`Chilling effect’

September 12th, 2011

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say have asked state Attorney General David Louie whether the state Ethics Commission is correct in defining members of task forces as state employees subject to the ethics code.

In their Aug. 30 letter, Tsutsui and Say claim the commission’s interpretation could have a chilling effect on the Legislature’s ability to gather information and of task force members’ constitutional right to petition government.

Leslie Kondo, the executive director of the Ethics Commission, has warned members of task forces not to act as paid lobbyists on task force related matters.

From Tsutsui’s and Say’s letter:

As you know, gathering information is a primary and constitutionally protected legislative function. To this end, the Legislature frequently creates advisory task forces and working groups that seek to include individuals from the private sector. The Legislature values the input it receives from those who have interest or expertise in the subject area.

If individuals from the private sector who participate in these panels are now to be considered “employees” of the State for the purposes of the Ethics Code, we are concerned with the chilling effect on both the Legislature’s ability to gather information and on the constitutional right of these individuals (and their actual employers) to petition government.

One Response to “`Chilling effect’”

  1. ohiaforest3400:

    That’s a lame argument.

    Task forces are for the legislature’s convenience and save oodles of money by supplying free advice and info for which the legislature would otherwise have to pay employees (staff) or contractors (consultants). While there is of course, a constitutionally guaranteed right to petition the government, there is no right to participate on a task force (and task force participation is not or should not be a form of petitioning government). It does not appear unreasonable for Kondo to read the current ethics law as requiring people to “pick a lane”: either participate on task forces of lobby for pay, but not both.

    If the Speaker and President don’t like it, change the law. Kinda like if the Governor doesn’t like the law being read to require disclosure of names under consideration for judicial appointments, he should change the law, not ignore it. These folks can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

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