WHEN LEGISLATION IS LOVED TOO TOO MUCH
Governor Murkowski’s Chief of Staff Jim Clark, who recently plead guilty to illegal activities in Murkowski’s gubernatorial re-election campaign, is suspected of being the political operative responsible for getting the legislature to reduce state Statute of Limitations to one year. Whatever, the reduction proved convenient to Mr. Clark, after he plead guilty to federal charges.
As a result of situations involving VECO and state legislators, on January 1st, 2008 I sponsored House Bill 281 to fix these deficiencies in state law. My bill was referred to my House State Affairs Committee (I’m the chairman) on January 15th. Seven days later my committee heard the bill, and on January 22nd we passed it from State Affairs Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill languished in Judiciary until today, March 19th, nearly two months later.
We adjoin about 25 days from now, and HB281 still must pass through the House Finance Committee, the House floor, and then pass the State Senate committee process. In other words, I wouldn’t bet my housecat on fixing Statute of Limitations deficiencies this year.
I confess to being irritated by the delays, but shan’t on this blog share personal speculations why my bill was delayed. I will share, however, my opening statement today before the Judiciary Committee on why the committee should move my bill out of committee. I used “love” to make my point (ain’t I nice).
The text of my statement follow:
“Thank you for hearing HB281 once again - the bill we’ve come to know and to love. It seems to me that our Judiciary Committee is in love with this bill - because we’ve held it close, and haven’t wanted to let it go. But let go of we should. As the saying goes, “If you love something - let it go.” So, tough as it is, it’s time to share this important ethics legislation with other lawmakers.
Knowledgeable people in high places have told me HB281 is the flagship bill for ethics this session. Well, I agree. But the departure date has arrived - and it’s time for the flagship it sail out of this committee to House Finance, the floor, to the Senate, and then to the governor. I just hope the other committees don’t love HB281 as much as we have. Again, if love you something, let it go. Considering the time we’ve lived together with HB 281, we probably have intimate knowledge of it. So, rather than examining it once again, from head to toe, let me just summarize its main provisions:
HB281 extends the statute of limitations from the current one year to five years, for review of complaints of alleged APOC violations, or Ethics Committee complaints. The bill also allows six years for retention of records related to complaints that fall under this act. But, if and when a person leaves office, records are turned in at that time - that means we don’t have to worry about our dog eating the records.
We chose a five years Statute of Limitations because, if you run for state senate, or lieutenant governor, or governor - that’s a four-year term, and one would conceivably campaign a year before that.
The five-year statute of limitation is supported by both APOC and the Ethics Committee and, I would think, supported by most of our constituents. Recent history suggests that the current Statute of Limitations for APOC, and two years for the Select Committee, is woefully inadequate. Whatever, the provisions of HB281 are not retroactive - that eases the sponsor’s digestive system, and permits him to sleep at night.
I want to thank the Judiciary Committee and its Chairman for all its time, and love, in improving HB281. But to paraphrase Moses, ‘Mr. Chairman let my ethics bill go!’”