Incoming Senate President Lyda Green cautioned against making big changes to legislative ethics rules this morning at a Resource Development Council breakfast in Anchorage.
“I have found that ethics is the easiest thing in the world to talk about. … But when it comes time to put words to paper, you smack right into the Constitution and the civil rights of people to have work and to have jobs and to be able to have gainful employment,” she said.
Green will head the 15-member, bi-partisan coalition in the Senate this year and gave a preview of the upcoming session to a packed room at the Petroleum Club.
“I’m very concerned that we jump off and go way too far and that we end up decreasing the number of people who would even consider running for public office. There is a very fine line of being intrusive, and I for one do not think you can legislative ethics,” she said.
After the meeting Green said some ethics changes will be inevitable this year.
Incoming House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels spoke to the group too. On ethics, he said that if someone doesn’t fundamentally know right from wrong, you can’t pass a law that changes that.
One question the Legislature will likely debate this year is what kind of work legislators can do outside of office and how they can earn money.
Samuels said the real choice facing the state is whether politicians should be able to hold jobs in addition to holding office.
“If you start excluding people with business and real life experience that will not run for office because they can’t afford to, then you are now going to say, ok, the philosophical choice is this: Do you want a professional Legislature?” he said.
Both Green and Samuels also said it’s unlikely Gov. Sarah Palin, as an incoming governor, will have a natural gas pipeline deal ready for the Legislature to review this session.