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

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

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 operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

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

Most Read