Speaker Bedke fulfills promise: Reformed Ethics Committee proposed in Idaho House

A five-person Ethics Committee which would be chosen by the majority and minority caucuses was proposed on behalf of House Speaker Scott Bedke Monday.

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, presented the measure to change House rules to the House Judiciary & Rules Committee, which introduced the bill. A hearing will be held later.

Bedke, R-Oakley, promised a standing Ethics Committee to replace the current ad hoc process that calls for the speaker to appoint a seven-member committee upon receipt of a complaint. Bedke's successful challenge to former Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, was fueled, in part, by concerns that Denney was lax on ethics, including the House's handling of former Rep. Phil Hart's failure to pay about $600,000 in income taxes.

The new committee would have three majority members and two minority members nominate and elected by their caucuses by secret ballot. None of the Ethics Committee members could be members of House leadership.

The reform continues the practice of limiting ethics complaints lodged by members of the House.

The new rule would establish a protocol for the written complaints, which would require an allegation of one of the following: conduct unbecoming a representative which detrimental to the integrity of the House; disclosure of confidential House information; conduct constituting a felony; violation of any state law related to using public office for private pecuniary gain; conflict of interest; violation of any law or rule that constitutes a breach of public trust.

The committee would review initial complaints in confidence. If the panel found probable cause, a public hearing would follow.

The rule change would also refine the punishments for ethical breaches, from reprimand to censure to expulsion. Censure could include conditions and restrictions.

"It makes it a powerful and flexible sanction tool," Luker said.

Rep. Grant Burgoyne of Boise, the assistant minority leader and senior Democrat on the committee, thanked the Republicans for sharing drafts of the rule change and adopting some of the Democrat's suggestions.

"I want to congratulate Reps. Luker and (Fred) Wood on what I regard as a fair and productive process," Burgoyne said.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, has advocated establishing an independent ethics commission. Idaho is among a nine states without independent commissions.

1358804469 Speaker Bedke fulfills promise: Reformed Ethics Committee proposed in Idaho House Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Why would this fine body of ..........................

.............. thieves and drunks need an ethics committiee? If the laws of Idaho don't slow them down why would another committiee ?

Wrong way to go about it.

An independent ethics committtee made up of non-elected individuals from different walks of life (John Q. Public) would be more appropriate and unbiased, imho...Sunny...

Sunny, the only problem I

Sunny, the only problem I see with your recommendation is such a committee would have no power except to make a recommendation pro or con the written allegation.

At least this way, the committee, as a standing committee, has the same powers as any other committee.

Easily solved

The findings of the independent ethics committee to be passed to a coordinating committee charged with the responsibility to vote on each recommendation then forwarded for appropriate action by the whole body.

Oh,Aduis, that would just

Oh,Aduis, that would just create another legislative layer which could circumvent the process. I realize the intent of Sunny's proposal is to do away with legislators judging legislators which has already led to despicable results. What I don't care for in Bedke's proposal is the imbalance between political parties. I realize it more closely represents the electorate but there again it leads to mischief by the majority party simply because it is the majority party.

It would be a public vote on decisions or behaviors

And one I would follow. Bedke's decision was deplorable IMO. I think this one is as well. I want visibility and accountability over time. A public non-partisan group reviewing issues following ethical guidelines makes sense to me. This scares the stuffing out of politicians. They believe it is sufficient that they are voted into office. In a State with such a dominant party structure, it is all the more necessary. From your responses I think you favor streamlining and not encumbering the legislative process. Ethical review requires time and can be cumbersome but I favor it.

A public vote! You got to

A public vote! You got to be kidding. Certainly it would be incentive to avoid such but the cost statewide and the resulting circus. Who would appoint the non-partisan group? The governor? The political parties?

Oh, I reread your comment you advocate a non-partisan group not a public vote. Your first line was confusing. I advocate the whole process should be public but a committee from evenly balanced from both parties not non-partisan public. There are many who hold themselves out as independent but truly are not.

I have no problem with it being within the legislature

but think the makeup should be even between Democrats and Republicans to having the majority override the minority. An ethics violation strong enough to require action by the committee should clearly be bipartisan. Neither side should have the advantage.

An independent committee sounds great, but it seems like these citizen commissions almost always end of having "non partisan" representatives being completely partisan.

Excellent comment,

Excellent comment, becourteous. Excellent.

Idaho Legislators broke our trust. Independent Commission please

Idaho Legislators,

The bad actors in my Party, not just in Idaho, but in other Western States, Utah and Arizona broke the trust of Western Republicans, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona citizens.

Even many of my fellow Idaho Republicans felt the "tyranny of the majority" when:

1. Denney uttered the famous four words. "Baby Steps to Ethics",

2. Nonini deep sixed the excellent Cronin legislation that would have protected Idaho Citizens from bad actors in the troubled For-profit education industry

3. Idaho Legislators ignored stakeholder input and rammed their education "reform" laws through.

4. Process irregularities at our Department of Labor were uncovered.

5. Questionable actions, actionable decisions by our Industrial Commission.

6. Our Attorney General rubber stamped the aforementioned.

7. Attorneys General in Utah and Arizona were/are scrutinized and under investigation.

8. Sweetheart tax deals were doled out, laws and regulations created so a few could make billions at taxpayer expense. Many of "the few" now indicted.

Until you have proved yourselves trustworthy, an Independent Commission please. And please reinstate the publics access to comment at budget hearings. Idaho Citizens deserve greater access to Idaho Legislators and to the legislative process than Abramoff/ALEC class lobbyists.

Jack Abramoff: "Fire up the jet baby, we're going to El Paso!!" Mike Scanlon: "I want all their MONEY!!!" Email interchange between Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, February 6, 2002

Agree but you left out

Agree but you left out Sen.Pearce's failure to disclose re oil dealings.

The public can always comment on budget hearings but it is via the many communication means available in relation to any issue. The dog pony show testimonies detracts from the issue discussed.

Take the time to watch JFAC budget hearing proceedings via the Idaho Public TV. They are interesting and you can always comment via email the legislators. The budget finalization isn't until shortly before the end of the session.

However, if you are commenting about policy that should be directed to the germane committees and that the same process. The public is not eliminated from presenting their opinions, comments, etc at any time throughout the year.

Independent.

It could be worked out, maybe even using a panel of judges. It seems obvious that legislators, particularly majority party members, would be far more cautious about being judged by someone other than the peers that they make deals with every day. Too much insider, caucus type shenanigans to make the process really accountable. It would also make sense that charges could be made by someone outside the legislature. Too many chances for retribution within the body, like what happened when the complaint was filed against Hart.