The House rolled out its omnibus crime bill, a far more moderate approach than what was proposed by Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy, on Wednesday. Check out our summary of it over here.
Here’s what else happened day 100.
House, Senate approve compromise on ethics update
The House and Senate both approved the conference committee compromise on Senate Bill 89, which makes updates to the beefed-up ethics laws passed last year.
The change came amid complaints that last year’s ethics rules prevented legislators from doing basic things like talking to constituents and posting committee documents online on any issue they may have a conflict of interest. The law doesn’t specifically bar legislators from taking those actions on these issues as it simply required legislators to declare those conflicts, but legislators argued that it created problems outside of committees and floor sessions.
The Senate, which had been the source of much of the complaints, had pushed for a wholesale repeal of the law while the House had pushed for a more moderate change. The approved legislation strikes a balance between the two, removing the strict definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest.
The approved law would define a conflict of interest as any legislation that would likely have a significant financial impact—positive or negative—on the legislator, the legislator’s spouse or anyone either is working for or is negotiating for employment.
The compromise passed the Senate earlier in the week and was approved by the House on Wednesday on a 33-7 vote. Opponents to the legislation generally said it fell short of making meaningful changes to the Legislature’s ethics rules.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said attention needs to be put on the Legislature’s uniform rules.
“I have a real problem with tip-toeing into the ethics debate so that we can point out that we’ve done something about ethics when in reality without changing the uniform rules so that people with real conflicts of interest cannot vote, similar to how it is with the Board of Fish, we’ve still got a real problem here,” she said.
The legislation’s next stop is the governor’s desk.
Exploring anonymous allegations
The joint session to confirm the governor’s nominees may be over, but actions during that session are still having fallout.
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, gave a special order speech during Wednesday’s House floor session addressing her decision to bring up anonymous allegations of sexual harassment against a nominee during the joint session. Though the appointee was defeated anyways, it left conservative supporters of that nominee fuming about due process and fairness.
“In the Legislature we have to make decisions based on the best available information we have at the time. I stand by the actions that I made at the time because I made them with the best available information at the time,” she said. “The Legislature doesn’t have a good track record of dealing with sexual harassment, and my concerns were about making sure the people who made the claims could maintain their confidentiality but also that we wouldn’t confirm somebody who, in my opinion, doesn’t have the character to deserve the responsibility to have the authority to make decisions over other peoples’ livelihoods.”
She acknowledged, however, that the concerns about due process and said she shared those concerns and would be exploring the possibility of calling executive sessions in committees to vet these issues behind closed doors.
“I think that we need to make sure that we don’t have a system where people can be accused of anything without the opportunity to address them. The problem is historically, the Legislature doesn’t have a mechanism to do that,” she said.
She said the Legislature’s recent development of a sexual harassment policy could be a good groundwork for work on a system to fairly deal with these claims outside of the public eye.
“It’s my intention to make a request to the Legislative Council that we create a working group that would work on a policy to would allow for executive sessions to be undertaken if a member of the public wants to bring forward a claim that would allow for both the person making the claim and the person the claim was about to be treated fairly and to have due process,” she said. “We don’t have that process currently, but we should develop one.”
House passes vet jobs bill
The House unanimously passed House Bill 71 that would allow veterans to apply relevant military experience when applying for state jobs. The bill was authored by Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, would take existing procedures and enshrine them in state law.
What we’re reading
- While the governor is pushing for cuts to the ferry system, he’s also pushing ahead with a brand new ferry terminal north of Juneau. Here’s how the news is being received in Juneau. Read: The ‘bee’s knees’ or the ‘end of the world’? Leaders weigh in on possible new ferry terminal in Juneau via Juneau Empire
- Murkowski is asking for an extended timeline for the public to comment on Pebble Mine. The timeline ends on May 30, and she wants an additional 30 days. Read: Sen. Murkowski asks for longer Pebble Mine comment period via Alaska’s Energy Desk
- After the Legislature defeated Marijuana Control Board appointee Vivian Stiver last week, the governor is not planning to fill the position and has given up on repealing the board altogether this session. Read: Dunleavy not planning marijuana board repeal this session via the Associated Press