Bill would outlaw lawmakers having consulting jobs

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens has prefiled a bill that would prohibit lawmakers from providing consulting services to or agreeing to accept consulting fees from the private sector.

“The bill has a simple idea: that people should not have consulting jobs if they’re in the Legislature,” the Kodiak Republican said..

Those who are considering candidacy for office, he said, should make a decision.

“Do I want to be a legislator or do I want to be a consultant?” he said.

The draft bill is very short. It reads, “A legislator may not, directly or by authorizing another to act on the legislator’s behalf, provide consulting services to a person in the private sector or accept, or agree to accept, consulting fees from a person in the private sector.”

“I know there are other considerations,” Stevens said. “Like what about someone who has a long-term relationship with a company with no legislation before the Legislature?”

Other issues that must be discussed would include what to do about sitting lawmakers who may also make their livings, or part of their livings, providing consulting services.

“Grandfathering is a possibility,” Stevens conceded. “I don’t know the right answer.”

The draft bill, he said, will certainly be discussed and massaged before becoming law, but he also said he thinks it is unconscionable for someone to be both representing a company and the general public when dealing with issues that may be in conflict.

Asked why he hadn’t introduced such legislation before, Stevens said it was the recent raids on the offices of some lawmakers by the FBI that opened issues “none of us were really aware of.”

Details about what they were looking for have not been released, but the investigation is thought to concern industry influence.

Voters, Stevens said, appear to want more disclosure.

“The election, I think, had a lot to do with what they had read in the paper. It’s an appropriate discussion now. It wasn’t on the front burner earlier,” he said.

Regarding the kinds of details that might be included in debate and final language of the bill, Stevens suggested that requiring lawmakers to fully disclose and clearly delineated what they were doing to earn the consulting fees they were being paid might be a reasonable alternative to absolutely banning consulting relationships.

“I think that it is reasonable that if you do allow that, that you be able to ask questions,” he said.

As for obvious conflicts of interest, Stevens was emphatic.

“We should find a way to outlaw that,” he said.

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