Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Wasilla, listens to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson speak about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s four crime bills at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Wasilla, listens to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson speak about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s four crime bills at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Crime bill held up over conflict of interest

Lawmakers say new ethics rule too ‘fuzzy’

New conflict of interest laws enacted last year are causing some hold up for a crime bill in the Senate.

At Monday’s floor session, Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, requested that Senate Bill 32 (one of the four crime bills the governor introduced) be dismissed from the judiciary committee, which she chairs.

Her reasoning for requesting the dismissal was that she has a conflict of interest with the bill, since her husband works at a health clinic as a primary care provider, and the clinic sometimes treats Alaskans with addictions who have been ordered by a court for treatment.

“Am I frustrated? Absolutely,” Hughes said on the Senate floor. “I made a commitment to my constituents. (Crime) is the number one mission my constitutions asked me to take on.”

[Ethics restrictions too broad, some lawmakers say]

The bill was dismissed unanimously from the Judiciary committee and reassigned to State Affairs committee. It will now have to start over in the legislative process.

Hughes said later in the floor session that the new ethics laws are overreaching.

“When the ethics law erodes an essential function of the legislature, there’s a problem,” Hughes said. “Yes, our laws should prevent self-enrichment by legislative measures, but the recent changes overshoot that target by quite a bit. The law needs to be fixed.”

The new rules, instituted as part of House Bill 44 and signed into law last year, dictate that a legislator can’t vote on a bill if they or a family member can benefit financially from that bill. The law also forbids legislators from having private conversations about a bill.

“The reach of the recent changes are to the point of ridiculous, despite the fact the changes were made with good intentions,” Hughes said on the floor, adding that she was eager for the House to organize so that they could be able to fix the ethics law.

In an interview last Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said he believes the Senate Majority is preparing to introduce a bill next week that could help clear up some of the ambiguous language in HB 44.


• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@juneauempire.com or 523-2228.


More in News

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight a 1st for Alaska oil and gas

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Most Read