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The Best Bill in Juneau

bestbill

During the hearings, and vote on SB21, (the governor’s oil tax plan to give billions to oil companies in exchange for absolutely no promise of anything) did you find yourself wondering why Sen. Peter Micciche who works for Conoco Phillips was allowed to vote to give his boss a windfall? Or why Sen. Kevin Meyer who also works for ConocoPhillips was allowed to do the same? And then there’s Rep. Mike Hawker whose wife works for the oil industry.

Before critical votes, you’ll hear a legislator like Micciche and Meyer pipe up and say they’d like to abstain from the vote because of a conflict of interest. But then, Sen. Pete Kelly whose campaign received substantial support from the oil industry objected to that. He objected to their request for integrity, and the Senators were  forced to vote on the bill anyway. That’s the way it works in Juneau. Well, it’s not REAL integrity Kelly was objecting to. It’s the look and feel of real integrity, but of course, the Senators knew there would be an objection and they’d be allowed to vote, but they got to pretend.

Had they abstained, the most disastrous legislation in recent memory would not have happened.

And believe it or not, they actually did vote to give their employer billions of dollars from Alaska’s coffers for the new oil tax giveaway, from a governor who used to lobby for… you guessed it, ConocoPhillips.

At least 20 other states have very clear laws banning legislators from voting on a bill if they have a substantial conflict of interest.  Many others call for a vote of the full House or Senate when deciding whether a legislator should vote on a particular issue.  Still others give legislators the responsibility to decide for themselves whether or not to abstain from voting if they perceive they have a substantial conflict. But not Alaska. Here, we don’t care if you think you can’t be impartial, or what you think is a conflict. Anonymous legislator says NO. You must vote.

“Alaska appears to be the only state in the nation that requires unanimous consent of the House or Senate before a legislator with a substantial conflict can abstain from a particular vote,” Senator Wielechowski said. “This is bad public policy and undermines Alaskans’ confidence in our government.”

But there is hope, and there is a reason that we call Sen. Bill Wielechowski “The Best Bill in Juneau.”

Today, the Senator announced that he will introduce legislation to strengthen Alaska’s rules regarding actions a legislator can take when he or she has a significant financial stake in a particular issue. Sen. Wielechowski’s office explains it like this:

The bill would require a majority vote to allow a member with a stated conflict to abstain. Current practice in Alaska allows any single legislator to force another legislator with a significant conflict to vote.

The bill will ensure that conflicts are “substantial” before a legislator could request to abstain from voting.  Any benefit a legislator may receive from supporting a particular piece of legislation would have to be greater than the benefits a related group of Alaskans would receive to request abstention.

The bill recognizes the responsibility of legislators to vote, except in clear cases where they may reap direct and significant personal financial gain. This includes cases where an immediate family member or a legislator’s employer would receive a large and direct financial benefit.

“No legislator should be forced to vote on a bill by a single, often anonymous, legislator that will give them or their employer a significant financial benefit.  This bill will provide that assurance and bring Alaska’s laws into conformity with many other states,” stated Senator Wielechowski.

Now, let’s see how the Conoco caucus votes on that one.

In the meantime, Governor Parnell will be signing SB21 in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 21 at the Dena’ina Center between 11:30 and 1:00pm. Be there at 11:15 and bring a sign. And don’t forget to sign the SB21 repeal petition. Information on the effort can be found HERE. Don’t forget to “like” the page when you’re there. Show your support and get the latest updates.

Comments

comments

Comments
7 Responses to “The Best Bill in Juneau”
  1. beth. says:

    AKM – now lookee here, Missy; you’ve gotten it all wrong! Since corporations are people (thanks, Robert’s SCOTUS), any elected or appointed legislator –no matter what their ties and/or connections to any given corporate entity are– is just ‘helping people’ by voting pro-corporation. Surely it’s as plain as the nose on your face that that’s the case. They, the legislators, are just doing their duty, doing their upstanding best, *for* ‘the people’. Wassamaddahforyou, girl, that you don’t see that? Sheesh! beth.

  2. mike from iowa says:

    Thought I had posted this earlier. An even better bill would be one to prevent rethugs and t-baggers from ever holding official office in Alaska-ever.

    • beth. says:

      {I believe previous SCOTUSs (as distinctly differentiated from our current sorry excuse for one) have ruled that it’s absolutely illegal to subject voters to any literacy, IQ, or similar ‘test’ for the purpose of ‘proving’ a semblance of intelligence before being allowed to cast a ballot. Even though it’d be a real struggle –if not nigh on to impossible– for a whole bunch of today’s GOTPers to ‘pass’ any such test without an Extensive cheat-sheet, I’m pretty sure the banning of any such ‘measurement’ would also hold true if it were to be proposed as a basic, fundamental prerequisite for any of their members seeking office and/or to becoming an elected official, too. That being the case, I have a feeling we’re going to be stuck with jaw-droppingly idiotic, face-palmingly stupid, and stomach-turningly cruel jackasses ‘governing’ us for a long, long time. Yeah, I, too, wish it were otherwise, mike from iowa. Alas. 😉 beth.}

  3. Zyxomma says:

    Glad there’s at least one good Bill in Juneau.

  4. Pinwheel says:

    This concept gives me pause:

    “The bill will ensure that conflicts are “substantial” before a legislator could request to abstain from voting. Any benefit a legislator may receive from supporting a particular piece of legislation would have to be greater than the benefits a related group of Alaskans would receive to request abstention.”

    Does this mean the “related groups of Alaskans” referred to are other Legislators who themselves, or direct relatives (blood or marriage)? Or is the reference to a candidate, or groups of candidates, unsuccessful in the most recent past election.

    Not trying to be difficult here. I just don’t see this particular aspect clearly.

    Thanx, n

  5. Alaska Pi says:

    ADT!

  6. mike from iowa says:

    Call me cynical,but couldn’t Conoco or some other political contributor offer those two senators a dollar less in campaign contributions than the rest of the rethugs so neither senator would have to abstain from voting in their own best interests? If this bill passes,and I would hope it will,rethugs are already looking for ways around it with help from outside interests.