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.