Public office integrity initiative clears legal hurdle for 2018 ballot

The proposed initiative that would enact a slew of integrity reforms on the Alaska’s elected officials–including an end to legislative per diem in the case of budget impasses–has been approved by Lt. Gov Byron Mallott.

The backers of the measure, known collectively as Alaskans for Integrity, can now begin gathering the 32,000 signatures to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot. The prime sponsors of the initiative are Reps. Jason Grenn, I-Anchorage, and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and Anchorage Republican campaigner Bonnie Jack.

The prime component of the proposed initiative would bar legislators from collecting per diem payments ($295 per day) if the operating budget is not passed by the end of the regular session. Legislators collected about $400,000 in special session per diem payments this year as they managed to pass the budget just days before their inaction would have forced a government shutdown.

Both Grenn and Kreiss-Tomkins declined special session per diem.

“I’m pleased Alaskans will have an opportunity to consider this proposal to make government accountable to the people,” Grenn said in a prepared statement. “We will begin signature gathering immediately.”

The other elements of the initiative include tougher conflict-of-interest rules, tighter restrictions on lobbyists and new rules against foreign-owned companies from becoming involved in state-wide races. Here’s an explanation we published when the initiative was first introduced.

  • Lobbyists will no longer be able to buy legislators dinner. Such dinners have been held prior to important votes—such as a $100 dinner before a vote on Anchorage legislative offices and a $78 dinner before a vote on an oil tax bill.
  • Enact stronger conflict of interest rules for voting in the legislature. It would broaden what counts as a conflict and make it more difficult to override declared conflicts of interest. Currently, requests to be excused from voting because of a conflict of interest are easily overridden with an objection that isn’t officially recorded. The new changes are similar to Grenn’s House Bill 44 and would require the objection to be recorded and then voted on by a majority of each chamber.
  • Foreign-owned companies would no longer be able to financially support Alaska’s candidate elections. Legislators could also no longer bill the state for foreign travel “unless they can show how the trip benefits Alaskans and serves a legislative purpose.”

The owner of The Midnight Sun, Jim Lottsfeldt, is involved with the petition and was listed as the contact on the news release announcing the petition. Lottsfeldt is also involved with two other initiatives that would put Medicaid expansion and key pieces of Obamacare into state law.

Signature gathering is underway and the group hopes to have it completed by Christmas. More information on the process is available at Alaskans for Integrity’s Facebook page.

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