JUNEAU (AP) The House passed a bill Thursday relaxing state lobbying laws to lengthen the period of time some people could spend attempting to influence government before they must register as a lobbyist.
Lawmakers in the House voted 25-12 to approve the bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks. Democrats objected to the bill and said it will erode the public's confidence in government.
The bill changes the current rule that someone must register as a lobbyist if they spend more than four hours in a 30-day period trying to influence lawmakers. It would lengthen that to 40 hours in a 30-day period.
Rep. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, spoke on behalf of the bill. She said it's intent is to clarify what is allowed so that people won't be breaking the four-hour rule. She also said the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce has championed the issue ''on behalf of working men and women.''
But Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, emphasized that the bill applies only to paid lobbyists, not to average citizens.
''This law only helps lobbyists who get paid to change the law,'' he said.
Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, said the bill will create an air of suspicion with the public just as lawmakers are taking up difficult issues concerning the state budget.
''We want people to trust what goes on here,'' he said. ''I don't think this is the time to undermine the trust they have in the legislature.''
Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, agreed. ''All this does is create a bigger question mark on the credibility of all of us,'' he said.
The bill could come up again for a vote in the House. If approved again, it would go back to the Senate to consider changes made.
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