Senate Republican leaders are keeping a tight wrap on forthcoming changes to bills splitting the state’s elections and ethics agency and rewriting campaign finance law — both of which appear headed for a Senate vote Friday in a so-called “extraordinary session.” The office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, signaled Tuesday that changes will be offered to the bills in extraordinary session, since Thursday marks the end of lawmakers’ scheduled period to convene. Proponents of the bills have said it’s important to pass them this fall, in advance of the 2016 election cycle. Fitzgerald said Wednesday the Senate has the votes to pass the ethics and elections bill.
An impasse among GOP senators over the bills may have broken Tuesday in a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans, after which plans for Friday’s extraordinary session were announced. But Senate GOP leaders since have declined to reveal what changes to the bills may have been agreed upon.
The secretive process has opponents of the bill — which include Democrats and nonpartisan government transparency groups — fuming.
“In my 20 years at Common Cause … it is the most abusive and disrespectful process I’ve ever witnessed,” said Jay Heck, director of the group Common Cause in Wisconsin. “It’s almost like: ‘Too bad, public. Too bad, media. We’ve got the votes.’ ”