JUNEAU, ALASKA - Independent Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a new anti-corruption law Thursday that reduces the influence of special interests, lobbyist gifts, and cracks down on taxpayer-funded foreign travel. HB 44 passed the legislature after a nearly identical ballot measure was proposed earlier this year.
The bill received broad support from Republicans, Democrats, and independents in the legislature. Rumors suggest that lobbyists for the oil industry made a last minute effort against the bill, but were unsuccessful.
“Alaskans set out to make their government more accountable to the people—and it just worked,” said Josh Silver, Director of Represent.Us, the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption group, and the lead supporter of the ballot measure. “Grassroots power forced the legislature to be more accountable to the people. Similar proposals were stuck for years until voters demanded reform."
Represent.us was one of a handful of organizations that partnered with Alaskans for Integrity to implement new accountability reforms. The bill Gov. Walker signed into law is nearly identical to a ballot initiative Alaskans for Integrity proposed in March. The group collected more than 45,000 signatures to get the Alaska Government Accountability Act on the November ballot.
Here is a breakdown of the bill's provisions:
- No budget, no pay. Legislators will no longer be entitled to their per diem allowance if a budget is not passed by the end of the regular legislative session.
- Restricts lobbyist gifts. Lobbyists can no longer pay for a legislator's meal or alcoholic beverages.
- Strengthens Conflict of Interest Rules. Legislators are now required to declare a conflict of interest before voting on a bill, and must excuse themselves if they or a member of their family has a financial conflict of interest.
- Foreign travel restrictions. Legislators are no longer allowed to bill the state for international travel unless they can show that the trip served a legislative purpose.
The most notable difference between the bill and the ballot measure appears to be softer restrictions on foreign-influenced companies contributing to elections. The bill bans contributions to local elections, but does not include state elections (which the initiative did), nor does it deal with federal elections.
Other organizations to partner with Alaskans for integrity include the Alaska AFL-CIO, the conservative-leaning Take Back Our Republic, and the progressive group, End Citizens United. It is the latest major reform to pass in 2018 that challenges the political status quo.