House Strengthens Conflict of Interest Standards for the Legislature
HB 44 Increases Transparency in Government by Expanding Conflict of Interest Requirements
Juneau – In a step forward for legislative reform, the Alaska House of Representatives tonight passed House Bill 44, strengthening the definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest when voting in the Alaska Legislature.
House Bill 44 was one of two pieces of legislation introduced by newcomer Representative Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage) to reform the Legislature’s conflict of interest standards this session.
“I believe the people of Alaska want more transparency in government. It’s our responsibility to give them that transparency as a measure of public trust,” said Rep. Grenn. “As elected leaders we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. I am proud to have carried this legislation.”
HB 44 strengthens the Alaska Legislature’s definition of a conflict of interest when taking official action on a bill. Currently, a legislator is only deemed to have a conflict when voting on a bill that would financially benefit someone the legislator is negotiating with for employment. HB 44 expands the conflict of interest standard to include votes that would financially benefit a legislator’s immediate family, employer, and immediate family members’ employer.
“Alaskans deserve to know legislators are voting with the peoples’ interests at heart, not their own or those of their employer or family members. This bill will provide that assurance and align Alaska’s laws with those of other states,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).
HB 44 also seeks to create more transparency within the Alaska Legislature by requiring legislators to declare potential conflicts of interest during the committee process. While in the past this has been an informal practice, HB 44 codifies the requirement to declare a conflict before voting in committee on a bill, and mandates that conflict be documented on the official record.
“It is important that legislators abide by the same standard that we set for other officials in order to maintain fairness, transparency, and help avoid financial conflicts of interest,” said Majority Whip Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). “The state mandates that borough assemblies, for instance, have strict conflict of interest standards.”
House Bill 44 passed the Alaska House of Representatives by a vote of 24-15. The bill will now be sent to the Alaska Senate for consideration.
For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.