Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/23/2003 01:07 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
               SB 89-LOBBYING/ LEGISLATIVE ETHICS                                                                           
CHAIR  SEEKINS   informed  members   that  a  proposed   committee                                                              
substitute  was  prepared  (version  I).  He  said  the  committee                                                              
substitute clarifies  that someone  who engages clientele  for the                                                              
business,   occupation,  service   or   profession  of   including                                                              
legislative  or administrative  action is  a lobbyist. It  further                                                              
defines those  people who fall in  the "four-hour group."  It also                                                              
includes  one more definition  that uses  the phrase  "communicate                                                              
SENATOR ELLIS asked if Version I is new to this meeting.                                                                        
CHAIR SEEKINS  said it is.  He explained  the handout is  a visual                                                              
aide to show  how the committee  substitute (CS) will read  in its                                                              
final form.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  moved  to  adopt version  I  as  the  working                                                              
document before the committee.                                                                                                  
SENATOR ELLIS  objected and asked  for another explanation  of the                                                              
substantive changes.                                                                                                            
CHAIR SEEKINS explained:                                                                                                        
     ...  It takes the  professional lobbyist  and puts  them                                                                   
     in the  first place rather  than in the second  place so                                                                   
     they  just switched  around  (A) and  (B)  from the  old                                                                   
     bill. It basically  says that if you are  a professional                                                                   
     lobbyist, you  are one. And  then, secondly, it  goes in                                                                   
     paragraph (B), which  would be on page 2 -  it says that                                                                   
     a   person  who   receives  wages   or  other   economic                                                                   
     consideration,  including  reimbursement  of travel  and                                                                   
     expenses,  to  communicate   directly  with  any  public                                                                   
     official   for  the  express   purpose  of   influencing                                                                   
     legislative  or administrative  action  and during  more                                                                   
     than  40 hours  in any  30  day period  in one  calendar                                                                   
     year,  would  also  be  required   to  be  a  registered                                                                   
He said  the words  "regular" and  "substantial" were  removed. It                                                              
says instead  that if a person  engages in certain  activities for                                                              
a  certain length  of  time, that  person is  considered  to be  a                                                              
SENATOR THERRIAULT  referred to  Subsection 8(B)(ii) and  noted it                                                              
now says 40 hours in any 30-day period.                                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS  agreed and  clarified that the  words, "in  any 30-                                                              
day period in one calendar year" were added.                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELLIS removed  his  objection,  therefore  version I  was                                                              
SENATOR  FRENCH   asked  if,  under  version  I,   a  lobbyist  is                                                              
considered to  be anyone who  engages clientele for  the business,                                                              
meaning anyone  who actively represents  another person.  He asked                                                              
if  he offered  to work  for  GCI for  $1,000  per month  to do  a                                                              
specific job  in the  Legislature that only  took him  10 minutes,                                                              
he would be considered to be a professional lobbyist.                                                                           
CHAIR SEEKINS  said he  would and, as  he understands  the current                                                              
law,  he  would  have  to  register   before  he  could  begin  to                                                              
represent GCI.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR FRENCH  then asked  if the other  category of  lobbyist is                                                              
someone  who  receives  wages  or  other  economic  consideration,                                                              
including   reimbursement  for   reasonable   travel  and   living                                                              
expenses, which would include a sole business owner.                                                                            
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  it  could  be  a  sole  business  owner,  an                                                              
employee, or  anyone who was  paid or got  compensated as  part of                                                              
his or her  job. He added if  it is solely one's job,  that person                                                              
is in a different category.                                                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if  Chair Seekins'  service manager  came to                                                              
the  legislature to  discuss a  bill about  repair procedures  and                                                              
was paid  a wage and  reimbursed for  travel, that employee  would                                                              
not be considered  to be a lobbyist because he did  not spend more                                                              
than 40 hours in any 30 day period.                                                                                             
CHAIR SEEKINS said that is correct.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if that  would affect the  "public" lobbyist                                                              
- the schoolteachers or school board lobbyists.                                                                                 
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  it  would not  because  public employees  are                                                              
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  said  he  prefers  40 hours  in  any  30  day                                                              
period, as  opposed to one  month. He did  not want to  see people                                                              
use  the  calendar   month  to  postpone  discussions   until  the                                                              
beginning of the next month and "reset the clock."                                                                              
SENATOR  OGAN asked  why  the language  on  page 1,  line 9,  that                                                              
reads, "by  means including  but not limited  to the  provision or                                                              
use of  information, statistics,  studies, or analyses  in written                                                              
or oral form or format" was deleted.                                                                                            
CHAIR SEEKINS  said he does not  know why that language  was there                                                              
in  the first  place. He  explained,  "Quite frankly,  influencing                                                              
legislative action  would mean to  me to communicate  directly for                                                              
the purpose  of influencing legislative  action." That  is already                                                              
included in the first part of the bill.                                                                                         
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  that  a staff  member  from the  Alaska                                                              
Public Offices Commission (APOC) respond to that question.                                                                      
MS. BROOKE  MILES, Executive Director  of APOC, said she  was also                                                              
curious  about why  it  was dropped.  However,  since lobbying  is                                                              
done  through   direct  communication,  specifying   the  kind  of                                                              
materials used within that communication is unnecessary.                                                                        
CHAIR SEEKINS said he removed it to get rid of the clutter.                                                                     
SENATOR  ELLIS indicated  that  Chair Seekins'  original  proposal                                                              
contained 80 hours  and APOC proposed an increase from  four to 16                                                              
hours. He  asked why Chair  Seekins cut  his original 80  hours to                                                              
40 hours.                                                                                                                       
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he looked at what other states  do in terms of                                                              
time. He noted that  40 hours is actually a little  less than one-                                                              
third of the time  an average person works in a  month. Therefore,                                                              
if  a person  lobbies  for more  than one-third  of  his time  per                                                              
month, he  feels that person should  be a registered  lobbyist. He                                                              
said  APOC's  proposal  of  16  hours  is  a  move  in  the  right                                                              
direction but it did not go far enough.                                                                                         
SENATOR ELLIS  asked if the chair  could concede that  some people                                                              
could come  to Juneau  and spend  80 hours  lobbying and  not have                                                              
much  of  an  impact,  while  others   who  are  not  professional                                                              
lobbyists could spend  an hour and have an enormous  impact on the                                                              
public treasury or  the public interest. He said he  would hate to                                                              
see  this policy  change be  naive  about how  business is  really                                                              
conducted in the Capitol.                                                                                                       
CHAIR SEEKINS  said from his  limited experience, he  believes the                                                              
amount of time  someone spends lobbying is nowhere  equated to the                                                              
effectiveness of their effort.                                                                                                  
SENATOR OGAN said  a good lobbyist might only need  to be here for                                                              
two hours while  a bad one might  spend 80. He said it  is hard to                                                              
quantify, but a number has to be put on somewhere.                                                                              
SENATOR ELLIS  asked, with all due  respect to the Chair,  why the                                                              
committee  would accept the  chair's judgment,  with his  admitted                                                              
limited experience,  regarding  a reasonable  time limit  in place                                                              
of what has been  recommended by the APOC, who  has been observing                                                              
this business for years.                                                                                                        
CHAIR SEEKINS  said he does  not see it  as a matter  of judgment;                                                              
it is a  matter of preference. He  believes APOC would  agree to a                                                              
higher number  than 16. He added  that 40 hours is one  opinion of                                                              
where the loop  is that is not  too big or too small  yet captures                                                              
and requires  those people  who lobby as  a profession or  as part                                                              
of their  job to be  registered lobbyists.  Those who are  not but                                                              
can provide  insight to legislators  should not be  precluded from                                                              
the  rest  of the  process.  He  said  he  is not  sure  they  are                                                              
lobbying when  they are being  helpful and pointing  out pitfalls.                                                              
That is  different than trying  to influence legislation.  He said                                                              
what he really doesn't want is to limit public input in any way.                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN  commented  that  in  response  to  Senator  Ellis's                                                              
point,  ultimately  the committee  as  a whole,  the  Senate as  a                                                              
whole, and  the full body will  make the decision. Anyone  is free                                                              
to propose amendments to the bill.                                                                                              
SENATOR ELLIS said he would vote for 20 hours.                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS  said 40  hours is  less than 25  percent of  a full                                                              
time job.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH said  his perspective is from the  viewpoint of his                                                              
average constituent  who is  busy with  life and  may send  one e-                                                              
mail during  an entire session,  but most likely sends  none. Most                                                              
people  do not  bother to  communicate with  their legislators  at                                                              
all. He said  he wants to  make certain his constituents  know who                                                              
has influence  over him and feels  that legislators should  err on                                                              
the side  of caution  about making  sure the  public knows  who is                                                              
talking one-on-one  to legislators  about bills.  With a  limit of                                                              
40 hours,  a person  could spend  about 4  days per month  pushing                                                              
legislation at  the legislature  without ever having  to register.                                                              
That is  much more  time than  any of  his constituents  will ever                                                              
spend  and much  more  time than  the  general  public will  spend                                                              
behind closed  doors pushing  legislation,  and those people  will                                                              
never have to tell  the world they are lobbying.  He said he would                                                              
prefer to  limit the  number of  hours to  8 so  that if a  person                                                              
spends   more  than   one  full   working  day   per  month   with                                                              
legislators,  that  person is  doing  way  more than  the  average                                                              
person and should  register for that particular  legislative year.                                                              
If that  activity was  a one-time situation,  the person  does not                                                              
have to  register the  next year  and can donate  to anyone  he or                                                              
she wants to.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked whether that  would include  public employees                                                              
and, if not, why not if they are pushing an agenda.                                                                             
3:10 p.m.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH  said it  would not because  those people  would be                                                              
advocating  for a  systemic change,  which does  not benefit  them                                                              
directly. He  pointed out  a commissioner  who discusses  the need                                                              
for  a change  to the  Department  of Corrections'  budget or  the                                                              
need for  more prison  guards does  not have  a personal  stake in                                                              
that issue.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS  said if  the public  has the right  to know  who is                                                              
influencing legislators,  the public  should know who  everyone is                                                              
and legislators should be the ones to report.                                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  said  Chair  Seekins  decreased  his  initial                                                              
number  of  80  hours  and  he  recalls  the  first  debate  where                                                              
anything  off of the  existing four  hours was  considered  to gut                                                              
the  regulations. He  said both  ends  of the  spectrum have  seen                                                              
considerable movement. He stated:                                                                                               
     I am  a little bit  troubled by the  focus on perhaps  a                                                                   
     few  individuals and  just  the previous  comments  that                                                                   
     says, well, if  you want to come down and  exercise your                                                                   
      right to speak to an elected official, you can do so                                                                      
     if you agree to give up your constitutional rights for                                                                     
     a year. I just don't understand why that's necessary.                                                                      
SENATOR  FRENCH replied  if it  is  Senator Therriault's  position                                                              
that  it is  a  constitutional right  to  donate  money, that's  a                                                              
constitutional right  that he has yet to have explained  to him in                                                              
a   Supreme   Court   case.  Supreme   Court   cases   have   long                                                              
differentiated  between speaking,  advocating  and spending  money                                                              
on one's  own behalf and  finding some  right to donate  money. He                                                              
does not believe  there is a case  that says a person  has a right                                                              
to donate money.  It is a false dichotomy that  has run throughout                                                              
much of the debate on this issue.                                                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS asked the wish of the committee.                                                                                  
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if a fiscal note was provided.                                                                         
MS. MILES told members that APOC submitted a zero fiscal note.                                                                  
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  noted  he had  one  dated  April 4  that  was                                                              
prepared by the committee.                                                                                                      
MS. MILES affirmed that APOC submitted a zero fiscal note.                                                                      
SENATOR THERRIAULT  moved CSSB 89(JUD), version I,  from committee                                                              
with  individual  recommendations   and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                              
SENATOR  ELLIS objected.  He said  he fully  appreciates that  Ms.                                                              
Miles  and APOC  staff  have  been under  a  lot of  pressure  and                                                              
tension  this  legislative session  due  to  a lot  of  discussion                                                              
among legislators  and the administration about several  pieces of                                                              
legislation. He  said he wanted  to recognize what they  have been                                                              
through and  appreciates Ms.  Miles' and  APOC's attempt  to speak                                                              
up for the public interest.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  that APOC  has worked  well with  he and  his                                                              
staff and,  while they  may not  agree on  all points,  APOC staff                                                              
has acted very professionally.                                                                                                  
The  motion  to move  CSSB  89(JUD)  from committee  carried  with                                                              
Senators Ellis  and French opposed  and Senators  Ogan, Therriault                                                              
and Chair Seekins in favor.                                                                                                     

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