ANCHORAGE, ALASKA - Do you think there is too much foreign influence in government? Is more accountability needed? Well, Alaskan voters are doing something about it.
The nonpartisan group, Alaskans for Integrity, is sponsoring an initiative for the 2018 ballot that would limit lawmakers' pay when they fail to pass a budget on time, restrict lobbyist gifts to politicians, increase protections against foreign influence on elections, and strengthen conflict of interest rules.
The group announced Tuesday that the initiative, called The Alaska Government Accountability Act, has been certified for the 2018 ballot after it submitted 45,408 petition signatures in support of its provisions.
“Independents, Democrats and Republicans support this initiative to make government more accountable and transparent,” said State Representative Jason Grenn, independent co-chair for Alaskans for Integrity. “This initiative will bring some common-sense reforms to a broken system.”
Here is a breakdown of the initiative's provisions:
"No budget, no pay. Legislators would no longer be entitled to the daily per diem allowance if the budget is not passed by the end of the regular legislative session."
"Restricts lobbyist gifts to legislators. Closes gift rule loopholes to ban lavish meals and alcoholic beverages for legislators paid for by lobbyists."
"Strengthens conflict of interest rules. Requires legislators to declare conflicts of interest before voting and excuse themselves from voting when they or a member of their family has a financial conflict of interest."
"Protects Alaska's elections from foreign influence. Corporations with significant foreign ownership would be prohibited from spending on Alaska’s state and local candidate elections."
"Foreign travel restrictions. Legislators will no longer be able to bill the state for international travel unless they can show how the trip benefits Alaskans and serves a legislative purpose."
To clarify the "No Budget, No Pay" provision: Lawmakers are currently entitled to a $295/day allowance on top of their 50,400 base annual salary. This allowance is offered every day the legislature is in session and includes extended and special sessions, even if a budget is not passed on time.
According to Alaskans for Integrity, lawmakers received an average of $37,000 "in tax-free per diem" in 2017.
“The no budget, no pay provision is what resonates for so many of us,” said Bonnie Jack, Republican co-chair of Alaskans for Integrity.
The Alaska Government Accountability Act will appear on the primary or general election ballot, depending on when the legislature adjourns this year. Thank you Tzipora Lederman at Represent.us for the heads up on this story.