission, said she is also the regulator of lobbyists. She said she would cover a brief history of the lobbying law in Alaska, focusing on the issue of employees who lobby for their employers and how that's been defined over the years. She also wanted to share research on how other states address the definition. She told members: The first lobbying law was passed in 1913 and there are two types of lobbyist, but neither type was called a lobbyist. There were legislative counsel or legislative agents and both the lobbyist and the employer were required to register. That requirement was expressed as 'whoever employs a person to act as counsel or agent to promote, advocate or oppose the passage or defeat by the legislature of any bill, resolution or legislative measure or the executive approval or veto thereof or to act in any manner as legislative counsel or agent in connection with any legislation.' So it was a fairly cumbersome explanation. legislation lobbyists appeared before committees to make arguments and examine witnesses and they acted and advised on specific legislation. Agent lobbyists were employed for any purpose in connection with any legislation. The registration fee in those days was $5 and that money went to the District Historical Library Fund. Public and municipal officials and employees were exempt in 1913 as were people invited to appear before the Legislature or its committees and those exemptions are still in effect in the current law. Also, in 1913 was a provision stating that the lobbying law was not to be construed to prevent any legislator from discussing with their constituents the advisability of any legislation. At that time, the provision was unique in the United States. As late as 1960, it still didn't appear in federal or in any other state's lobbying law. This provision is retained in our current law. There were no definitions in 1913. Those didn't get added until 1976. In 1949, they amended to qualify the requirement of who had to register as a lobbyist and what they added was whoever being a person being a corporation 'engages or assigned any person already regularly employed by said person, either with or without additional compensation' and then they went on and talked about retaining somebody that was an outside person. That requirement - that any employee who was assigned to lobby must register as a lobbyist, continued until the Act was rewritten in 1976. Also, in '49 they added provisions that no person can lobby before registering and that compensation cannot be dependent on passage or defeat of legislation. Those last two provisions are also still in the law. In 1976, the entire law was repealed and rewritten and it was the 1976 law that added the qualifier, substantial or regular, which [is] the subject of the bill before us. MS. KEMPTON said other states have a variety of requirements for an employee whose job duties do not specifically include lobbying to register as a lobbyist. In Hawaii, employees must register if they lobby in excess of five hours in a month or spend more than $750 lobbying in that month. In Connecticut, an employee doesn't have to register if lobbying is limited to no more than five hours. Wisconsin requires registration if an employee lobbies for more than four days in a six-month period. Washington State defines nine different types of lobbyists. Employees are exempt if they limit their lobbying to no more than four days or parts thereof during any three-month period and their expenditures do not exceed $25. In Oregon, lobbying activity is defined to specifically include attempting to obtain the good will of legislative officials. Employees are exempt if they lobby less than 24 hours and spend less than $100 during any calendar quarter. In Arizona and Idaho, employees have to register if they receive income or reimbursement of $250 or more attributable to lobbying in a calendar quarter. Idaho, Vermont and Virginia all require employees to register if they receive or expend a yearly aggregate of $500 in compensation or expenditures for lobbying. Montana exempts employees whose reimbursable expenses do not exceed $1,000 per year, although there is current legislation to raise that limit to $2,500. In West Virginia, the exemption is a little different. The exemption is for employees who limit their activities to attending group social functions and make no expenditures in connection with lobbying. Kentucky's laws are very different. Employees have to register if they lobby on a substantial basis. Substantial basis is defined as contacts which are intended to influence a decision that involve one or more disbursements of state funds in an amount of at least $5,000 a year. MS. KEMPTON related that prior to introduction of SB 89, the commission was looking at increasing the number of hours in the regulatory definition of substantial or regular. They consider 16 hours in a 30-day period to be a reasonable definition. The commission's other concern is with the definition of (B) that says, "A person who represents one's self as engaging in the influencing of legislative or administrative action as a business occupation or profession." The concern is with the definition of a lobbyist as "a person who represents one's self." No professional lobbyist represents himself or herself as a lobbyist. CHAIR SEEKINS interrupted to say he thought she was misinterpreting that definition. Anyone engaged in that profession is advertising that he or she is a professional lobbyist. MS. KEMPTON replied that she understood that, but she was trying to explain that most professional lobbyists do not call themselves lobbyists; they call themselves consultants and they call their business consulting. They do more for their clients than just lobby. CHAIR SEEKINS interrupted to ask if there was a definition in regulation for influencing legislative or administrative action that would clarify that. MS. KEMPTON replied there is a definition that could possibly clarify that. Because consultants do other things like monitoring legislation, strategizing, etc., they would fall under "A" unless "B" is also rewritten. TAPE 03-16, SIDE B MR. JOE MATHIS, Senior Operations Officer, NANA Corporation, supported SB 89. He said he communicates with legislators to ensure that his interests and the interests of Northwest Alaska citizens and businesses are protected. He said he finds the current APOC requirement to register as a lobbyist if you spend four hours in a 30 day period communicating with a public official to be unusually stringent and incorrect. In addition to the time limit, APOC chose to broadly interpret lobbying activities to include attending a reception attended by a legislator. He said that AS 24.25.171 says a person must register as a lobbyist if a substantial or regular portion of activities for which the person receives compensation is for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative actions. He said there is no way four hours in a 30 day period could represent a substantial or regular portion of the activities for which he is paid and he's not a lobbyist. Many businesses in Alaska can't afford to hire a full-time lobbyist, and even if his company could, he said he is often the best person to tell how an action might affect NANA Development Corporation. MR. MATHIS said he doesn't believe it is appropriate public policy to create onerous requirements that do nothing to protect the public's interest, but he firmly believes that people who derive their livelihood from lobbying activities should be registered as lobbyists. He isn't sure the 80 hours in SB 89 is the right amount of time and noted that he also supports HB 106 on the same issue. MR. MATHIS stated he was going to testify next as the owner of the Montana Creek Campground and a volunteer on the United Way Board, the American Red Cross, Alaska Support Industry Alliance, Arctic Power Board, Ocean View Community Council, Alaska Campground Owners Association and a volunteer for the Prince William Sound response team. All of those activities, with the exception of the Montana Creek Campground, are volunteer activities and take him to Juneau many times a year. CHAIR SEEKINS called an at-ease from 2:35 - 2:37 p.m. He came back on the record and announced that APOC said four hours is too restrictive. He said this kind of volunteer activity, where his company is paying him as part of the community service and gets some benefit, is in a gray area. Strict interpretation of the regulations could count that time toward the four hours, which is why they are trying to expand the definition. MR. DICK CATTANACH, Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska (AGC), said one of the cornerstones of democracy is citizen participation and each year AGC flies members to Juneau to meet with legislators. It is a two-day event with a reception in the evening and there is face-to-face contact with legislators for 10 - 12 hours. That would make all the people that traveled to Juneau this year in violation of the law. He is certain it is not the intent to make Alaskan citizens into criminals. CHAIR SEEKINS said they are currently considering a definition of 40 hours in any calendar month. He asked if Mr. Cattanach if he thought that was a reasonable number. MR. CATTANACH replied it is acceptable 90% of the time, but there might be someone who comes down from AGC in early February and then comes down again with the Chamber in mid-February and, all of a sudden, they're bumping up against that limit. He thought the original bill is aimed at someone who is promoting certain legislation. He opined there may be problems with a strict interpretation of 40 hours. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if language that says face-to-face representation would make it clearer. MR. CATTANACH said that would be much better. He noted, "I wouldn't have any trouble with the 20 hours at that point." MS. BROOKE MILES, Director, Alaska Public Offices Commission, said she was available to answer questions. SENATOR ELLIS noted that a company named Agrium wanted the state to contribute $11 million to its coffers to support its business this year. He asked whether Agrium executives registered as lobbyists when they sought support for legislation by Representative Chenault or did they come with charitable organizations to talk about charities and their business. MS. MILES deferred to Ms. Kempton who was handling the registrations and had the most up-to-date information. SENATOR OGAN advised that Agrium's registered lobbyist, a hired consulting firm, visited him and he spent a few minutes with one of the executives. SENATOR ELLIS asked if he knew whether the executives had registered. MS. KEMPTON responded that Lisa Parker, Executive Director for Agrium, registers every year and is usually Agrium's sole lobbyist, but this year the company also hired Patten Boggs. CHAIR SEEKINS asked what kind of a report a lobbyist would have to provide if one spoke to him. MS. KEMPTON replied lobbyists don't have to do that. His staff might keep records, but they are not required to report meetings. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if it is true that there is no requirement for him as a legislator or a lobbyist to report to anyone who he talks to about anything. MS. KEMPTON replied there is no requirement for him to report his meetings to APOC. CHAIR SEEKINS asked how the law serves notice to the public that Agrium is trying to get an $11 million contract. MS. KEMPTON explained that the employer reports any additional monies spent on lobbying activities on the employer report that is not reported on the registered lobbyist report on schedule B. If the employer sent other executives to the Legislature, the employer would have to report when they came, who came, who they met with and what it cost. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if it is true that the lobbyist is not required to report that. MS. KEMPTON replied that is true and it's also true on the federal level. CHAIR SEEKINS said the best way to notify people who legislators talked to is to put it on their websites. MS. KEMPTON agreed. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if that would be better than what is done now. MS. KEMPTON replied it depends on what you think the public wants to know. In 1976, the Legislature felt the public wanted to know how much is spent on lobbying and on which subjects, including bill numbers. CHAIR SEEKINS asked what if a lobbyist is trying to get a bill introduced. MS. KEMPTON explained that would fall under the broad subject category. Federal law does not require a lobbyist to report who he met with either. SENATOR THERRIAULT commented that the $100 fee and the paperwork are pretty minimal, but he questioned the real purpose of the other restrictions on the person's activities. If the public has full disclosure of the money a person gave to someone's campaign, it's already capped at between $100-$500 and disclosed. For instance, a volunteer from United Way has a limited ability to participate in the political process just like every other Alaskan does. That is more onerous than the $100 to him. SENATOR ELLIS said that the $100-$500 contribution isn't the big fish; it's that lobbyists can't hold fundraisers for candidates. SENATOR THERRIAULT added that they can't give a contribution of any size. CHAIR SEEKINS noted that the rest of the lobbyist's family could give a fundraiser or contribute. MS. KEMPTON commented that the prohibition on lobbyists giving to candidates outside of their district was part of the citizen's initiative in 1974 that rewrote the campaign disclosure. It was not part of the lobbying law. MS. PAM LABOLLE, President, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, said she supports CSSB 89(JUD) because it creates a more reasonable threshold for establishing who is a professional lobbyist and it clarifies the definition of "communicate directly." 2:55 p.m. CHAIR SEEKINS said there are some suggestions to further clarify "communicate directly," "influencing legislative or administrative action" and what a lobbyist means. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked for APOC's position on a person being able to participate in campaigns. MS. MILES responded that was discussed at the commission's meeting in Juneau last week. All five commission members approved removing from the campaign disclosure law in AS 15.13, the prohibition of a lobbyist giving a lawful contribution to any candidate of her or his choice SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if they would be changing the law from a Cadillac to a Chevrolet if they adopted that change. MS. MILES said the Commissioner doesn't believe so. CHAIR SEEKINS asked Ms. Miles to forward the Commission's recommendations to the committee and put the bill aside for future action.