Committee forwards amended legislative ethics bill

March 31, 2011 

JUNEAU -- A bill aimed at clarifying recurring ethical questions among legislators was passed out of the Senate State Affairs on Thursday.

The committee stripped out two provisions of the bill before sending it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but lawmakers said the bill will undergo further deliberations in the Judiciary Committee before reaching the Senate floor.

Bill sponsor Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, objected to the committee's removal of a clause allowing lawmakers to campaign on legislative business, a practice currently prohibited.

The committee also removed a clause from the bill that allowed lawmakers to use their mailing list for political purposes.

For legislators who live in rural areas, attending a partisan event, such as political party luncheon, is often easiest done after attending a legislative event like a committee meeting, Coghill said.

"In fairness to those who live outside of urban areas of Alaska, I think it's a fair question to answer," Coghill said.

Committee chair Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said both changes were made because the committee did not feel that lawmakers should be using state resources for political reasons.

"The problem is if you're using state funds to travel from one place to another, my personal opinion is you shouldn't be doing partisan activities," Wielechowski said.

Coghill said he proposed the bill to address ethical quandaries that he has dealt as a member of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.

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