06 September 2006

Another Session... but not on the gas pipeline

There were several stories last fall - in advance of this year's regular legislative session - about various ethics bills. As I recall, Ralph Seekins' proposal was fairly controversial and drew the most attention. This attention came, in part, on the heels of several high-profile resignations in the Murkowski administration. I seem to recall a wide variety of people, from both parties, talking about the importance of improving ethical standards in public life.

And then the session happened. A few weeks in, Governor Murkowski proposed revamping oil taxes and everything got pushed to the side, including the ethics reform that "everyone" had been trumpeting as an important issue. There was no hue and cry from the public. The Democrats disagreed with Republicans but over the gas tax, not because there was no movement on the ethics legislation.

And now we hear that ethics legislation will get a closer look next term:

Earlier this year, state Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, introduced a bill to require a description of the services provided by legislators to private companies that would be sufficient for “a person of ordinary understanding.” The bill passed one committee in the House and then died of neglect.

House Speaker John Harris said he expects the bill to get a stronger look next session.
Here's an idea - instead of calling a third special session on the natural gas pipeline (which isn't going to happen anyway), Governor Murkowski should call a final special session devoted solely to ethics legislation. It'd be a gracious final act as fades from the Alaska political stage and it would allow all these lawmakers who apparently really want to pass ethics legislation to devote all their time in Juneau to it.

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