Senate votes to roll back conflict of interest restrictions

Senate votes to roll back conflict of interest restrictions

Some lawmakers said they were too broad

The Senate voted on Wednesday to roll back some conflict of interest laws that some lawmakers said were too broad and restricted legislators from being able to do their jobs.

“It really comes to your constitutional duty to be able to speak freely as a member of Alaska’s Senate or House,” Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said. “When do you throttle back the 32,000 people and their voice? And when is it a real conflict with you? I don’t know that we’ve got the perfect balance … It’s meant to be accountability structures … that if you’re grandizing yourself at the state expense with your authority, you should be held accountable.”

Majority Leader Mia Costello said the reason the bill was before the senate was because lawmakers realized they need to return some common sense to unintended consequences of HB 44, a bill which required legislators to declare if they or a family member are financially affected by legislation under discussion. The conflict has to be worth at least $10,000, the bill stated. If the legislation comes to the floor of the House or Senate, the lawmaker had to declare a conflict there and request to be excused from voting. It only took one objection from another legislator to force that person to vote, though, according to the law.

[Legislature’s new ethics law extends to private discussions]

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, said she had to halt her work on health care issues because her spouse works in the health care field.

“These are flaws that surfaced, we all understand they need to be fixed,” Hughes said. “I’m just grateful I get to take this vote today.”

The bill removing the restrictions passed 15-4, with Democratic Sens. Jesse Kiehl, Scott Kawasaki, Donald Olson and Bill Wielechowski voting nay.

Coghill said that the HB 44 definition was too broad and it put a cloud over legislators’ heads. The new bill “resets” that, going back to some of the original language that the state had before HB 44.

As a Republican from Anchorage, Costello said she was unable to have conversations about aviation in her office because her husband works for the industry.

“My representing the district that has the Ted Stevens International Airport… means that I need to be able to talk about aviation,” Costello said. People knew her husband worked for the aviation industry when they voted for her, so it’s not a conflict of interest, she said.

Several amendments were proposed, two by Kiehl and one by Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla. Neither passed.


• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@juneauempire.com.


More in News

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce attends the March 2, 2021, borough assembly meeting at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former talk-show host to manage Pierce gubernatorial campaign

Jake Thompson is a former host of KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show and Sound-off talk-show

Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchorage, Alaska, looks at an oversized booklet explaining election changes in the state on Jan. 21, 2022. Alaska elections will be held for the first time this year under a voter-backed system that scraps party primaries and sends the top four vote-getters regardless of party to the general election, where ranked choice voting will be used to determine a winner. No other state conducts its elections with that same combination. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
How Alaska’s new ranked choice election system works

The Alaska Supreme Court last week upheld the system, narrowly approved by voters in 2020.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to a joint meeting of the Alaska State Legislature at the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, for his fourth State of the State address of his administration. Dunleavy painted a positive picture for the state despite the challenges Alaska has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the economy. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Gov points ‘North to the Future’

Dunleavy paints optimistic picture in State of the State address

A COVID-19 test administrator discusses the testing process with a patient during the pop-up rapid testing clinic at Homer Public Health Center on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Free rapid COVID-19 testing available in Homer through Friday

A drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic will be held at Homer Public Health Center this week.

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 at all-time high statewide

The state reported 5,759 new cases sequenced from Jan. 21-23

Volunteers serve food during Project Homeless Connect on Jan. 25, 2018, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)
Project Homeless Connect to provide services, support on Wednesday

The event will be held at the Soldotna Sports Complex on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Schools aim for business as usual as cases reach new highs

On Monday, there were 14 staff members and 69 students self-isolating with the virus

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate construction on hold as theater seeks additional funding

The new theater is projected to cost around $4.7 million.

Most Read