Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, listens to a question during a press conference in this Empire file photo. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, listens to a question during a press conference in this Empire file photo. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Senate votes to roll back conflict of interest restrictions

Some lawmakers said they were too broad

The Senate voted on Wednesday to rollback 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

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies may be a good treatment option for some people who test positive for the illness, according to state health officials. However, vaccination remains the best tool for limiting spread of COVID-19 and limiting hospitalizations. (NIAID-RML via AP, File)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Oct. 22

The latest local and state numbers.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)
Local calls to require 10-digit dialing

People placing calls will need to dial all 10 digits in order for the call to go through.

It's a police car until you look closely. The eye shies away, the . (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Oct. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, Oct. 20

The most recent state and local figures

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Oct. 19

The most recent state and local figures

Agencies and family members are searching for a man reported missing on Sept. 29, 2021, whose truck was found near Perseverance Trail. (Courtesy photo / Juneau Police Department)
Search continues for man reported missing in September

The 32-year-old man has been missing for nearly a month.

Most Read